The Future of Apple Products & Services: 10 Predictions on Mac’s 30th Anniversary

30 years ago today, the first ever Macintosh computer was launched. In celebration of this anniversary, Apple posted a tribute to the computer on its website, and created the video which we also feature below – an overview of the past 30 years the company has spent innovating. To celebrate and emulate this ethos of innovation and future-forward thinking, today we bring you 10 predictions on the future of Apple products and services. Check out the video below, to see what the future really means for Apple.

The video is also accompanied by the following message:

Happy Birthday, Mac.
In 1984, Apple introduced the world to Macintosh.
It was designed to be so easy to use that people could actually use it.
And it came with a promise — that the power of technology taken from a few and put in the hands of everyone, could change the world.
That promise has been kept.
Today, we create, connect, share, and share, and learn in ways that were unimaginable 30 years ago.

Imagine what we can accomplish in the next 30 years.

There’s also a visual timeline of the Macintosh computer’s history, from the first ever 1984 Mac to the most recent Mac Pro. Now, if you’re still running an older machine, you have a hands-on perspective of what that evolution means, even if your older computer might have slowed down by now and requires an occasional Mac clean up to restore its speed. The timeline is fascinating nonetheless, as each entry is accompanied by a famous figure and their story about how the Macintosh helped them innovate and revolutionize a particular field. Each computer has its own photo gallery, fact sheet, and information about the most popular uses for that particular device. Check out the Thirty Years of Mac tribute, then join us as we take a look at the future of Apple products and services.

1. iTunes Radio world domination

The present

iTunes was launched in 2003, at a time when no one thought there was any market for singles. At the same time, though the music industry was trying to combat illegal downloads, it pretty much seemed the battle against piracy was lost from the outset. And yet somehow, ten years later, iTunes celebrated its 25 billionth download. The iTunes catalogue includes more than 35 million songs and the platform itself has an estimated 435 million users. Every single minute, over 15,000 songs are downloaded and listening to all the music online would take over 140,000 years(!).

The future

So now that iTunes is over a decade old, what is in store for the future of Apple, radio-wise? More subtle changes for the way in which people consume music, that’s for sure. The CEO of HMV has explained that the iTunes revolution can be likened to the way in which the gramophone came along a century ago and changed the way in which people listened to music. We predict that iTunes will continue to take the challenges of the digital music market heads on, by going head to head with its direct rival, music streaming service Spotify.

In fact, Apple has already taken a first step in that direction, by launching iTunes Radio in 2013. The service is seamlessly integrated into iOS7 and iTunes Desktop for Mac and Windows. Through this move, Apple has managed to break the ice and expose consumers who’d never bothered with music streaming services before to the wonders of such a platform. This, in turn, has prompted Spotify to dive into the mobile music streaming market: it launched mobile access, but only to premium subscription paying users. Meanwhile, iTunes Radio is free on iOS powered devices, but also on Android. The service is great, but, sadly it’s only available in the United States. So, our prediction is that, in order to really gain an edge on Spotify…

iTunes Radio will be the first online music streaming service to become available throughout the world.

2. Apple’s design innovation prerogatives

The present

If you follow Apple and its products, you can’t have remained oblivious to the heavily publicized Apple v Samsung patent infringement lawsuit. The trial ended on November 21, 2013, with a ruling in Apple’s favor. The courts decided that Samsung had heavily copied Apple interface design elements, including the famous “swipe and motion” screen gesture, the icon-based dashboard for each individual app, and even the “pinch and zoom” gesture, which may have originated from Apple, but is now used so widely across mobile device interfaces that it’s almost preposterous to think anyone would claim it as its own. Yet Apple did – and they won. In November, Apple won $290 million more in damages for patent infringement, bringing the total amount awarded to the company to a grand total of some $930 million. In 2012, a court of law ruled that Samsung had infringed five patents that belonged to Apple and defined the design and functionality of the iPhone.

Apple, of course, says the results have nothing to do with money, but with their love of innovation and respect for hard work… Now, this official statement from Apple, in the wake of the trial against Samsung, seems to ignore the painfully obvious track record that the company has in suing others for ‘stealing’ their designs. They had filed a similar case in 1988 against Microsoft, accusing them of ‘stealing’ the concept of using windows in the interface of their own OS and even of copying the idea of using a mouse! Steve Jobs’ own words on the matter were as harsh as they get: “Bill [Gates] is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.” Only, that time, Apple lost.

The future

But now that they won, what’s in store for the future of bringing innovation to user experience design and the engineering of the human interface? The experts predict the future isn’t quite that rosy. After all, cases of companies copying other companies’ design abound throughout history, and include sonorous names such as Henry Ford. Yet until recently, the issue of “I thought of it first!” wasn’t as heavily regulated as it is now. Naturally, this decision doesn’t mean that companies will stop innovating in terms of user interfaces. They will go on designing and patenting, but each new design idea is likely to be accompanied by a courtroom war over who came up with each tiny innovative idea first. It’s going to become very difficult to put together a set of pre-existing resources, without having to pass an audit from royalty censors. In a nutshell, our prediction is that…

Apple will push to protect every tiny element of innovative design it brings out on the market, thereby stifling innovation in interface design.

3. The future of Apple wearable technology

The present

In October 2013, news that the CEO of Burberry, Angela Ahrendt, was leaving the major fashion retailer in favor of a position with Apple, hit the business world like a sack of bricks. It was the second big hire from the world of fashion Apple was taking up in a matter of months, after Paul Deneve, the former YSL CEO (now a vice-president of “special projects” at Apple). It was a move that determined Burberry’s shares to drop by 6 per cent. And it was, at the same time, a logical follow-up in the career of the woman who’d introduced Apple’s iPads to Burberry stores, turning the hi-tech devices into must-have fashion accessories for the upwardly mobile professional woman.

Ahrendt has got a longstanding track record attesting to her passion for bringing technology to the fashion world: under her rule, Burberry started to broadcast catwalk shows live. She turned the British brand into a world-famous luxury brand, increased the company’s market value from GBP2.1 billion to GBP7.03 billion and made GBP16.9 million herself, in 2012 alone. This year, she is to become Apple’s senior vice-president for retail and online.

The future

Ahrendt and the former CEO at Yves Saint Laurent aren’t even the only poached pros that Apple has ‘stolen’ from major fashion brands. Enrique Atienza, Levi’s former senior VP has become Apple’s retail manager for the company’s US brand. Ben Shaffer, a former design director at Nike, also joined the tech giant’s team in September 2013. Add to this mix Tim Cook’s statement made in May, regarding the development of wearable technology. The Apple CEO called the field “ripe for exploration” at the time, but added that, in order to determine the consumer to wear technology, said technology “has to be incredible”.


Of course, that road is in the process of being paved – on the one hand by Google’s recently launched Glass, and on the other by the abundant rumors regarding the upcoming launch of Apple’s on iWatch (more on that below). Ahrendt’s move indicates that…

Apple might soon be bringing us more hi-tech fashion than we’ve ever thought it possible – how about an iMackintosh coat?

4. The iWatch

apple-iwatch

The present

Rumors regarding Apple’s upcoming curved glass watch have been running in the rumor mill for over a year now. In fact, they were serious enough last spring that even reputed news source Bloomberg reported the device might be launched as early as 2013. Obviously, that rumor failed to materialize, but it’s pretty obvious by now that the project is real and that it’s soon going to hit the market. One of the project’s most important backers is Apple’s head design guy, Jony Ive, who is reportedly overseeing the launch of the iWatch himself, together with a team of over 100 engineers. The iWatch project slowly replaced rumors of Apple’s focus on a television-focused device and captured the attention of investors, who are still awaiting a product concept that will improve Apple’s stock standing. The company’s stocks, though far from worthless these days, never fully recovered after Steve Jobs’ demise.

The future

Here’s what we know about the iWatch thus far:

–          It’s going to run an entirely upgraded proprietary touch iOS, designed especially for the iWatch, rather than one redesigned starting from the iPod nano similar OS. At the time this news hit the media outlets, it came as some surprise, since many thought the nano’s watch-sized interface would be a great starting point;

–          Battery life is a challenge for the engineers involved in the project. Their goal is to make the device last for 4 to 5 days between charges. As of March 2013, it could only go for a couple of days;

–          The launch of the iWatch will also entail some fiddling with the iPhone’s iOS, which has to be adapted and fine-tuned for supporting it.

While the above is all well and good, questions regarding the product’s salability. And who else would be better suited to speculate on this than the famed ‘Apple Oracle’ himself, Gene Munster, from Piper Jaffray. The investment company polled 799 U.S. consumers on the iWatch – according to the results, 4 per cent of the respondents who own an iPhone would be early adopters of the device. Given this predicted 2-4 per cent penetration rate and the fact that there are some 293 million iPhone owners in the United States, Munster says some 5 to 10 million iWatches could be sold in the product’s first year on the market. In Munster’s own words,

“While we do not view the watch as a likely needle-mover for Apple in terms of revenue in 2014, we put it in a similar category as the television in that it could demonstrate Apple’s ability to innovate (good for the multiple) and potentially lead to a more meaningful new product category in wearable tech.”

As far as pricing goes, 12 per cent of the people polled said they would purchase an iPhone-connected iWatch priced at $350, while the remaining 88 per cent said the price is too steep for them. This, of course, might be an issue in and of itself. It doesn’t automatically mean that all those who said they’d buy the product actually will. And, at the same time, U.S. consumers are better off financially than most of those in the rest of the world – not to mention the fact that Apple products tend to be much, much more affordable in the U.S. and Asia than they are in Europe. So, our prediction…

Will the iWatch be a hit or a miss? It remains to be seen, but Apple’s curved glass, iPhone-connected wrist watch is definitely happening.

5. iPhone to take over Chinese market

The present

Apple’s investors have had their (arguably worried) eyes on the future ever since Steve Jobs passed away. This year, according to most predictions and analyses, perhaps the biggest move the company is going to make is the launch of the iPhone on the exotic, complex, and potentially ripe for profit market in China. Apple announced it would sell its smartphone on the Chinese market via China Mobile, a company that holds the prestigious title of the world’s largest provider of wireless internet services. The launch took place on January 17 and brought the iPhone 5S and 5C to the over 760 million China Mobile clients.

The future

For starters, it’s important to bear in mind that, throughout much of the western world, it’s all largely about Apple versus Samsung, when it comes to competition among smartphone producers. In China, however, the situation is completely different, with some pundits estimating that the local smartphone market has reached its saturation point. The market has, indeed, seen remarkable growth in the past: 82 per cent of all the mobile phones sold in China in the 3rd quarter of last year were smartphones and expected penetration rates for 2014 stand at 90 per cent. However, the market is also changing in a major way, as consumers no longer take pricing to be the number one reason for which they choose one brand over another. They’re looking for value and brand reputation, thereby officially signaling the Chinese market has graduated from the status of ‘emerging market’ to the next level. Will Apple be able to handle the fierce competition there? It remains to be seen. For the time being, estimates say that 20 million iPhones are going to be sold in China in 2014.

Apple 2013 holiday revenue reports are due for February of 2014 and Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster believes this will mark an important stage of developments for investors. Munster is almost certain that 3 million additional iPhones are going to be sold in the first quarter of 2014, via China Mobile. He also predicts that the expansion into China is going to be the investors’ main point of focus – and rightfully so. Prior to the launch of the iPhone in China, 1.5 million units of the iPhone 5S and 5C had been shipped into the Asian country. Expectations are high and they’re positive: Munster expects March 2014 sales figures to exceed Wall Street predictions by 2 per cent, while other analysts are even more optimistic. Some say Apple will manage to sell 17 million iPhones on the Chinese market during the 2014 calendar year; others, namely Morgan Stanley poll respondents estimate 12 million iPhones sold by Apple in China in 2014. So, all in all,

The iPhone’s launch in China is expected to significantly boost company stock values in 2014, possibly beyond Wall Street expectations.

6. Apple Phablet

phablets

The present

Apple has been vacillating on the issue of bringing a phablet to the market for some time now. In case you don’t really know what a phablet is, it’s a device that doubles as both a smartphone and a tablet: it’s mobile, has plenty of screen real estate for the user to enjoy, and has the computing prowess of a tablet. As of the time this article was written, opinions on the viability of such a mobile device were divided, to say the least. Some don’t see the profitability of such a move, while others are sure Apple is going to soon dip its toes in this pool. On the pro-phablet side of the debate, many are citing a recent Wall Street Journal report, which says the upcoming version of the iPhone is going to tout a screen 5 inches wide, from corner to corner. Going on that alone, it’s safe to say a phablet is in the works for the future of Apple… but, is it, really?

The future

The future of Apple phablet cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy and it largely depends on who you asks. In the Western world, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in this category of devices and the 2013 phablet market only stood at 20 million units sold. Weighed against the impressive 50 million iPhones sold over the last quarter of 2013 alone, the figures look paltry. However, not the same can be said about markets in the East: in South Korea, for instance, 41 per cent of all Android-operated smartphones and tablets qualify as phablets, with diagonals that span between 5 and 7 inches.

phablet-market-south-korea

In arguing in favor of an Apple phablet, some cite the argument that it makes more sense to look at screen size, rather than at the differences in functionality between smartphones and tablets. On the one hand, the boundary in terms of computing power between the two categories appears to become more and more effaced in time. On the other, though, it’s still important whether a mobile device is small-ish, or runs on the larger side. The smaller a device, the easier it is for the user to travel accompanied by it. case in point: the undeniable popularity of Apple’s iPad Mini, with a 7.9 inch diagonal, as well as of the Google Nexus 7 (7 inch diagonal). These devices fit neatly into a carry-on, a coat pocket, and, in some cases, even a back pocket. And Samsung has even launched a device that, although qualifies as a full-on tablet, also provides users voice call functionality. Also take into account the above point of Apple’s expansion into Asian markets that still have a lot of potential for growth. China is but one such market. South Korea and Singapore are two others. Given the phablets’ popularity in such areas, we predict that—

Should a large iPhone 6 prove popular in key markets, Apple could decide to drop the iPad Mini in favor of a phablet-like phone.

7. iPhone 6 features and specs

The present

… and all the talk of phablets above brings us, of course, to perhaps the most eagerly anticipated item on our list: plausible rumors concerning the upcoming iPhone 6. As of the time this article was written, reports from Asia had pushed the launch date of the smartphone back to the second half of 2014, in keeping with the tradition confirmed by the iPhone 5S. This contradicts previous rumors, which said we could be seeing the iPhone 6 hit the market as early as May. However, Apple is said to start development on key components for the device only in the year’s second quarter. Such components include finger print sensors and other goodies, which we feature below.

iphone-6-specs

The future

With upcoming Apple iPhones it’s always next to impossible to discern genuine fact from much-touted rumors. However, the following four features of the iPhone 6 have been more or less confirmed by reports from component producers on the Asian markets, as well as by other trustworthy sources. Without further ado, here’s what you can expect from your next Apple smartphone, if you’re considering a purchase this year:

  • TouchID fingerprint scanner

The TouchID Finger Impression Scanner was first brought out onto the market with the iPhone 5S and, according to current rumors, the feature is going to survive on the iPhone 6. The most important expected upgrade in this respect is improved pressure sensors, made from liquid metal alloys, which are far more sensitive than those currently employed.

  • No major screen real estate upgrades

It’s unclear whether or not Apple really plans on releasing a phablet (probably because company execs are waiting that decision out). For the time being, however, Ming-chi Kuo from KGI Securities believes the 2014 iPhone is going to preserve the 4-inch screen format, which is in keeping with the company’s single hand navigation principle for the iPhone. However, should Apple decide to enlarge the screen of its signature smartphone, an upgrade to 5 inch displays (as most phablets exhibit) shouldn’t be that difficult to implement.

  • 8MP back camera lens sensor

Android has touted its current 13 MP rear camera for months now and rumor has it upcoming smartphones from Apple’s direct competitor are going to feature 16 MP rear cameras. Apple is highly likely to stick to its 8 MP rear camera lens sensor – but the camera quality and features are expected to see upgrades which have not yet been disclosed.

  • iOS 8 with real 64-bit Environment

It’s very likely that Apple will come out with an iOS 8 this year, considering that the iOS 7 was a very long time in the making. To boot, response to the new OS from Apple was largely positive, so yet another upgrade might just be in the books this year, for Apple to preserve its edge over Samsung/Android.

Bottom line?

The iPhone 6 is probably not going to be visibly different from the iPhone 5S, but subtle upgrades ‘below the hood’ are expected.

8. iTV – Apple television

The present

Apple television has been a constant presence in the rumor mill for years now. Yet the project, which some seem to eagerly expect, appears to be stuck somewhere on the production conveyor belt of Apple products currently in development. Issues of content delivery and production costs constantly pop up, whenever talk of the iTV hits the media outlets. It is also still unclear whether or not Apple CEO Tim Cook has confirmed or infirmed the project and its subsequent launch. Since this one’s a bit of a doozy, we scanned the most trustworthy sources for Apple rumors out there – and here’s what we could come up, regarding the future of the Apple iTV.

The future

According to one very trustworthy source, namely KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple investors shouldn’t be holding their breath for the Apple television until at least 2015 or 2016. Yet the Apple TV set top box, which runs on the very same A7 processor you can find in the iPhone 5s, as well as in the upcoming 2014 version of the iPad, might just see a launch this year. A grand total of 8.2 million units are expected to be shipped (and sold) in 2014, says the same source. However, as far as Apple experts are concerned, Apple television sets are still a hobby, and don’t yet qualify as viable products. That’s because, for the time being, Apple is unable to integrate more TV content, an App store, and several other services that would make the considerable production costs viable. This is, in part, because the differences between “different TV content ecosystems” (i.e. cable operators) across different countries. So does this mean the rumors regarding the upcoming launch of the Apple television, which emerged during the launch of the iPad were completely unfounded? Perhaps not entirely so, as the rumor roundup video below is rather convincing – and it certainly isn’t the only one available out there, on the great big Internet.

Rumor-mill ruminations aside, according to MG Siegler from TechCrunch, Apple is a long way away from presenting its revamped hardware to the public at large. In case you’re wondering what such revamps might entail, think Siri integration, motion control, and other exciting goodies – but none to reach stores until Apple reaches some form of agreement with content providers and cable networks. Tim Cook has spoken in early 2012 on the viability of the Apple TV and explained that Apple’s current customers for this category are satisfied with what they get, yet the product is not yet ready for mainstream markets. At the same time, Foxconn’s CEO Terry Gua was quoted in May 2012, saying his company had already started preparing for the production of the iTV. The same rumors were confirmed in late March 2013 and July 2013 – yet by the end of last year, the project appeared to have taken the backseat to the iWatch and the Apple TV box.

Numerous rumors regarding the release of the Apple iTV have circulated throughout the past two years and, despite the reputable sources from which they originated, they were proven wrong time and again: first it was November (or December) 2012, according to Gene Munster from Piper Jaffray; then the first half of last year, according to the same source; then, the 4th quarter of 2013, as predicted by Japanese analysts, as well as by the New York Times. As of the date this article was written, 2014 is a standing prediction, but 2015-2016 seem far more likely. Our conclusion?

While we’re highly looking forward to see the iTV, it’s likely we’re going to have to wait at least until Apple gauges the success of its iWatch.

9. iPad Pro

The present

At the moment, Apple iPad sales aren’t doing half bad the world over, but its competitors aren’t exactly giving up either. For instance, Samsung has just recently released a 12-inch tablet, which increases the pressure, some analysts say, for Apple to upgrade its real estate size, in terms of screen space. So, for the time being, many iPad experts are trying to put in their best guesswork efforts as to when a larger iPad will launch. Yet larger isn’t the only market niche for tablets that Apple is trying to corner. A wholly different school of thought says Apple is also planning to release a powerbook of sorts, a hybrid between a Mac Pro and an iPad. We explored both sides of the argument and found it highly likely that Apple is going to be coming out with an iPad Pro/ iPad Air that fulfills both goals at the same time.

ipad-pro-ipad-4-ipad-mini

The future

Rumors of the larger, 12-inch display 128GB iPad originated with analyst Patrick Wang from Evercore. Wang even put out a comprehensive production cost report, which looks at material expenses and analyzes information he has received from his sources involved with Apple’s supply chain. This larger device is bound for release in the fall of 2014, but it’s going to do far more than just up the ante in terms of display size. The bigger iPad is also expected to be better in many ways, when compared to its predecessors. In a certain sense, it’s going to be a hybrid, aimed at bridging the gap between laptop computers and tablets – and while other producers are focusing their attention and development resources on powerbooks, Apple seems to be approaching the issue from the opposite end of the spectrum: that of tablets.

mac-book-air-ipad-pro-production-cost-estimates

The coming 12-inch iPad will reportedly include an A8 processor and be able to do many of the things that MacBook Airs are now able to do. Check out the image below to understand what this means in terms of cost: at the moment, the Intel processors Apple uses to make its MacBook Airs account for some 20% of the total production costs involved. Meanwhile, using an ARM processor of comparable prowess for the iPad Pro would only amount to 5% of the tablet’s total production costs. With this move, Apple would essentially try its hand on the Enterprise market niche, and while the material cost tally is looking encouraging, it doesn’t entirely solve the issue of storage capacity. It also brings into question the iPads ability to support the full Microsoft Office Suite, which is a must on the Enterprise market. At the same time, Microsoft has allegedly had an iPad version of the Office suite in the works for some time now. It might see release in the fall of 2014, after the company launches the Touch First Windows interface early in the year. At the same time, launching the iPad Pro is also likely to spell the end of the MacBook Air, whose presence on the market would be rendered redundant by the new hybrid device. The upcoming hybrid tablet is rumored to include a 4K screen resolution without Retina display (not suitable for larger screens), but may also come in an alternative 2K resolution variant. All in all,

The iPad Pro is bound to revolutionize the laptop-tablet hybrid market.

10. Mac Pro specs

The Present

Mac Pro is the latest computer from Apple. The new models were launched late last year and are slowly reaching their reviewers, which, in turn, are filling the whole world in on what to expect from these machines. As of the time this article was in, a brief review from Other World Computing revealed that the Mac Pro’s Intel Xeon E5 processor is entirely removable. A non-expert might not see the big deal about this and wonder if this feature alone justifies the significant price hike that this machine brought to Apple computers; however, most experts will agree that this is, indeed a big deal.

The Future

The future of Apple Mac Pros is all about customization and upgrades. It’s no longer news for anyone who’s ever owned a computer, irrespective of whether it’s a PC or a Mac that, in time, CPUs become outdated, their price decreases, and new configurations become available. That’s precisely what the new Mac Pro takes into consideration. The new Mac Pro comes with four different CPU options, which all use an LGA 2011 socket, standardized on the motherboard. The difference between these four options, in terms of cost, spans along $3,500, relative to the basic 3.7GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E5, with a 10MB L3 cache. It certainly pays off to purchase the process with a removable socket, as this is a significant perk down the line, when you might want to upgrade your machine. The same website also ran a photo of the Mac Pro running six 27-inch displays, with a horizontal resolution of at least 2,500 pixels. The machine comes with 6 Thunderbolt 2 connectivity ports, which basically means there is ample room for configuring peripherals.

mac_pro_6_displays

If you want to learn more about other features of the Mac Pro, check out the extended video review below.

Our conclusion:

The Mac Pro takes the frustration out of having to upgrade your Apple computer and focuses on cost efficiency down the line.

Bonus: Do Mac rumors matter? [infographic]

Have you ever owned a Mac/Apple product? If you have, we are willing to wager that you spent at least some time researching its upcoming release. You probably hit the rumor-mill websites, checked out videos made in Asia, argued on the forums whether or not a ‘leaked’ picture is ‘shopped and so on. At the end of the day, chances are you also felt cheated and frustrated when the rumors in question turned out to be false. The infographic below is all about that: the importance of Mac rumors. It explains how they’re born, how they develop and are propagated, and suggests we take them with a grain of salt – yet another brilliant tool Apple uses in the offbeat marketing campaigns it’s been known to run. So check out the infographic and don’t get too angry when Apple rumors are disproved: after all, part of the reason we love Apple is its unconventional, forward thinking approach to marketing.

Infographic source: PC Mag’s iPhone 5 coverage.