We’ve made it through 2022! The last couple of months might have been a little slow, especially on the Mac front, but it was still a big year for Apple. And now we can turn our eyes to the horizon, to the undiscovered country that is…2023.
With the biggest moves of 2022 in our rearview mirror, it’s time to pontificate on what Apple might have in store for the year ahead. What will we be looking back at, a year hence, as the company’s biggest moves in 2023?
Here then are my picks for the areas that most deserve your attention over the next 12 months.
At this point, I’ve predicted enough times that Apple ought to make a virtual reality game where Lucy holds a football as I try desperately to kick it. But like Bullwinkle attempting to pull a rabbit out of his hat–if I may mix my cartoon metaphors–this time for sure.
Smoke around Apple’s mixed reality headset has only been thickening over the past couple of years, though no doubt challenges like COVID and the ensuing supply chain woes have pushed back whatever announcement window the company was initially targeting. But as we pull into 2023, the clouds have cleared a bit and it seems like this virtual reality might finally become a real reality.
This would mark one of the biggest new categories that Apple’s entered in several years and, like many of those previous markets, it’s one that has plenty of existing players (Sony, HTC, and, of course, Meta) but is still only in its infancy. That’s 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 that is, of course, tempered by the reports that the company’s initial offering will likely be expensive and perhaps aimed more at developers in advance of a later, more streamlined product. But if nothing else, 2023 should be the year that we see the outline of Apple’s plan for this category, which could also end up being the last big product of Tim Cook’s tenure as CEO.
Keep ’em interoperated
At the beginning of 2021, I outlined three battles that Apple would be facing in the year ahead, and the last of those–Apple versus governments around the world–is still just ramping up almost two years later. While the company has remained largely inured from serious challenges in the U.S., regulators elsewhere around the world have taken a harder look at Apple and found it wanting. Chief among them is the European Union.
Michael Simon / IDG
The region’s Digital Markets Act, which comes into effect in 2024, has the potential to upend Apple’s cart, potentially requiring the company to let competitors offer their wares 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 iOS 17’s debut.
But that’s not the only disruption that the company will see as a result of this regulation. It might also affect everything from browser engines on iOS to messaging protocols to private APIs. The EU’s law about charging ports also takes effect in 2024 and it’s widely expected that the next iPhone will replace the proprietary Lightning port with USB-C ahead of that requirement.
From a macro view, though, it will be fascinating to see how Apple, a company that prizes control to an almost fanatical degree, deals with decisions being taken out of its hands. I expect this to be one of the biggest challenges the company has ever had to face from a strategic standpoint and it means 2023 is shaping up to be one of the most interesting years to watch in Apple’s recent history.
The transition lens
Even as Apple missed its self-appointed deadline to transition the entire Mac product line to Apple silicon within two years, rumors have sprung up that the company is scaling back plans for its upcoming Mac Pro, the last major model to make the jump.
The Mac has been going pretty strong in the wake of that transition and I don’t expect that to change in 2023. But Apple’s going to be making some choices in the year ahead about where it spends its time and energy developing its computers, which will be interesting to see. Dialing back the Mac Pro, as rumor would have it, from a ridiculously powerful machine to just a tremendously powerful machine will no doubt disappoint some, but it’s a good indication of the fact that Apple knows where its market is. The Mac Pro is already a niche product that accounts for a tiny percentage of Macs and the highest-end configurations are only a small percentage of those sales.
Selling products that appeal to more consumers is a lot like robbing banks: that’s where the money is. This is why it’s also little surprise that the company’s said to be planning a larger version of the MacBook Air, its most popular model. The future of the Mac Studio and the iMac will also help clarify the company’s marketing philosophy, assuming they are indeed updated in the year ahead. In any event, with the excitement of Apple’s latest chip transition coming to a close, it’s time to see what business as usual looks like for the Mac as its 40th anniversary looms.
Those are only the highlights of what I’m looking for in 2023: there’s a full year of Apple events, new products, and upgrades to come. What will the iPhone 15 bring? Does the Apple Watch Ultra design start trickling down to the rest of the product line? Hey, what about that classical music app Apple said was coming in 2022? And does anybody know what’s going on with the iPad these days?
This past year has been packed with its fair share of surprises, and there’s no reason to think 2023 will be any different. So pop in your AirPods, fire up the Apple TV, and binge away on the latest Apple TV+ content as we usher in the new year.