There have been rumors surfacing lately of Apple’s new 12-inch device(s). There’s not much information leaked (mostly concepts), especially since Steven Colbert became Chief of Security. However it’s always fun to speculate.
The biggest mystery is if this device only has one port and, if so, why? As surprising and overly minimalistic as it would be, this might be a clever design in practice.
It is important to recognize that the target market for this device is for users who travel a lot. One of the biggest annoyances for me is the number of cables that I have to plug in. On a MacBook Air, there are 4 major ports (5 if you regularly listen to audio1). It would be very convenient if only a single cable was required to connect all of my peripheral devices.
If this device does indeed have only a single port, Thunderbolt is a likely candidate. It is already present in current MacBooks, and the upcoming version should be able to deliver up to 100 watts2.
However the magic that can make a single-port computer usable is literally the power adapter. Apple can get away with a single data port if the power adapter doubled as a hub. Recently there have been many docking stations available where external devices would be connected to the station, and only a single Thunderbolt cable is attached to the MacBook. If this was indeed true, it would be very convenient to finally deal with just a single cable. I am hoping that it can even be MagSafe. If Apple and Intel follow their previous 1.5 year gap between releases, it’s possible that Thunderbolt 3 will be the power source.
Rumors by the dozens
Throughout the past few months, there were rumors of multiple 12-inch devices, one for each of the iPad and MacBook classes. It is very probable that these rumors are referring to a single device. But the real question is what would Apple call it?
The name of the product really signifies its intended use. The iPad is very suitable for browsing responsive media and interacting with the device, while the Mac is more geared towards creation and granular controls. What would be the focus of this new device?
Depending on the situation/application, the touchscreen or keyboard would be a more preferable method of input. My biggest fantasy would be if this device could run both iOS and OS X. Intel has released it’s new Core M processor, which is super low-power (both consumption and performance) and could be a great fit for this device. Apple is also pretty skilled at making its own A-series of ARM chips, and the A8X powering the new iPad’s are pretty powerful. If this device contained both these chips, it will allow users to build and interact with software in the most natural way for their particular task.
iOS and OS X have increasing become similar3, especially with the recent iOS 8 and Yosemite back-to-back release. However, Apple has stated before that it has no plans to create a unified OS. Of course, they have reversed their decisions many times4, but this time they might be telling the truth - this device actually runs both OS’s.
iPad + Mac = iPad Air
The iPad Air would have been a perfect name for this device. Sadly, it is already used. Apple probably won’t pull a Microsoft Surface on this one. If only they had stuck with the The New iPad naming conventions…
However, there is still the chance they will call this device the New iPad Air - (jokes :).
Of course this device would be seriously expensive. Fitting a (retina?) touchscreen into this super-thin design would also be a big challenge. There would need to be methods of sharing data between the two OS’s while minimizing the need to keep both running at the same time to save power. The lack of USB support (without using an adapter) would be a huge decision-pooper for many. It lacks the processing power to do barely more than just browsing and emails, yet developers will likely need to purchase one for testing purposes. And of course there will be dozens of other small gotchas being a first-generation device.
Apple has been busy. The next public product due to be released is probably the Watch. What’s left of the developer team is working on the next iOS and OS X features for WWDC. Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue are probably still in talks about the App Store. Well, it’s good that Apple has many employees because you know what I see when I look at my MacBook? Too many ports.
2. Yes, I am going to cite Wikipedia.
3. There has been code found that allow for multiple apps to share the screen (thank you MS Surface). Also iOS apps are increasing more dimensionally-independent.