By Dan Moren
December 31, 2016 3:03 PM PT
The Back Page: A new year
As 2016 draws to a close—and I think we can all issue a hearty “thank heavens” that it’s about to disappear in the rearview mirror—it’s time to look forward to the year at hand. A new year with new surprises, a few sea changes, and probably a few disappointments as well. And while every year is a big one for a company as important as Apple, there are a few places that avid watchers of Cupertino will probably be paying special attention to in 2017.
The future of the Mac: If there was one big question mark hanging over Apple at the end of the year, it’s what exactly the next few years of the company’s most venerable product line will look like. Mac desktops didn’t get any updates in 2016, and even the laptop line got only minor changes, with the exception of the new Touch Bar MacBook Pro—which itself brought some definite eyebrow-raising. Will Apple recommit itself to the personal computer, or is it content to have it operate in the niches where iOS doesn’t yet reach? The first half of 2017 will set the tone.
The next iPhone: After three years where the iPhone’s form factor has remained largely unchanged, there’s a lot of expectation built up around this fall’s iPhone. Will it be the 7s? The 8? Rumors of OLED displays, virtual Home buttons, and edge-to-edge screens suggest a significant overhaul, though the past has shown that the final product is often less radical than the whispers. And despite the fact that next year’s model will fall on the 10th anniversary of the original model’s debut, don’t expect Apple—even Tim Cook’s new and different Apple—to spend much time dwelling on history.
Special projects: What’s next? Automobiles, augmented reality, streaming TV…these are just a few of the areas in which Apple has demonstrated some interest in over the last couple years. Expectations for the company are always high, often unreasonably so, especially when it comes to new projects. Will 2017 be the year that the company decides to share its next idea with the public? I certainly don’t hold out high hopes for anything related to cars in the coming year, but I don’t think it’s out of the question that we may get to see an inkling of what so interests Apple in AR, a subject Tim Cook has hinted at several times.
This list is far from exhaustive. I’m also curious to see if the MacBook Air reaches its end of life (with the new MacBook potentially acquiring more features, such as additional ports, that might make it a worthier successor), whether the iPad can reverse its strong decline (and whether Apple introduces yet another screen size to help appeal to some part of the market not already served by the available three sizes?), and just what the company has up its sleeve—if you’ll pardon the expression—for the Apple Watch.
So it seems there are just a few things to keep an eye on in 2017—you know, just in case you were worried that Apple had gotten boring.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]