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Mac Planet: Will Apple marry their iOS and Mac OS X?

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Apple's recent direction may indicate that they will combine their two systems into one platform. Photo / NZ Herald
Apple's recent direction may indicate that they will combine their two systems into one platform. Photo / NZ Herald

What Apple products do you expect for 2013? There has been a rumour that the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air will get processor upgrades mid-year (fairly standard practice), a new Mac Pro tower is both eagerly anticipated and long awaited, and the mini (or perhaps the Pro) might enter US assembly, which would be a major change for Apple.

Generally speaking, I have speculated before that Apple's Mac computers are getting more iDevice-like in the way they work, and this increasing melding of two systems (iOS and Mac OS X) poses a conundrum of where Apple is headed with machines for professional users.

It's possible that iPads will come to be considered 'consumer Macs' as their lowliest Mac is now the mini, since the demise of the MacBook. The MacBook Pro line is getting ever more powerful and the MacBook Air could be considered a consumer machine, but doesn't appear to be marketed that way, but rather as a pro tool for professional writers and those who travel a lot.

Some pundits have speculated that Apple may bring everything together into one major new hardware platform. Well, I don't find this particularly convincing (which doesn't mean much), but Mike Elgan at Cult of Mac speculates that an Apple Television would give you a 37-inch Mac (ten inches bigger diagonally than the largest new iMac), direct access to iTunes movies and music, an iPad-like interface and that it would do double-duty as a high definition presentation device.

Elgan calls this the "Mother of All unifications": a giant iPad that serves business people in the board room and consumers in the living room. But do you like sharing your Mac? I don't.

At the least, though, a redesigned Apple TV interface, more like the new iTunes 11, is expected. This should bring unity between iTunes on your computer and iTunes on your Apple TV.

The Apple productivity software iWork (comprising Numbers, Pages and Keynote, which open and save, and are roughly equivalent to, Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint) is rumoured to be up for renewal. At the very least, Pages is easier to use for laying out documents like newsletters, but it needs to be better at importing Word documents. Keynote opens and saves PowerPoint presentations but has more cinematic tools at its disposal. iWork also integrates with component versions for iDevices.

A new version of iPhoto is definitely under development, as is iOS 7.

As for iDevices, an iPhone 5S (or whatever) will probably get released during the year, and once Apple figures out the manufacturing, expect an iPad mini with Retina Display, if not a full-size iPad 5.

Wirelessly, Apple passed on near-field wireless in the iPhone 5. It's unclear why, but some think it's because new Bluetooth protocols challenge some NFC abilities and Apple is still deciding which way to jump.

It seems likely Apple will support the next generation of Wi-Fi, called 802.11ac, but will Apple support Wi-Fi Display and Wi-Fi Direct? Its own alternatives (AirPlay and AirDrop) are already in place. These fields present worlds of possibilities, with low-power radio set to grow in use and utility.

Samsung has already been showing off some interesting NFC powers in new devices - in early December 2012, Californian Judge Lucy Koh urged Samsung and Apple to settle their differences, but I'm not holding my breath.

What about wetware? The Apple User ... BlueStacks researched what the 'typical Mac user' is: a freckled young woman wearing jeans and a t-shirt, seemingly. Ms Mac has a 27 per cent chance of having long hair, 22 per cent shoulder length and a 15 per cent chance of sporting a ponytail. Her hair is most likely black (38 per cent), but a two per cent chance of being blue. She has a two-in-five chance of wearing glasses. Thirty-two per cent of Ms Macs live in the US, 23 per cent in Asia, and 5 per cent in Australia. Most of 'em wear sneakers ... Does this sound like you? It's nothing like me.

A year ago, BlueStacks did the same thing with Android users, creating a portrait of Mr. Android as a nerdy guy in jeans.

Looking at Apple hardware, it's interesting to see what might have been. According to Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs had the iPhone concept already 26 years ago, and had to wait for technology to make it realisable.

If you take the retro-futurist route, Apple products would be rounded and blobby instead of hard-edged and razor thin as per current (and long term) Apple design guru Jony Ive.

Hartmut Esslinger founded Frog Design in the 1980s. His firm was responsible for some of Apple's most iconic products of that decade, including the Apple IIGS and the Macintosh II, after Frog was charged with unifying Apple's design language. Esslinger will soon be providing a rare glimpse of some of his Apple work that never saw the light of day in a book called Design Forward, due out on January 16th.

Photos of several product prototypes include an all-in-one, dual-screen Mac workstation and a touchscreen-based 'Macphone' . This was a stylus-based Mac fused with a corded telephone.

Frog produced several different takes on the classic Macintosh design, including a Tablet Mac prototype circa 1982.

Looks-wise, Esslinger's prototypes look like they come from the set of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey. This sci-fi movie came out way back in 1968. The film used designs by George Nelson, Olivier Mourgue, Eero Saarinen and Arne Jacobsen, with director Kubrick taking such a close interest in the film's look that he even selected the fabric for the actors costumes himself.

The German head of Frog had worked with Sony, Louis Vuitton, and others before moving on to Apple in 1982. Apple hired Esslinger to transform the successful yet scattered startup into a brand with a globally recognisable design mantra.

It's a fascinating look at what might have been - but personally, I'm glad Apple went with Ive.

- NZ Herald

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