What Will Apple Announce Next Week? (And What's In It for Filmmakers)

WWDC 2021
Credit: Apple
What can we expect Apple to reveal next week?

With this year's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference on the horizon, we wanted to take a look at what we can expect from the conference.

Apple will kick things off next week with another high-profile event to highlight the latest coming out of Cupertino. And while rumors are flying that Tim Cook and company may announce new hardware with an upgraded M1X chip, it’s far more likely that WWDC will set the stage for a huge autumn rollout, with updates to just about every operating system they’ve got. But never say never.

Spiking the football

Since last November, when Apple rolled out the M1 Mac Mini and Macbook Air, their freshman ARM-based processor has enjoyed positive reviews, high customer satisfaction rates, and brisk sales. It’s become clear that Apple leaving Intel in favor of their own processors designed in-house has quite literally paid off, and you can expect Cook and company to bask in the glory of the M1 during next week’s event.

But since it’s only been eight months since Apple began the M1 era, it’s likely not going to announce a next-generation M1X or M2 processor just yet.

Apple has traditionally been light on hardware announcements at WWDC. It is a software conference, after all. If any hardware is announced, look for Cupertino to expand their M1 MacBook Pro lineup.

Credit: Apple

MacBooks take center stage

Rumors are strong that a 13-inch, 14-inch, and even a 16-inch MacBook Pro will be highlighted next week as the latest expansion to the M1 family.

Frankly, I think that a 14-inch MacBook Pro is a bit of an outlier, which would compete with the mobile-centric 13” model. So it seems more likely that it’s one or the other, along with the 16-inch model, to gain the M1 treatment. The pro-level MacBooks are also rumored to get more than just a single USB-C port. MacBook Pros are rumored to add HDMI, an ethernet-capable Magsafe connector, and even an SD card slot. These options would open up to connect multiple displays, rather than just a single one.

There’s also talk that the next model to undergo an M1 transformation will be a larger 27-inch iMac.

Last month, Apple gave us the 24-inch iMac in a gaggle of pastel colors and an ultra-thin design. So it seems a bit premature to expect that Apple will enlarge the iMac line, especially during a software developer’s conference. Expectations should therefore be focused on the MacBook line, and expect new iMacs to come for the holiday shopping season in the fall. 

What about the MacPro?

Good question.

Apple has been notoriously slow with offering updates to the pro tower platform over the last few years, having to be dragged kicking and screaming to improve it. Not only is the MacPro sales a small segment of their market share, but it’s also designed to be upgradable, with independent video cards. The M1 has its own GPU architecture, and being able to make the M1 function with an AMD GPU could take a while to bring up to speed. And with a GPU shortage causing the price of video cards to skyrocket, there’s no real rush to put out an M1 upgrade until Cupertino has all its GPU ducks in a row.

So it’s a good bet that the high-priced pro-level tower won’t be given the M1 upgrade until the last model out of the gate.

But that doesn’t mean that new updates to hardware aren’t coming. It just indicates that perhaps software updates will pave the trail to prepare for the next M1 generation. Software updates will certainly provide new features and further improve the performance of the M1’s architecture. 

It’s likely that Apple could announce new updates, in partnership with software companies to make their applications native to the M1 processor, rather than rely on Rosetta 2 to act as a go-between. The more software that can run natively on M1, the faster they will run and be ready for an upcoming M1x or M2 update shortly.

Credit: Apple

What's this mean for filmmakers?

Apple is currently in the “tok” or their TikTok development cycle, so it’s not really likely we'll see any innovative new features, but more performance upgrades and improvements. When the M1 was introduced, some features didn’t translate too well in the first generation. These included no support for an external GPU and a maximum of 16GB of RAM.

Does that mean that macOS and iPadOS will add these options at WWDC? Maybe. How cool would it be to have external GPU support for an iPad Pro? Already it’s as powerful as the MacBook Pro. Some say too powerful for being a pro-level tablet.

Mobile filmmaking is a thing, however, with content creators writing, shooting, and even editing on an iOS or iPadOS device. With the M1 iMac Pro, they can do it all save visual effects, and with expanded features like an external GPU support and increased RAM, Apple could open up a whole new world of post-production options to those who shoot on the fly. But that’s just blue-sky thinking on my part.

So, at the end of the day, with WWDC being a software developer’s conference, it would come as no surprise if the keynote were heavily software-centric, with Apple coming later in the year with a hardware-centric event like in 2020.

After that, all bets are off.     

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