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Apple’s Mac super cycle and the spring event

Will they…won’t they? Is there going to be an Apple spring event this year?

Apple's Mac super cycle - changes ahead

Mellow yellow

Apple, as you will probably know, released the mid-cycle, iPhone colour upgrade to the phone this week. OK, so by all accounts, it’s horrid, but, it may have more far-reaching implications than it first appears.

Over the past few years, this colour spruce-up, has happened at the March event. Last year, at Peek Performance, we saw the Alpine Green colour, and in 2021, iPhone 12 was given a lick of purple.

So, given recent history, you could be led to think, that is a slam-dunk – no spring event this year…but hold on, bear with. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

It’s in your head

Before jumping to rash decisions, just remember that in 2020, and 2017 there were no spring events. So, although regular, they are no certainty.

To have an event, you need products, and more importantly, headline ones. This year, that was to have been the overdue headset. But, beset with more last-minute headaches, that now looks more likely to be coming out at WWDC in the summer.

But, there are other forces at play that make me believe that a spring event may yet happen.

Chips with everything

It seems that Apple is quietly working on changing their approach to the Mac cycle.

When Apple released the M1 silicon processor, it was a revelation. Fast, powerful, and capable, they changed the face of computing. That kind of seismic change is clearly not going to be possible every year, but minor, incremental improvements are still possible.

That’s what happened with the M2 processor. Roughly eighteen months after the first Apple silicon was launched, M2 came along – just to keep things peppy. And on the back of that, it looks likely that the latest M3 iteration is coming – and soon.

The legacy of the M series chips, stems from the iPhone. M1 was based on the previous year’s A14, and the M2, you guessed it, on the A15. But, according to Mark Gurman, Apple intends, at some point, to get ahead of the curve.

They’ve always intended for the Mac to live independently of the A series chips. The M2 MacBook Air was planned for release in late 2021, rather than summer 2022. If that was the case, that means, Mac would have beaten iPhone in the race to use the latest variant of the chip. Bear that in mind as we carry on…

Where next

Away from rumours, we know that Apple’s preferred chip supplier, TSMC, has been ramping up their production of the 3-nanometer chip process over the past few months. And, Apple has been busy buying as many of them as possible, to use in all their devices.

So, the 3nm chips are ready, and Apple are said to have “something that is quite interesting” ready to show off. The smart money had been on that 3nm chip first being used in this fall’s iPhone 15. But what if Apple catch-up on their goal, and actually place the M3 chip, first, in a Mac? The M3 chip, we think, will share its DNA with this year’s A17 chip, so the stars are aligning nicely…

Gurman mentioned in a recent Power On newsletter that Apple has desires to get the Mac on an annual upgrade cycle, similar to iPhone. Gurman also mentioned that he thinks a new M3 iMac is due out this fall, too.

If that turns out to be so, then a clear pattern is starting to evolve. MacBooks, by a long stretch, make up the largest portion of all Mac sales – that’s always been the case.

So, the future could be that laptops will get an annual, cyclical chip upgrade. The slower selling desktops, however, would only get an upgrade every other year – which would fit in with what we’re seeing with the iMac (possibly), and the Mac mini.

If Apple were to mess things up a bit this year, it would then mean, that the A series and M series are in step for the first time, which must be a cleaner way forward.

Pulling a quick one

And, going full circle, what does all this have to do with the spring event?

I’ve long believed that Apple lets out what they want to – just enough to fan the marketing flames. They also like to make chumps of the pundits that espouse to know everything.

Come with on my thoughts here for a moment…the yellow iPhone is released, which everyone takes to mean, no spring event. But, this year, Apple has broken with convention already, with the slew of products that were dumped in our laps in January.

How about, they carry on with that pattern-breaking mission, but actually holding a spring event where the M3, 3-nanometer chip is shown of first in a Mac – and that Mac is the 15-inch M3 MacBook Air? To me, it sounds a likely player – what do you reckon? They could even launch the Mac Pro at the same spring event too.

Wrapping up

Of course, some of this is my speculation, but I’d like to think most of it based on some kind of fact.

Ross Young, the screen analyst, knows the 15-inch panel is in production. We also know TSMC has produced enough 3-nanometer chips to meet Apple’s initial supply.

The Mac Pro, at this point, just has to get done. They know what direction they want to go with it by now, and for all we know, it is sitting somewhere, finished, boxed and good to go.

So, a spring event could likely yet happen. It would throw two-fingers up at the leakers, and know-it-alls, and prove that Apple remains king of the castle.

You’d have to admit, two new Macs in a few weeks’ time, would make for a ‘banger’ of an event…and continue their non-conformist approach to 2023.

2023, rather than being a quiet year, could turn out to be pretty monumental.

Macs on an annual upgrade cycle, M series and A series chips in step for the first time, a new 15-inch MacBook Air, the new Mac Pro, the 3nm M3 processor…and the AR/VR headset.

Wow – what a year we may have in store.

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