2015 could be one of the most interesting years in Apple's history. It's moving into a whole new world with the Apple Watch, a device that's as much about high fashion as high tech, and with the tablet market showing signs of saturation it needs some bright ideas to reinvigorate iPad sales. There are two new operating systems to prepare, an enterprise push to explore and some new musical directions - and there might even be a stylus. Here's what we think (and in a few cases, hope) we'll see from Apple in 2015.
We're fascinated by the Apple Watch, especially the one we can't afford. Will rich gold-watch buyers be willing to own a device that may well be obsolete in a year or two? That speedy obsolescence happened with the original iPad, so you'd have been pretty gutted if Apple had persuaded you to spend thousands on a gold one. How Apple handles the obsolescence issue - if it handles it at all - could make or break the Apple Watch as high fashion as well as high tech.
We're also really interested in what developers come up with, because so far there's no obvious killer app for the Apple Watch or any other smartwatch. What they do is interesting and often cool, but there's nothing making us slap our heads and go "of course! How did we ever manage without it?" Here's hoping we see it in 2015.
A plethora of pixels
The ongoing process of putting Retina displays in everything with an Apple logo on it will continue in 2015. In 2014 it appeared in the iMac with Retina 5K display and we should see them appear in the smaller iMacs and hopefully in a Retina MacBook Air too. We know Apple wants to make it, but processor delays have stymied the appearance of a Retina display in its ultraportable laptop. Hopefully 2015's processors will solve that.
iPad Air 3, iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro / Plus
Sales of iPads have slowed, but they might pick up again in 2015 if tablets do indeed have PC-like replacement cycles: the iPads people bought in 2012 will be showing their age this year, especially come the next major iOS update. As ever, Apple will have plenty of new ones for them to buy: updated iPad Airs and minis - the latter still relevant despite the iPhone 6 Plus due to its much lower price tag - and maybe the much-rumoured iPad Pro, a bigger-screened iPad for power users.
Mac Pro 2.0
The reason the 5K Retina display appeared in the iMac rather than as a display for the Mac Pro is bandwidth: the existing DisplayPort technology in the Thunderbolt connector doesn't have enough of it. DisplayPort 1.3 in Thunderbolt 3 does, but it won't appear until Intel's Skylake processors ship. They're due for a 2015 launch, which raises the possibility of a 5K-capable Mac Pro towards the end of the year.
OS X 10.11
We're on an annual upgrade cycle for OS X, so Yosemite's successor should be released in the Autumn. After OS X 10.10's major visual revamp don't expect dramatic differences in how OS X looks or works, but we think the blurring of the lines between OS X and iOS will continue. They'll remain separate beasts but they'll continue to find ways to reach out and touch one another.
Here's another annual update due in the Autumn, and hopefully it'll be less buggy than the first couple of releases of iOS 8. We've got an iOS 9 wish list already that includes a better, more useful Siri, the ability to default to third party apps and hide the stock Apple ones we never use, and better music services. On the subject of which…
HD audio and Beats Music
Beats Music is coming to iOS, possibly before iOS 9, and it's likely to be merged with iTunes. Apple may also launch HD music downloads: the most recent iPhones support headphones with Lightning connectors for HD audio, and the Mastered for iTunes programme means Apple already has the necessary masters for HD files.
iPhone 6S, and maybe an iPhone 6C too
Apple has established an iPhone rhythm in recent years, and that rhythm involves a major redesign every second year and a minor spec bump, usually with an exciting new feature, in between. 2015's a 'tweener year, so we'd expect to see a minor update to the iPhone 6 in the form of an iPhone 6S, and it's possible that HD music and a Home app for HomeKit might be the sales pitch this time around. We're also hearing persistent rumours of a new 4-inch iPhone for 2015 too. Could an iPhone 6C for developing markets be on the cards?
A big enterprise push
MobileFirst for iOS apps, the first fruits of IBM's partnership with Apple to push iPads into the enterprise, look great, but the ball is just starting to role. Enterprise is an area of great opportunity for Apple, and having IBM on the same team makes for a very powerful partnership. iOS was doing pretty well in business already, but that's small potatoes compared to what the Apple/IBM push might achieve in 2015 and beyond.
Apple TV - the box, not the set
We're still not convinced that an Apple TV set is worth the bother - making TVs is a crap business with crap margins - but the "hobby" is desperately overdue a refresh. We already know that Apple may be positioning it as a HomeKit hub for connected home devices, because the code is in its latest operating system update, and we hope the long-rumoured App Store for Apple TV is imminent too. The market for media streamers is getting awfully crowded, and the rivals are awfully good.
We know, we know, Steve said "if you see a stylus they blew it". But Steve Jobs was very good at wrong-footing everybody and making them think he meant "never, ever" when he actually meant "not now". Remember his dismissal of video on iPods? Of native iPhone apps? Of seven-inch tablets? Apple has been quietly patenting smart pen ideas for a few years now, with two more added recently. Maybe it's for the iPad Pro / Plus.
Will Apple start tweeting? According to Fast Company, it's advertising for a "social media expert" in LA, and it's already hired Musa Tariq, who previously led social media for Nike and Burberry. Could tech's most secretive company start getting chatty in 2015?
You can take this prediction to the bank any year you like: no matter what Apple does this year, almost everything it does will spark dire predictions from the doom-mongers. All together now: doooooooooom!
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