What is the future of the Mac?

Apple will set the fate of both of its main creative platforms – Mac and iPad Pro – at its New York event, with the future of both at stake.

Which is which?

Apple will have to clearly define what each of these platforms is for. That means answering (or at least signalling) answers to tough questions:

  • Is an iPad Pro the creative tool you always have with you while the Mac remains the productive workhorse for everyday use?
  • Has Apple poured all its R&D dollars into the mobile device at the expense of the Mac?
  • Can Apple (as Dieter Bohn sagaciously points out) create a notebook that delivers the compelling mix of features that made MacBook Air the must-have laptop for a decade?

Not only this, but with whispers that Apple may shift to using its own A-series chips inside future Macs, can it make these iterations of its platform sufficiently alluring that consumer and pro users will put their money down for computers that may seem dated in a few months?

What about the trends?

We know what the trends are. Enterprise and consumer customers do most of their computing with their iPhones, some with their iPads, and tend to turn to a Mac to get more complex tasks done.

Increasingly, we find we can do more with an iPad than we used to, but habit and the friction of learning new ways of getting things done means Macs are still seen as easier machines to use – as they should be, given Apple has made those systems for such a long time.

In the future?

iPads will become increasingly capable computer replacements, while Macs will become less focused on consumer markets and more focused on professional needs.

That’s certainly the direction Apple is expected to go when it comes to the Mac mini, which leaks claimed would be more of a pro machine.

Apple may already be living in tomorrow, but it’s sensible enough to recognize that while consumers like their tablets, they aren’t quite ready to let go of the Mac yet; I guess that’s why it is also expected to introduce an affordable laptop.

Consumer needs are changing

You can’t ignore that what we need to use computers for is changing.

Increasingly, we use mobile devices to transact more of the tasks we once used Macs for, and the tasks that are unique to the Mac are becoming increasingly specialized.

As those mobile devices (including iPads) become more capable solutions, consumers will think twice before investing in a new computer if they can get hold of a mobile device that does what they need it to do.

Apple’s speculated decision to put a USB-C port in the new iPad Pros hints that it may also enable a bunch of new user interface models that make the devices more “Mac-like.” An external monitor? A touchpad? iPads already have keyboards, after all.

The end of the Mac?

We’ll find out how Apple sees the evolution of both platforms today at 10 a.m ET when the company announces its new products during a special event in New York.

We’ve covered what to expect here, and I’ll be running a live blog off-site here. But I believe the inevitable direction of travel will see iPads replacing many entry-level Macs while the Macintosh platform itself becomes increasingly high-end. This direction of travel also means Apple will eventually introduce a hybrid device.

Check back later for more reaction after the event takes place.

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