Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This Week's Sponsor

Unite 5 - Turn Web Apps into Supercharged macOS apps

By Jason Snell

The Mac: If not Sept. 7, then when?

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Was March 21 truly the swan song of Town Hall? Probably, but you never know…

So Apple has announced a media event for September 7, the traditional place where it has unveiled the newest model of iPhone. Last year Apple made all of its fall product announcements at the event, packing the product pipeline and then announcing nothing more the rest of the year.

This year, though, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is reporting that new Macs aren’t on the agenda, and are “currently expected to be announced at a later date.”

Mac people are getting restless. With the exception of a speed-bump update to the MacBook in the spring, 2016 has been a desert. And now, with a major Apple event on the horizon, is it true that new Mac hardware may still not be on the agenda?

As much as I want to believe otherwise, I’m going to take Gurman’s report at face value. And there’s good news in there for Mac users: Gurman’s sources say new Macs are coming—his report reinforces the much-rumored update to the MacBook Pro with a “Dynamic Function Row” touchscreen replacing the traditional row of function keys.

Gurman’s report also suggests that two other product updates are in the offing, both somewhat surprising. The much-dreamed-about standalone 5K display is apparently being worked on, and there is apparently a MacBook Air update1 that will add USB-C ports.

The question then becomes, if not September 7, then when?

Apple established a long time ago that it can launch products without major media events like the one planned for September 7. It can do so in a few different ways.

One possibility, though it’s not the most likely, is a small media event. Apple has held those in the past few years. In March Apple held what was likely the last event in its on-campus Town Hall space, but it could always choose to hold another. (It’s hard to say goodbye.) The iPhone is the product that draws the big media crowds. When Apple makes it clear that it’s just announcing Mac stuff, it can get away with a much smaller invitation list.

We don’t have to look very far back for a precedent: This happened just two years ago, when Apple followed up its September event launching the iPhone 6 and announcing the Apple Watch with a mid-October event announcing updates to the iPad and iMac. The October 2010 “Back to the Mac” Town Hall event was similarly low key.

If Apple doesn’t want to go to the trouble of staging another event so quickly, no problem: It could very easily roll out a set of products with a series of media briefings. This is the most likely scenario. Over the course of a few days, Apple would invite a bunch of members of the press to Cupertino or New York and give them individual briefings about a new line of products. I’ve been in these sorts of briefings many times: You come in, sign a non-disclosure agreement, agree to an embargo time2, and go home to quickly write up your experiences with some as-yet unannounced Apple products.

I’ve seen some people say that there’s a third option, of Apple just announcing everything via press release, but I doubt that would happen with a major update to perhaps the best-selling Mac model, the MacBook Pro. At the very least, you’d think Apple would brief a small group of key journalists and seed them with products in advance of release just to build up buzz. I don’t think the question is whether they’d brief people in advance or not, but how many people—is it eight or twenty?

As someone who cares about the Mac, I kind of hope Apple does one final event in Town Hall just to give the Mac some love after this barren year. But most likely, some day in mid-October you will discover a whole bunch of stories about new Macs appear on your Twitter feed and in your browser at 10 a.m. Pacific and you’ll realize that an embargo has dropped and new Macs have been announced.

  1. If the MacBook Air is truly updated at this late date, I will have seen everything. 
  2. I’ve also been in the second group, who gets the briefing right after the embargo has lifted. It’s still nice to be briefed, but more fun when you’re part of the surprise. 

If you appreciate articles like this one, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber. Subscribers get access to an exclusive podcast, members-only stories, and a special community.

Search Six Colors