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Apple WWDC 2021—A Few Predictions Before the Show

Apple Pro users may be very pleased today at Apple WWDC 2021. A rumored 16-in MacBook Pro may feature 64GB of integrated memory and much more!

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7 June 2021 is keynote day for Apple as it launches its Worldwide Developers Conference for 2021. This event is annually held in June or late May and is focused on evangelizing Apple’s platforms to software and hardware developers alike.

Typically each year Apple introduces major operating system updates, particularly iOS updates at each WWDC. Let’s look at a few predictions for what may be on tap for this year.

WWDC Predictions

1 – New OSs

We can certainly count on Apple previewing this year’s OS updates with the next version of macOS, iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS…you get the picture.

The folks at ZDNet have made the important distinction between “tik” and “tok” level releases with the former being major new features (a bigger update) while the latter focuses more on internal and performance improvements with less new features. Also, “tik” updates boast major new UI updates.

Apple heads off the 2021 WWDC today.

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) for 2021 and its keynote will likely unveil the next Apple Silicon Macs. A new 16-in. MacBook Pro will likely feature an M1X (or M2) chip purpose built for the needs of the larger pro-oriented MacBook Pro.

Both macOS and iOS will likely have true “tok” updates while iPadOS may get a major “tik” update, particularly one that takes advantage of the M1 chip inside the latest iPad Pro line.

2 – New Apple Silicon

We fully expect Apple to roll out updates to its Apple Silicon chips for the Mac product line at least on a six month pace per product in order to complete its full transition in two years. So here are the Macs remaining to be converted to Apple Silicon:

  • 15-17 inch MacBook Pro
  • 27-inch iMac
  • 27-inch iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro.

Each of these machines have TDP levels in the following ranges. Also, TDP stands for Thermal Design Profile and roughly corresponds to the maximum heat a computer chip can use in watts. Tom’s Hardware has a basic definition here, for more info. It is a basic indicator of power consumption and power-heat generation that must be accounted for in the computer design to keep the system operating at appropriate thermal levels.

  • 15-17 inch MacBook Pro = 35 – 50 watts TDP range
  • 27 inch iMac = 65 – 95 watt TDP range
  • 27 inch iMac Pro = 125 – 150 watt TDP range
  • Mac Pro = 150 – 250 watt TDP

When Apple introduced their plans for Apple Silicon they said they were working on new chips that would take advantage of every model’s TDP levels.

  • Level 1 TDP = under 28 watts  (M1 chip)
  • Level 2 TDP = 35 – 50 watts  (M1X chip)
  • Level 3 TDP = 65 – 95 watts  (M2 chip)
  • Level 4 TDP = 125 – 250 watts (M2X chip)

Apple is renowned for efficiencies and limiting the number of variants in products so we could easily see Apple consolidating their M-series chip designs rather than developing specific chips for every single Mac TDP. With the M1 included in the recent 21-in iMac line it suggests Apple will cross-deploy its chips when it makes economical sense and at the same time go full bore with chip design for its “pro” oriented Macs.

Apple Pro users love the MacBook Pro line.

This is the current 16-in MacBook Pro shown here. The rumored Apple Silicon version will possibly operate at a sub-40 watt TDP, affording Apple the chance to dramatically lighten the machine’s chassis. As noted below, it may feature the M1X (or M2) with 10 CPU cores and be manufactured in two versions one with 16-core GPU and one with 32-GPU. Both units may feature 64GB of integrated memory, quadrupling the 16GB integrated memory on the M1.

Today at WWDC we are likely going to see the M1x chip but the name could be M2. This chip will likely be in the range of 35 – 50 watts but it could be also stretched to about 65 watts and serve double duty in the 27-inch iMac. The rumors noted thus far don’t necessary preclude that possibility.

3 – All new 16-inch MacBook Pro and Possible all new Mac mini

We are most certainly going to see one more Mac product move over to Apple Silicon today. That is most likely the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

A new M1X-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro is rumored at 10 CPU cores with Bloomberg reports suggesting it may feature 16 to 32 GPU cores. Apple should be on a “tok” update to TSMC’s 5nm process technology and 3nm chips should not be ready until the second half of 2022. We can expect the last quarter of 2022 to be the point at which the original M1 chip goes from a 5nm to 3nm process (a “tik” update). So the M1X (whatever Apple calls it) will be about 45 – 75 percent larger in transistor count with a TDP range estimated as noted above.

Finally, rumors about an all-new redesigned chassis for the Mac mini suggests that the M1X (or M2) would also fit into that machine making it a possible Mac mini Pro or Pro Mac mini. Both machines would be ideal for Apple developers and hence both are good targets for WWDC.

4 – Preview of New Mac Pro and iMac Pros

It is possible Apple will preview for us the new Mac Pro. WWDC has served as the venue for such preview introductions before for Apple’s top of the line computers. If such a thing happened Apple would announce the availability date for the new Mac Pros and iMac Pro. It might also update the Intel models in the present. This would be a surprise and most analysts don’t expect Apple to unveil these larger Macs this year at WWDC.

5 –  Big Music Related Updates

With the big announcements recently about Apple Music to support Spatial Audio format music files for all Apple Music subscribers as well as lossless file formats running from CD quality (16 bit at 44.1kHz) all the way up to Hi Resolution Lossless (24 bit at 192kHz and higher), which requires a DAC (digital to analog converter) we can see Apple introducing new music hardware in the form of an Apple DAC as well as new updates to its headphones to bring back “wired” models for audiophiles to enjoy the Hi Resolution Lossless music. Apple has promised its full Apple Music catalog of more than 75 million songs will be available eventually on lossless formats but at launch 20 million files will be ready.

The Spatial Audio update is so large a topic that Apple has announced a special event just for it that begins right after the WWDC keynote.

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