Apple Silicon Mac speculation: The good, the bummer, and the ugly at today's event

Will we see Macs with color options? Maybe. Maybe not.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Will we see Macs with color choices? Maybe. Maybe not.

Tomorrow is Apple's "One More Thing" event. If you're a long-time Apple watcher, the "one more thing" idea probably holds a special place in your heart because of how the phrase was used in the yearly Stevenotes. At the end of a keynote, Jobs often paused and then teased, "One more thing."

The first "one more thing" was the announcement in 1998 that the then-beleaguered Apple had returned to profitability. One of the earliest Wi-Fi routers, the AirPort, was introduced in a "one more thing." Year after year, just as the keynote ended, Steve came out and used the magic phrase, "One more thing."

The "one more thing" promise has only showed up three times since Jobs' death in 2011. In 2014, Apple announced the Watch. In 2015, Apple announced Apple Music. And in 2017, to almost nobody's surprise, Apple announced the iPhone X. That was the last "one more thing" we've seen.

Until now. This time, the entire event is titled "one more thing." And, given Apple's earlier announcement of plans to completely replace Intel in Macs with its own silicon, we can reasonably expect this announcement to be all about new Apple silicon-based Macs.

The good

Let's start with the three vectors of goodness that should eventually come from Apple's transition to its own processor architecture.

The first is battery life. Apple has put billions of research dollars into extending battery life for its phones and tablets, all of which live on top of Apple-designed chips. Apple designed its chips with battery life in mind, so they're strongly optimized for energy utilization. All that research will be inherited by Macs running Apple silicon.

Next is speed. The Apple chipset is pretty impressive when it comes to speed. We've seen amazing capabilities in iPad Pros and we're starting to see some early numbers from the new A14 Bionic chips in this year's phones.

While you can get fast on Intel, heat and power consumption has always been an issue. Those issues will be less of a concern with Apple Silicon, so it might be possible to take the processor as far as it can go on Macs.

Finally, there's price. Apple pays Intel for its chips. That includes a built-in profit for Intel. No one would ever say that Apple is going to forgo profit, but Apple Silicon chips will come to Apple at cost, which will definitely save Apple money.

Will any of those savings be passed on to consumers in the form of lower-cost Macs? Probably not. But Apple may well produce higher-performing and more feature-rich Macs at price points similar to historic norms.

So that's the all good. Let's move onto the possible bummers.

The bummer

While no tea leaves are required to tell you that Apple is likely to introduce an Apple Silicon-based Mac, the overall design is likely to remain the same.

Don't go expecting a touch screen-based MacBook Pro, just because the iPad and the new Mac use the same chip architecture. While there's a chance Apple might finally add touch screen Macs, they've never shown the inclination. (It differentiates the iPad and Mac.)

More to the point, it's never a good idea to make too many changes in one release. Apple is already making a huge change with processors, which necessitates completely reengineering the internal hardware and adding all sorts of emulation capabilities. It's therefore unlikely that the company would also change much of anything else.

That leaves out the possibility of a new look. Most likely, the Macs introduced at "One More Thing" will be of exactly the same design as we've seen before. On the other hand... well, see my guesses, further on in the article.

The ugly

The ugly, of course, begs the question: "How will they suck?"

Wait! Don't start banging away "You suck, too!" comments and tweets. I'm not being negative just to troll y'all. It's just that when an entire computer line transitions from one processor architecture to another very different architecture, there will be compromises and compatibility issues. Some stuff will suck, at least for a while.

Let's start with the newest MacOS release, Big Sur. Big Sur is late. Normally, Apple announces a new OS release at WWDC in June and ships it right after the Apple event in September. Big Sur did not ship in September. It could be because of all the interruptions due to COVID, or it could be because Big Sur needs to support an entirely different architecture (as well as Intel Macs) and that's a heavy lift.

In any case, Big Sur for Intel Macs did not come out in September, which may indicate that it needed some more time to bake. That could be trouble, because Apple doesn't exactly have a track record of great initial releases.

There will also undoubtedly be software compatibility issues. Before I talk about that, let's give Apple credit where credit is due. Apple has an amazing track record of OS migrations. Apple has done this twice before and built up tremendous institutional knowledge in the process.

But since there will be some combination of Rosetta 2 processor emulation along with newly compiled apps for the new architecture, expect some growing pains.

There will be some programs that just won't work, some hopefully that will work just fine, and probably more than a few that are simply a little bit more cranky than you'd like -- I'm looking at you, Adobe Premiere.

I am hoping that Apple will have ported and optimized a couple of showcase apps -- Logic and Final Cut come to mind -- that can demonstrate the benefits of Apple Silicon when optimized properly. It would be nice to see something blazingly fast along with what will undoubtedly be some somewhat clunky apps running in emulation.

Of course, Apple being Apple, there could be something else that goes horribly wrong. It could be taking a much-beloved keyboard and replacing it with an unmitigated disaster. It could be a rash of battery explosions. It could be removing a particularly useful and universally loved headphone jack from the machine. It could be removing almost all the ports. Whatever it is, Apple does have a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

We won't know about these worrisome issues in Tuesday's keynote, which will undoubtedly be presented in a warp bubble sustained by a reality distortion field. So, if there's gonna be suck, you probably won't know until after you pays your money and you takes your chances.

My guesses

Most of the event will be devoted to the announcement of new Apple Silicon Macs. The rumor mill seems to think those will be a 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, along with a 16-inch MacBook Pro. You can pretty much expect a renewed discussion of Big Sur's capabilities, and possibly a new iPad.

But what's the "One More Thing"?

It could be a new Intel Mac. Yeah, seriously. Apple says that the Apple Silicon migration will take two years and we're only a few months in. That seems to imply that there will be more Intel Macs. My bet is on another Intel MacBook Pro or an upgraded Mac Pro. But I could be wrong. It could be the new 14-inch MacBook with small bezels, because if Apple were to innovate on design, it would be on a known quantity like Intel Macs.

It could be AR glasses but, no, it couldn't. Let's not kid ourselves. That's not a this year thing.

It could be an upgraded iPad. Okay. Sure. But that's not really exciting.

It could be Apple AirTags, which have been rolling around in the rumor mills for a while now. They're not at all exciting and they've been done before, but that's never stopped Apple.

It could be something none of us suspect, like an Appleified self-levitating hover scooter. I know it's not probable, but Apple might want to get in on the growing $41 billion scooter market. No, I'm not making this up. The scooter market is actually projected to grow that big. But yeah, I am making up the idea that Apple might be going there. After all, an iScoot would interfere with the Apple Car project (which is probably quite dead, to be honest).

No, I think I know what the One More Thing event's "one more thing" will be. I think it will be Macs in multiple colors. After all, Apple has to differentiate the Apple Silicon Macs from the Intel Macs somehow. They use darker gray to indicate Pro gear. So why not blue or green or (PRODUCT)RED as colors?

Anyway, that's my thinking. That and possibly an Apple Silicon Mac mini. They've already shipped one of those to developers, so it's not much of a stretch.

What do you think? What will be the "one more thing" at One More Thing? Let us know in the comments below.

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