Over the last two years, Apple has slowly transitioned its entire product line from Intel processors to Apple Silicon. With only the Mac Pro left to transition, WWDC is sure to be huge. However, anyone expecting an Apple M2 chip announcement at WWDC is in for a surprise.
Don’t expect the M2 in The Mac Pro.
During the most recent Apple event and the insanely powerful M1 Ultra announcement, Apple announced the M-series chip line is now complete. Many people speculate that subtle mention indicates the Mac Pro will receive the next-generation M2 chip. On the contrary, I believe Apple has a different series chip dedicated to the Mac Pro (and any future truly pro-level machines).
I’ve long believed Apple has a desktop-class chip in the works — call it the D1. Ideally, it’d be a PRO chip, but the P1 branding is already taken. Putting an insanely powerful D1 chip into the Mac Pro differentiates it from the M1 Ultra and highlights that Apple is capable of developing multiple chip lines simultaneously.
The Mac Pro and the D1 chip will be the highlight of WWDC, in addition to previews of the next operating systems. Apple will spend a lot of time describing the power, rendering speeds, and specs that make all the developers drool. I firmly expect this year’s WWDC to be in-person so that Apple can capitalize on the reactions to this inevitable powerhouse.
What about a new iPad Pro?
It’s not happening at WWDC or in the fall. The next iPad Pro will come out next spring. Why? This year is all about the iPad Air upgrade.
iPad Air updates are never unique. Over the last few years, they’ve always been an iPad Pro-Lite that uses last year’s iPad Pro as the base. I bought the iPad Air 4 in 2020 because I was tired of waiting for an iPad Pro update (2019 and, eventually, 2021).
When Apple put the M1 in the iPad Pro, it said here’s where we’re going, and here’s what we can do. Now, with the entire M-Series revealed, it’s clear that base-model M chips are intended for base-model Mac and higher-end portable devices. Placing an M1 in the iPad Air firmly positions that iPad among the other counterparts.
However, the next iPad Pro will need to differentiate, and that comes with an upgraded chip. The latest rumors about the iPhone Pro being the only phone to get the newest A-series chip aligns with this logic: differentiate the base phones from the Pro by adding a few features and a more powerful chip.
Following this logic, the next iPad Pro will likely contain an M2 Pro chip and debit next spring.
What about an M2 MacBook or Mac mini at WWDC?
Aside from previews and developer builds of macOS, iOS, and iPad OS, Apple will not release or announce any new hardware or technology at WWDC. The new Mac Pro will truly be the star of WWDC this year. Apple will have hands-on demonstrations and features to highlight the new machine’s power (and design). There’s no way Apple will dilute media attention from their state-of-the-art chip and device with a new base model.
Instead, the M2 will likely get announced at a smaller event in the fall, similar to the release of the M1 Ultra. The event, likely in October following the iPhone release, will feature a MacBook Air and Mac mini, just like the initial M1 release.
We now have Apple’s entire release cycle, thanks to completing the M1-series chips. Spoiler alert, it’s not always once a year.
The A-Series is Apple’s lowest-tier chip. It currently lives in half of the iPads, the iPhones, AppleTV, and the Studio Display (again, why?). We can continue to expect some form of an A-Series annually.
The iPhone is an interesting question, though. Rumors suggest the iPhones Pro will be the only one receiving chip upgrades this year. This makes a lot of sense, especially as Apple moves to a two-year cycle for chip architecture. Next year’s iPhone (not Pro) can get this year’s Pro chip, further differentiating the two tiers.
Base M-Series Chip
The base M-Series chip, currently the M1, will update every two years. The initial M1 devices were released in November 2020, which puts an expected M2 in October or November 2022. The base M-series will initially land in the top-selling consumer products just in time for the holiday buying season (MacBook Air, a potential MacBook, and possibly the Mac mini).
In the Spring of 2022, the iPad Pro will update with an M2 chip to further differentiate it from the iPad Air. Following suit, the iPad Air will receive an M2 in the spring of 2023 as the M3 prepares to enter the next iPad Pro.
M-Series Pro Chip
The Pro chip, essentially an upgraded base M-series, will come out a few months after the M2. Likely in the spring, the M2 Pro will find its way into the new MacBooks Pro alongside the updated iPad Pro. It’s also likely that the Mac mini receives an M2 Pro upgrade option to add a level stepping toward the Mac Studio.
M-Series Max and Ultra
The top-of-the-line M-series chips will follow the release cycle six months after Apple releases the M2 Pro — potentially announced at next year’s WWDC with a release date in the fall. These chips will find their way into the high-end MacBooks Pro and the Mac Studio. As much as I’d like to see an iMac Pro, I don’t think it’s happening.
Finally, the cremé de la cremé: Apple’s as of yet unannounced desktop-series chip destined for the Mac Pro. Apple will update this chip much less frequently, likely every two to three years, to remind Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung there is no way they’ll ever catch up. Except this chip to only be announced at Apple’s flagship WWDC events.
Why will it take two years to update products?
Apple is a savvy company that gets huge media splashes every time they hold an event. They know how to capitalize on the publicity, which ultimately helps them sell products.
By spacing out chip releases by four to six months, they ensure consistent media attention across financial reporting periods. In other words, it’s great for the stock price and the company’s bottom line.
Additionally, periodically releasing products in this way ensures a 24-month life cycle for each M-series generation. It’s a much more manageable timeframe while still offering something new at every price point in natural upgrade cycles.
Apple’s transition to custom silicon changed how it develops and releases products. I look forward to an exciting WWDC focused on the Mac Pro, a computer I will never own. Likewise, I also look forward to the fall and the next evolution of Apple’s consumer-grade products.
In other words, don’t hold your breath for an M2-powered Mac at WWDC this year.