Welcome to what we will cautiously call "the last" Rumor Roundup prior to Monday's Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, because calling it that practically guarantees we'll need to do one on Friday. There's not a lot of startlingly new rumors (or even parts leaks with the requisite BPP -- Blurry Photo "Proof"), but we do have some further clarification of previous MacBook-family claims, some evidence of forthcoming non-hardware changes (with evidence!), and one of our favorite rumor behaviors, the re-assertion of a rumor that is too
going to come true, regardless of facts or common sense, or they will hold their breath until it does.
Also, ooh there's been another sighting
of the rebranding that seems certain to happen on Monday, where OS X (pronounced "Oh Ess Ten") is going to get a name change because the next iOS version is going to be iOS 10, and that would really cause confusion. Also, "OS X" (Apple does not add the word "Mac" to that, officially) is out of sync with the other OS platform names, and has been around for 15 years (actually a bit longer, but officially). So expect Phil or someone on Monday's WWDC keynote to announce the name change -- to "macOS" (per the latest leak), or (less likely) "MacOS" (with no space, unlike the Mac OS 9 nomenclature). Also expect people to complain about it, no matter what.
This makes sense to us for two reasons: first, "macOS" lines up with the others, which all use a lowercase letter to start, and second because it makes life hell for editors that have to recast sentences not to start with a lowercase letter, because they don't. Ever. You just watch, though -- sites where nobody went to journalism school, or failed to stay awake in English classes, will start using "macOS" to begin headlines and story leads. No respect, we tell you, the kids today got no respect. Personally, we blame Prince (RIP, or maybe that should be rip, or maybe just a symbol representing
RIP) for all this.
I don't think we're in OS X anymore
The latest rumors bring back an idea we had hoped had not yet come to an end, so we're pleased to say that Japanese enthusiast site MacOtakara
is claiming that a Chinese supplier
has told it that a new MacBook Air model is also on the way, though it might be a very minor refresh that is released quietly a number of weeks after WWDC, rather than the long-awaited Retina version many have been hoping for. We have to mention that we're not too hopeful for the future of the 11-inch version of the Air -- we think that might be either discontinued outright or become and education-only option.
We're just relieved that the model isn't (if this rumor is true) being cancelled -- we think Apple is wise to keep a sub-$1,000 notebook around in some form, though frankly we'd rather it was the base MacBook. We'd be delighted to see the Retina MacBook (at $1,200) and the 13-inch Air (at $999) swap pricing, with the MBA gaining a Retina screen and bigger storage options, while the Retina MB would see a price drop to encourage USB-C adoption.
There's been the expectation of a somewhat-revamped MacBook Pro for a while now, which we expect will be announced next week, though it may not be available for a few weeks afterward -- we're unsure if KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (not the only analyst we ever mention in this space, we swear
), who has predicted the MBP won't actually ship until Q4
, means Apple's fiscal Q4 (ie, the July or August timeframe) or the calendar Q4 (ie, holiday season, which would be nuts).
The same report from Japan claims that the new MacBook Air will also replace all of its current ports -- USB 3.0 (USB-A ports), Thunderbolt ports, and even the MagSafe 2 -- with USB-C ports (which, on the Pro, will double as Thunderbolt 3 ports -- it is unclear if the MacBook Air would gain TB3 or not). Interestingly, none of this new hardware is claimed to be announce at
WWDC, but rather around the event -- or possibly before, though if they're going to do that, they better hurry.
The previous rumor on the MacBook Air had the 11-inch model being bumped off (because Retina MacBook, and this claim is echoed in the current rumor) in favor of slimmer (than the current Air, but not as slim as the MacBook) 13-inch and new 15-inch models that are announced on Monday, but then don't show up for a couple of months afterwards. Before that, the hit-or-miss DigiTimes
claimed that the MacBook Air was to be killed off in favor of ultra-thin, MacBook-like ... er, MacBooks, only this time in 13- and 15-inch varieties.
Color us very skeptical of a 15-inch MacBook Air, and we're a bit skeptical of even the idea of Retina displays for the Air. We're kind of leaning towards the idea of the Air being the "budget/entry-level" model, with Retina (in the MacBooks) costing a bit extra, and then Retina and more ports (as in "more than one") costing a bit more extra. Ming-Chi Kuo, in another prediction, claims we'll get new MacBook models in "the second half" of 2016 -- even though they were very recently updated -- including a 13-inch MacBook due in the third quarter, and two new MacBook Pros in the fourth quarter. This puts Ming-Chi directly at odds with MacOtakara, which say that the MBPs will be announced around WWDC and ship shortly thereafter. Rumor fight! Who will win? Stay tuned!
Ming-Chi was also the guy who started the rumor about the new MacBook Pros (whenever they show up) replacing the row of function keys with an OLED
(and thus contextually customizable) strip that was touch-sensitive. What he did not say, but what a mock-up of what the case might look like showed, was four USB-C style ports (probably with Thunderbolt 3) -- and no headphone (or power, for that matter) jack. This MacBook Pro is also going to borrow a metal-injection mold-made (MiM) hinge, similar to what is seen on the Retina MacBook.
We've also previously reported in this space on speculation that the MBPs will get Skylake chips (that seems a sure bet) and AMD Polaris graphics chips (maybe), and you can throw on a report of Touch ID being incorporated into the Force Touch panel. It also comes with a unicorn, and merely touching it cures whatever ails you. It's a twister, Auntie Em!
Revamps and iTunes and downloads, oh my
wrote an article based on Phil Schiller talking about the changes he has made to the App Stores
since taking over as chief, and in there he outlines that some big changes are ahead (and some have already started, though they are not particularly user-facing just yet). It's unusual for Apple execs to talk about this stuff at all, but Schiller wanted to get it out (apparently) because there's already too much stuff in the (probably two-hour) keynote planned for WWDC that the App Store revamp wouldn't get a mention.
Apparently, it's neither duck season nor wabbit season ... it's revamp season. If all the rumors turn out to be true, Apple will spend a lot of time revamping a lot of things next week: Maps and Siri are to get major upgrades, there's murmurs of a significant iCloud overhaul (probably less about the front-end and more about the back-end on that one, though), there was a report from a while back that Photos will be getting a big makeover that restores more old iPhoto features, we already know Safari is testing a major new version, and of course there's been talk for some time that iTunes and Apple Music will get makeovers. Many of these may not actually happen until the fall and the major software updates, but it is nice to see Apple dropping a house on some software and redoing them.
Largely, Lucky iTunes 13 (as we're calling it) will focus on simplifying and streamlining the interface to focus on artwork, with controls take a more stark, black-and-white approach, and making the separation between the iTunes local library and Apple Music much more distinct. It will not, according to reports, separate Apple Music into its own app (at least on the Mac), which will disappoint some. While we are fine with the current system (a small cloud icon notifies you that a given song is a streaming file rather than locally stored), it needs a big cleanup to make clearer why
songs aren't locally stored (when they used to be).
We like having an iCloud Music Library, but some users have reported finding that songs that were formerly stored locally have become cloud-based and have to be re-downloaded -- i.e., they claim that Apple essentially deleted their locally-stored tracks once the track was "matched" to an iTunes Store version. We saw a bit of this ourselves in the early days of iTunes 12 (not since, however), and we agree it is difficult for some users to know for certain what they have stored on their iOS devices or Macs versus what is cloud-stored, so any changes that make that more distinct to people is a good idea.
There's also some claim that Apple has signed deals to allow for automatic lyrics integration into at least the tracks it sells (or perhaps those in the subscription Apple Music service as well), which would be both a major improvement and extremely welcome. A while back, if you had manually added lyrics to a song in iTunes, you could tap again on the song while it was playing in iOS and see the lyrics displayed -- inevitably surprising you about how wrong you had them all your life. This was stripped out (probably as a driving hazard, and if so then that was a smart move), but we'd love to see it back on OS X or on iOS through AirPlay or something.
If iTunes gets an overhaul, then so will the Music app for iOS; the two are clearly designed to mirror each other. While we still think Apple should "break out" the Mac version of iTunes into some separate apps like it did with iTunes on iOS (we'd like to see device syncing just made into a Finder service, not requiring iTunes at all, as our biggest request), we get why the company would be resistant to separating the fledgling Apple Music subscription service out of iTunes.
We'd also be thrilled to hear Apple paying any attention to podcasts again -- the company apparently held some meetings on this topic recently with top podcasters, and may be prepared to allow podcasters to offer subscriptions, for example. We're less fussed about that, and much about our wish for the company to bring back a tool that would let users easily make "enhanced" MP4 podcasts again, the way the old version of Garageband did, or just generally make podcast editing and (in particular) publishing much easier again.
Finally, every great once in a while a rumor comes along that is just plain stupid. When that happens, a lot of sites (usually not this one) duly report on it, but call it out as unlikely or "sketchy," or note the source of the rumor as being "unreliable" -- but then go on to lend it more credibility by republishing it, just in case it turns out to be true. Around here, we'd rather be wrong and bewildered when a "no way" rumor comes true than boost whatever its agenda is (often stock manipulation, to be truthful) by attaching our name to the wild-eyed fantasies of some Business Insider
writers (where a lot of the "Apple to buy Google, start selling Android Phones, or else doooomed" type fevered-dream rumors come from).
Now and then, though, we get a chance to say outright, and clearly, that a rumor is nonsense, false, na ga ha pen
. This time, it is the resurfacing of a previous rumor (which we dismissed in a report in May, and which was followed up by Apple very directly dismissing it
) that iTunes is going to give up on selling downloaded music in iTunes, and that the subscription streaming option will be its only music-selling option. It is again Digital Music News
that is saying this, and again they are wrong. This flat-out isn't going to happen. Not in the "within two years" timeframe they claim, and likely not with this decade, if ever.
Although sales of digital music have dropped industry-wide as streaming and subscription services like Apple Music and Spotify have risen, Apple is still the single largest seller of digital music by far -- its volume even dwarfs that of companies like Walmart, which still sells CDs, and Amazon, which sells MP3s. Readers can rest assured that the pendulum on actually owning one's music versus renting it will swing back in due course, and that everyone currently selling digital music files will still be selling them when that happens.
If you want to be worried about something going away permanently, think about (or better yet, visit) your local CD and record reseller stores (not the big-box chains, the independent music-focused stores). The vinyl-oriented ones have been disappearing for so long even major chains that were music-focused have gone (remember Tower Records?), but the "mom-and-pop" type music stores that sell new and used CDs and records are also on the ropes, and it will be a huge shame if and when the last of those turns out the lights.
In this digital age, we confess that we view our (ridiculously large) investment in disc-shaped hard-format music (and to a lesser extent DVDs and Blu-rays) more as "ultimate backups" rather than entertainment investments, given the streaming world of entertainment-on-demand we now live in. But just as there is still a place for paper money and physical banks even though we are living in the plastic age, and many wounded but still-standing bookstores have turned rapidly into chillout lounges for hipster bibliophiles, so too do we believe that retail and online enclaves that sell you something you can either hold in your hand, or at least stay with you after the subscription money runs out, have enough value to keep going in some form.
When it comes to dissing this rumor, we are very confident that probability is on our side on this one. It is actually difficult to say with certainty much of anything in this fluid and ever-changing world, but we'll plant our flag in saying that no, Digital Music News
has it wrong for the second time running, and we are right. We know, because we are the Wizard of Odds.