As the year draws to a close, it's our chance to reflect on what happened in the year just ending, and predict what will happen in the next year. Looking back to what we wrote at this time last year is enlightening, and tallying off just how many of our predictions made it into reality is revealing.
We weren't correct with all our predictions for 2013, but a lot of what we were anticipating at the end of 2012 did see the light of day in 2013.
For example, we were anticipating a MacBook that would work all day without your having to plug it in and that's what we got back in June when Apple launched the 12-hour battery boasting MacBook Air.
We were also correct to assume that Apple would adopt Intel's Haswell generation of CPUs, as a result of which we'd see Apple able to take advantage of various technologies such as integrated GPUs that would be good enough for Apple's Retina display-incorporating MacBook Pros. [Read Apple in 2013: Plans for Processors].
There was some speculation that Apple could move away from Intel for its processors, with Apple building its own chips in its Palo Alto Semiconductor subsidiary. However, as we wrote at the end of 2012, this was unlikely as such a move would require sacrifices in both performance and compatibility.
We made some predictions about the move away from hard drives to solid-state flash drives. Specifically that SSD storage would get cheaper. For example, at the end of 2012 we noted that Apple was charging £400 more for the MacBook Air with 512GB of flash storage compared to the 256GB flash model. Now that 512GB upgrade costs you £240 more. The knock on effect of cheaper storage is cheaper Macs, and Apple introduced a new entry level MacBook Pro with Retina display this year. This new model is £350 cheaper than the previous entry-level model. Sometimes Apple does reduce prices. [Read: Which 13in MacBook]
Speaking of SSDs, we also referred to the fact that the SSDs at the end of 2012 were pushing the limits of the SATA interface. Apple addressed this issue by offering PCIe-based flash memory on new Macs that launched in 2013, which is 10 times faster than any traditional desktop hard drives.
The iPad mini had just launched when we wrote last year's predictions and we suggested that it might offer a clue about the future of Apple's displays: thinner with smaller bezels. While the Mac displays have changed little in the past year, the full sized iPad Air has adopted the thin bezels of its smaller sibling.
We also noted that while we expected to see more Retina displays on Apple's Macs, this would be a slow process. We explained that the rollout of Retina displays could be slower on the desktop front because it's still more cost-effective to use standard-definition displays and while a 24- or 27in a Retina display might be gorgeous, it would also be expensive. As a result we didn't expect that the iMac would go Retina, and indeed, it didn't. But we did see the Retina display come to the iPad mini, as expected. [Read: Apple in 2013: New displays]
One thing we were sure of at the end of 2012 was that there would be no Macs with touchscreens introduced in 2013. Apple's late Steve Jobs observed that the ergonomics for desktop touchscreens are all wrong. The interfaces of both Mac OS X and iOS did receive a complete overhaul in 2013 though, thanks to Jonathan Ive who is now responsible for Apple's Human Interface software teams as well as the design of Apple's hardware. As we expected it was the end of the skeuomorphic elements, but there was more to the redesign than removing these old-fashioned designs, and the two Apple interfaces are now even more unified, with Maps and iBooks coming to the Mac and improvements in terms of syncing.
However, we are still a long way from a completely unified interface: putting Ive at the helm might improve communications between Apple's software teams, but there are still some strange omissions, like the fact that AirDrop cannot be used to transfer files between a Mac and an iPhone.
We also noted that two new standards for networking were emerging: 802.11ac (the update to 802.11n) and 802.11ad (for in-room super high-speed streaming.) We predicted that Apple could add a preliminary version of 1Gbps 802.11ac to its base stations, and indeed it has.
802.11ad offers four channels with data rates of 7Gbps per channel, but these speeds are only available over distances up to 30 feet. We suggested that users could send video this way and watch it at the highest possible quality, but with the caveat that we didn't expect to see this standard until 2014 (watch this space).
The other one to watch, we noted, was LTE 4G. At the time of writing only EE subscribers had access to LTE 4G in the UK. The other networks spent 2013 acquiring the bandwidth to offer 4G with the roll out happening now, but it's no where near the 98% of the UK that Ofcom wants 4G to reach. It looks like 2014 will be the year adoption of 4G begins in earnest with some towns and cities not getting 4G until sometime in 2015. [Read: Apple in 2013: New networking technologies]
Emerging technologies are interesting, but what people care about (judging from our web traffic) is the new products Apple is rumoured to be working on. Top of the list for the past few years -and pushed further into the rumour mill by Steve Jobs' comments to his biographer that he had "finally cracked" it - was television. This time last year speculation about Apple's plans for a television set was on the rise. Mind you we'd featured similar speculation a year previously based on claims that an Apple television set was already in production. And yet, at the end of 2013, Apple still hasn't released a television set.
There are a number of reasons for the no-show in the TV space. One is that Apple is already addressing the TV space in the form of the Apple TV set-top box, which has seen some software updates this year, including the introduction of HBO Go, ESPN, and NFL content to its interface in the US, and the Sky News channel here in the UK. We're still waiting for iPlayer to appear on the Apple TV though. Another reason for the lack of an actual TV could be the fact that there are a number of issues that would need to be addressed including the stiff competition from on-demand and monthly subscription services, and the shear amount of space that television screens would take up in an Apple Store.
Apple may also be waiting for the price of the technology required for 4K screens to reduce in price. Currently TVs with this technology have prices no lower than £3,000.
Reports this time last year were suggesting that Apple might utilise Siri for voice control of the Apple television. There were also rumours that Apple could integrate a Microsoft Kinect-like gesture control module into the TV - with the company providing that technology, JDSU, claiming that it had a new customer for its gesture recognition-business that many speculated was Apple. Looking back, the recent news that Apple has bought PrimeSense, the company that made the Kinect for Microsoft, is all the more interesting.
Speaking of Siri, last year we noted that it was underused and undervalued, with even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak criticising Apple's Siri personal assistant. We expected Apple to give Siri some attention, and it did finally come out of beta, but it really didn't gain much.
The other expectation was that Apple would build gaming into the Apple TV, with rumours that Tim Cook had been talking to Steam. While there's been no new evidence of gaming on the Apple TV, it's an area that continues to attract speculation. [Read: Apple in 2013: Apple's television plans]
In terms of the Mac, we noted that SSDs were likely to become standard on all MacBooks and predicted the demise of the single remaining non-Retina MacBook Pro - a relic of the hard drive era. This model hasn't been updated in a year, but Apple continues to sell it, at least for now.
We also expected Apple to remain true to its promise to update the Mac Pro, especially since the old Mac Pro was discontinued in Europe in 2013 because it failed to comply with safety regulations. We are sure that we will see a new Mac Pro very soon, with Apple promising a December launch.
We didn't see a MacBook Air with Retina display either. With the recent upgrade to the Retina MacBook range the lack of a Retina display on the Air all the more disappointing. [Read: Apple in 2013: New Macs]
As for the iPad and iPhone, this time last year we were speculating that an iPhone 5s or iPhone 6 could be released as early as spring 2013. Obviously this wasn't the case. We also speculated that Apple could introduce a cheaper iPhone that would help Apple win over the emerging markets of China and India. While Apple did introduce two new iPhones, the cheaper iPhone is not really a cheaper iPhone. However, it does enable Apple to market two new iPhones, rather than one new iPhone and last year's model at a lower price and while reports indicate that the iPhone 5s is outselling the iPhone 5c three to one in the UK, it is likely that Apple is selling a lot more iPhone 5c models that it would have if that phone had remained as last years iPhone 5, rather than being rebranded and repackaged. [Read: Apple in 2013: Apple's plans for the iPad and iPhone].
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