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Apple’s Year Ahead: Separating Rumors from Reality

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We have reached the end of 2022! Well, almost. And barring other last-minute announcements from Cupertino, we’ve seen everything Apple has to offer for the year that’s been. Which, of course, means that we can turn our gaze to the horizon, to the country to be discovered which is… 2023.

With the biggest moves of 2022 in our rearview mirror, it’s time to pontificate about what Apple might have in store for the year ahead. What will we look back on, a year from now, like the company’s biggest moves in 2023?

So here are my picks for the areas that most deserve your attention over the next 12 months.

Get back down to earth

At this point, I’ve predicted enough times that Apple should make a VR game where Lucy holds a football while I desperately try to kick it. But how Bullwinkle attempts to pull a rabbit out of his hat–if I may mix my cartoonish metaphors–this time for sure.

origin 1Meta will have new competition from Apple in 2023. Mark Zuckerberg, look out.

A half

I smoke around Apple’s mixed reality headset it’s only thickened in the last couple of years, though no doubt challenges like COVID and the resulting supply chain issues have pushed back any announcement windows the company initially targeted. But as we approach 2023, the clouds have cleared a bit and it looks like this virtual reality may finally become a real reality.

That would mark one of the biggest new categories Apple has entered in several years, and like many of those previous markets, it’s one that has many existing players (Sony, HTC, and, of course, Meta) but is still only in its infancy. This is often the kind of situation where Apple excels, bringing clarity of vision and its expertise in delivering what consumers want (even if they don’t know it yet).

All of this is, of course, tempered by reports that the company’s initial offering is likely to be expensive and perhaps aimed more at developers ahead of a later, more streamlined product. But if nothing else, 2023 should be the year Apple’s plan for this category is outlined, which could also end up being the last big product of Tim Cook’s tenure as CEO.

Keep them interoperated

In early 2021, I outlined three battles that Apple was faced with in the year ahead, and the latest of these — Apple versus governments around the world — is still escalating almost two years later. While the company has largely remained accustomed to severe challenges in the United States, regulators in other parts of the world have taken a closer look at Apple and found it wanting. First of all is the European Union.

origin 1The EU forced Apple to switch to USB-C on iPads and iPhones. Will the EU do more to force Apple’s hand?

Michael Simon / IDG

The region’s Digital Markets Act, due to take effect in 2024, has the potential to upend Apple’s shopping cart, potentially requiring the company to allow competitors to offer their products on iOS and iPadOS (and presumably tvOS) outside of the App Store. Recent reports suggest that Apple is currently planning for such an eventuality, which could come in an announcement alongside the debut of iOS 17.

But that’s not the only disruption the company will see as a result of this regulation. It could also affect everything from browser engines on iOS to messaging protocols to private APIs. The EU law on charging ports will also take effect in 2024, and the next iPhone is widely expected to replace the proprietary Lightning port with USB-C before that requirement.

From a macro perspective, however, it will be fascinating to see how Apple, a company that prizes control to an almost fanatic degree, handles the decisions that are taken out of hand. I expect this to be one of the biggest challenges the company has ever faced from a strategic perspective, and it means 2023 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years to watch in Apple’s recent history.

The transition lens

Also like Apple missed the self-proclaimed deadline to transition its entire Mac product line to Apple silicon within two years, rumors have surfaced that the company is scaling back plans for its next Mac Prothe latest major model to make the leap.

origin 1In addition to a new Mac Pro, 2023 could be another big year for the Mac lineup.

Foundry

The Mac has gone pretty strong in the wake of that transition, and I don’t expect that to change in 2023. But Apple will make some choices in the coming year about where it spends its time and energy developing its computers, which want be interesting to see. Calling the Mac Pro back from, as they say, a ridiculously powerful machine to a tremendously powerful machine will no doubt disappoint some, but it’s a good indication that Apple knows where its market is. The Mac Pro is already a niche product representing a small percentage of Macs, and higher-end configurations are only a small percentage of those sales.

Selling products that appeal to more consumers is a bit like robbing banks: that’s where the money is. That’s why it’s no surprise that the company is planning a larger version of the MacBook Air, its most popular model. The future of the Mac Studio and iMac will also help clarify the company’s marketing philosophy, assuming they actually get refreshed in the next year. Either way, with excitement over Apple’s latest chip transition winding down, it’s time to see what business as usual looks like for the Mac as it approaches its 40th anniversary.

All the rest

These are just the highlights of what I’m looking for in 2023: There’s a full year of Apple events, new products, and updates to come. What will the iPhone 15 bring? Is the design of the Apple Watch Ultra starting to trickle down to the rest of the product line? Hey, how about that classical music app Did Apple say it would arrive in 2022? And someone knows what’s going on with the ipad these days?

Last year was full of surprises and there’s no reason to think 2023 will be any different. So pop in your AirPods, turn on your Apple TV, and binge on the latest Apple TV+ content as we usher in the new year.