Apple’s newest product pronouncements: No launch occasions, simply information bulletins

Again in early October 2022, a month after Apple’s most up-to-date product launch occasion, I wrote:

I’m questioning if Apple will likely be skipping its second fall occasion this 12 months, as an alternative selecting to announce no matter (if something) it plans to solely through press releases. And if that’s the case, I’m wondering what this may say about Apple’s present expertise and product well being: is it having difficulties taping out higher-end Professional and Max variants of the M2 SoC unveiled in June, following within the footsteps of the M1 and its M1 Professional and Max larger siblings, for instance? And/or is foundry accomplice TSMC having issues getting them to yield sufficiently to permit for system manufacturing primarily based on them? And talking of M2-based programs, is an Apple Silicon-based successor to the legacy x86-based Mac Professional and/or iMac Professional nonetheless within the playing cards for 2022? Inquiring minds wish to know.

I as an alternative stuffed that early-October editorial “slot” with protection of the newest from Amazon and Google. Because it seems, I used to be proper; there (atypically) was no second Apple fall occasion in 2022 (though as you’ll quickly see, there’s intriguing proof that one was initially deliberate). As an alternative, since September all we’ve gotten is a string of press releases, which is…attention-grabbing. And as I write these phrases in late February 2023, there’s been no trace of an upcoming (typical) spring occasion, both. Judging from the regular stream of leaks, Apple seemingly continues to work on its upcoming “blended actuality” headset, initially rumored to be launched this spring, though the newest prognostications peg it for this summer season’s yearly Worldwide Developer Convention (WWDC). Fact be informed, WWDC is the place I all the time suspected the “reveal” would occur, since new product platforms rely closely on third-party app and repair embraces for fulfillment.

That each one mentioned, Apple’s press release-unveiled merchandise are nonetheless attention-grabbing, not less than considerably and not less than a few of them. I’ll start with the M2 Professional and Max follow-ons to the baseline M2 SoC unveiled eventually June’s WWDC. For chronological comparability functions, right here’s when the M1 SoC household rolled out:

The twin-die transposer-linked M2 Extremely (to not point out the rumored quad-die M2 Excessive) haven’t arrived but and, if rumors are to be believed, may never appear. However the M2 Professional and Max are right here, as of mid-January. Conceptually, the evolutionary path is harking back to that within the earlier M1 household trajectory:

  • The “Professional” variant has extra CPU cores, together with an altered performance-vs-efficiency core proportion, than the baseline precursor, together with extra graphics cores, whereas
  • The “Max” variant is equivalent to its “Professional” sibling from a CPU subsystem standpoint, albeit with a doubled-up graphics subsystem.

Each gadgets’ architectural upgrades include commensurate bigger transistor-count budgets, with all three relations on a typical “second-generation 5 nm” lithography basis (and benefitting from widespread M2-family enhancements over M1 predecessors). Particularly:


  • 8-core CPU (4 “efficiency”, 4 “effectivity”)
  • Up-to-10 (useful) graphics cores
  • 20 billion transistors

M2 Professional:

  • Up-to-12 (useful)-core CPU (6 or 8 “efficiency”, 2 “effectivity”)
  • Up-to-19 (useful) graphics cores
  • 40 billion transistors

M2 Max:

  • Up-to-12 (useful)-core CPU (6 or 8 “efficiency”, 2 “effectivity”)
  • Up-to-38 (useful) graphics cores
  • 67 billion transistors

For those who’re questioning why I repeatedly clarified these units of specs with the phrase “(useful)”, permit me to clarify. For those who take a look at a die shot of the M2 Professional, for instance, you’ll see all 12 CPU cores and 19 graphics cores current there. However every of them takes up a not-insignificant chunk of silicon space, resulting in a statistically not-insignificant chance {that a} fabrication flaw (particulate, and many others.) will find yourself inside one in every of them versus elsewhere on the die. In such a case, as an alternative of discarding the whole sliver of silicon, Apple and its manufacturing companions “fuse” off the flawed circuitry and ship the chip as a lower-core-count, lower-priced product possibility.

This system, additionally generally used (for instance) by graphics chip corporations, is why the M2 Professionals inside Apple’s programs are available in variations with each six- and eight-“efficiency” CPU cores, together with sixteen- and nineteen-graphics core allocations (presently, not less than: extra future proliferations are in fact additionally potential). The SoC’s “effectivity” CPU cores, in distinction, will not be solely few in quantity but in addition comparatively tiny, and are due to this fact comparatively resistant to flaw-induced failures. Such a method might sound wasteful at first look, and in a way, it’s: you find yourself solely with large-die chips that devour extra foundry wafers than quite a lot of smaller-die chips would require. However you additionally scale back the variety of “line gadgets” that not solely should be designed upfront however should even be ongoingly managed all through the provision chain.

About that “19” graphics core depend; sure, I agree, it’s an odd quantity to see for us engineers who’re used to encountering solely even counts of issues (and power-of-two ones, at that). However in line with Apple, that’s the precise variety of cores on the die, and the optimum quantity from a format effectivity standpoint. And relating to my earlier query, “Is Apple having difficulties taping out higher-end Professional and Max variants of the M2 SoC unveiled in June?”, in equity I ought to level out that my last-fall considerations right here had been for naught. The delay from the launch of the M2 SoC (together with programs containing it) to that of the M2 Professional/Max ended up being seven months; the prior launch cadence from the M1 to the M1 Professional/Max was 11 months.

About these programs…Apple additionally unveiled a number of in January: 14” and 16” MacBook Pros based on the M2 Pro and Max SoCs:

together with upgraded variants of the Apple Silicon-based Mac mini containing both M2 and M2 Pro processor options:

The M2 Professional model of the mac Mini, whose bottom is proven right here, was most attention-grabbing to me. For one factor, as you possibly can see, it (in contrast to its M1 and base M2 siblings) addressed the comparative-I/O and -maximum pushed shows shortcoming versus the prior-generation Intel-based mac Mini that I’ve talked about earlier than. For one more, benchmark testing I’ve seen means that it’s a compelling various to the M1 Max model of the Mac Studio launched a 12 months in the past, whereas on the identical time being not solely extra svelte but in addition decrease priced. This isn’t the one scenario the place the Mac Studio appears to already be getting squeezed…maintain that thought a bit.

However talking of worth, until you possibly can’t afford something extra, I’d counsel staying away from the lowest-end M2 Mac mini. Not solely does it comprise solely 8 GBytes of RAM and a 256 GByte SSD (each non-upgradeable), the SSD is (following in the footsteps of the M2 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro) slower than the same-capacity SSD within the M1 precursor. Common readers already know that I’m not shy about shaming Apple for exhibiting obsolescence by design each time I feel it’s taking place, however on this case I feel the basis trigger is extra harmless.

As I’ve talked about earlier than, a bigger variety of concurrently accessible flash reminiscence die (and chips primarily based on them) inside a SSD generally results in increased general efficiency, assuming the media administration controller is able to exploiting this parallelism potential. Steadiness that, nevertheless, towards the truth that reminiscence chips are getting more and more dense because of shrinking fabrication lithographies (together with ever-more unique multi-level cell information storage methods, though I don’t assume the latter is an element on this explicit case). The bottom-capacity SSD within the M2 mac Mini has half the chips of that within the comparable-capacity M1 predecessor, main (I believe) to the retrograde velocity.

As I alluded to in a current teardown, Apple additionally resurrected the full-size HomePod in January:

For those who’re pondering that it appears identical to the first-generation HomePod, launched in mid-2017 and discontinued within the spring of 2021, you’d be nearly proper; they’re near-identical save for slight dimensional variances. And addressing my earlier criticism, the redesigned model does include a $50 lower cost tag ($299 for the second-gen versus $349 for the first-gen), though contemplate that the aggressive high-end Amazon Echo Studio is nonetheless $100 much less ($199) regular-priced, and is repeatedly promotion-discounted even additional. Presumably to decrease the BOM value, Apple decreased the variety of tweeters from seven (first-gen) to 5 (second-gen); that mentioned, reviewers report that the 2 variations sound near-identical. The second-gen unit additionally back-steps from a Wi-Fi perspective, from 802.11ac to 802.11n. And including additional insult to damage, the 2 generations can’t be paired to each other in a stereo configuration, presumably due not less than partially to their differing SoC foundations (iPhone-tailored A8 vs watch-tailored S7). Or perhaps Apple simply desires you to retire your first-gen HomePod and purchase a substitute, too…

Oh, by the way in which…I earlier “teased” that though there was no second Apple fall occasion in 2022, there’s intriguing proof that one was initially deliberate. Right here’s the again story. Together with the varied press releases printed in January 2023, Apple additionally unveiled a slick 18-minute accompanying video harking back to those finished at prior digital occasions, and targeted on the brand new M2-based programs (harking back to the programs launched at prior October occasions):

That video, it seems, contained metadata dating from October 2022. Eureka!

Thus concludes January 2023. However these weren’t the solely merchandise Apple’s launched since its final occasion in early September 2022. October 2022 did convey us just a few extra press releases: of a new baseline iPad in four (vibrant, so say Apple’s marketeers) color options:

Upgraded 11” and 12.9” iPad Pros based on the M2 SoC (at a time, candidly, when the efficiency potential of their M1-based precursors continues to be largely going untapped, even with latest-generation iPadOS 16):

And a next-generation Apple TV 4K that starts at $129, in distinction to (for instance) Roku’s high-end 2022-model Extremely set-top field at $30 lower than this (99.99) regularly-priced, and, just like the Echo Studio I discussed earlier, steadily promo-priced even notably lower:

As you possibly can in all probability inform, I used to be underwhelmed.

This all results in “what’s subsequent” ponderings. I’ve already talked about the “blended actuality” headset. However what about computer systems, and the chips they’re primarily based on? As I mentioned in June 2022, and continues to be the case as I write these phrases practically a 12 months later, Apple has blown well past its unique “two 12 months” forecast to transform its complete computing product line from Intel to Apple Silicon. With the aforementioned launch of the M2 Professional-based Mac mini, one more Intel-based bowling pin has fallen. However the Intel-based Mac Professional stays standing. And even when Apple forcefully topples it over, its clients may not be happy with what takes its place.

Right here’s my take. For years now, the majority of Apple’s computing portfolio has consisted of merchandise (varied MacBook variants, together with the iMac and Mac mini) that had been:

  • Modestly highly effective at-best
  • Usually power- (if battery-operated) and/or thermal- (if small type issue) constrained, and
  • Not often if ever end-user upgraded, assuming they might even be

Seems, Apple’s Arm-based SoCs had been just about excellent for such eventualities. However high-end skilled (content-creation, and many others.) programs just like the Mac Professional are a totally totally different beast. Their customers have lengthy been “skilled”, and due to this fact now have the affordable expectation, that not solely will these programs be wicked-fast (buying and selling off energy consumption and warmth dissipation within the course of), they’ll even be long-term upgradeable: higher-capacity mass storage, extra RAM, newer and extra highly effective graphics playing cards, oodles of enlargement busses and I/O, and many others.

These aspirations, sadly for Apple, don’t line up nicely towards programs primarily based on extremely built-in SoCs with non-upgradeable graphics and dallops of reminiscence. And right here’s one other factor: I already talked about earlier that the newest Mac minis are squeezing the just-introduced-a-year-ago Mac Studio from beneath. I’m assuming that, given how lengthy Apple’s been promising us an Arm-based Mac Professional, the corporate will eventually be compelled to comply with by way of and ship one thing. But when it’s as non-upgradeable as I believe it will likely be, gained’t it additionally squeeze the Mac Studio from above? And if that’s the case, why’d Apple even hassle introducing the Mac Studio? Then once more, we’ve been right here earlier than: the corporate was pressured (IMHO) to unveil a “Professional” iMac variant to fill the time hole between the underwhelming “trash can” Mac Professional and its belated successor.

Different rumors embrace a finally-15” variant of the MacBook Air and an SoC-upgraded (24”?) iMac, one of many first Apple Silicon-based computer systems Apple launched however, as I write these phrases, subsequently nonetheless caught on the M1 era. We will see. Till subsequent time (WWDC?), I look ahead to your ideas within the feedback!

Brian Dipert is the Editor-in-Chief of the Edge AI and Imaginative and prescient Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the corporate’s on-line publication.

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