So, where’s Apple going to cram some custom silicon all up in next? I mean, besides the recently patent-sparked M2 Magic Keyboard computer speculation, the one that’ll somehow re-invent the Apple II and obsolete the Mac mini box at the same time, right? More on those in a perf per watt minute! And, I only ask because… they just put… an A13 Bionic, basically the whole entire board from the current iPad nothing, memory, 64 Gigs of storage, the all of it, into… a monitor. A screen. The Studio Display. Basically because the Tim Cook doctrine says Apple’s only ever going to enter — or re-enter — markets where they can provide unique differentiation and value. Doing things that only Apple can do, as the mantra goes. They’re a huge company but they still use small teams with limited bandwidth so if you’re not the next iPhone, you have to prove you’re worthy of some of that time and attention, because it’ll always come at the expense of something else.
So, using custom silicon to give a desktop display the same features that Apple’s MacBook displays have been enjoying for the last few years is just exactly the kind of unique differentiation that’ll get you bandwidth — and sign off! — True Tone ambient color temperature matching, spatial audio speakers, noise canceling mics, Center Stage pan and zoom webcam — the freaking thing actually runs iOS 15! It even gets software updates… and experiences software bugs… like a computer.
What’s a computer?
Don’t start! Just Kuzu Ryu Sen that subscribe button like your name is Kenshin. And then stick with me here. Because, turns out, that’s pretty much exactly the right question. See, around the same time Apple deleted displays they began selling truly wireless headphones with the AirPods. And the unique differentiation and value they offered was powered entirely by custom Apple silicon. The W1 ship at first, currently the H1 chipset. That’s up to 10 active audio cores on the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. And they don’t run iOS, but they are tiny computers for our ears, and they have gotten software updates over the years. Significant ones. Updates like Spatial Audio support, which makes headphones sound like speakers, not turning with you but letting you turn around them. Conversation boost, to help you if you have low hearing. Full on Find My support. And, just recently, a bug fix for Find My Support!
Does that mean Apple could announce new features for the Studio Display as well? Kinda? I mean, I’d all-caps love that. It’d just be limited to things like HomePod-style stereo pairing if you happen to have two displays and want to create a wider spatial audio sound stage. Which, don’t get me wrong, would be hella cool. But since there’s no Wi-Fi in there — like the one device Apple doesn’t stuff Wi-Fi into — there doesn’t seem to be any way to give them the… Heller cooler features I’d really want. Like built-in AirPlay and Sidecar. Which, I know you can do when you have the display already connected to another Mac. But if Apple is really going all-in on wireless to the point where there are persistent rumors they’ll be cancelling the port on the iPhone and soon, just being able to mosey my MacBook up to a display and take it over for a bit without having to plug in. When you have custom silicon in the Mac — what’s more uniquely differentiating, more Only Apple than that?
I mean, aside from cramming custom silicon into the keyboard. Which… just… in an era of hyper-nostalgia… what could be more Apple II Retro Chic than going back to future with the computer that started it all?
And quick shout out to whomever on Apple’s marketing and industrial design team saw the 2020s coming like the burning space hulk they are and had prescience enough to know we’d want and need a little nostalgia round about nowish.
And I know… I know… You know I know that you know I know… a computer in a keyboard sounds ridiculous at best and the Spider Ham Universe Variant of the Netbook at worst… but here’s the thing — Apple silicon could make it kinda all shades of awesome?
Most people have figured out the wicked obvious thing about M1 is the battery life it allows on MacBooks like the Air and Pro. But the subtler benefit is the enclosures it allows on desktop Macs like the iMac and Studio. Enclosures that would be impossible… with modern Intel silicon, like… they’d throttle on startup chime and leave a giant aluminum puddle on the table.
But with Apple silicon, we have a MacBook Air that’s not struggling to scroll a Chrome tab on Y-Series CoreM but going toe-to-toe with the big cores, and without a fan. We have an iMac that no longer needs back bump for all the U-Series heat junk in the trunk, and can basically sustain workloads even though it’s flat as an iPad. And we just got a whole swole Mac mini on Hulk Serum in the Mac Studio that can indeed legit hold its own, in yes, a very few specific workloads, with the baddest Intel and Nvidia hellicarrier-sized boards on the planet.
And that’s only with the very first generation of M-series. That’s One — Year M1 — on TSMC’s couple of year old OG 5 nanometer process. Imagine when we get to M2 on 5 enhanced, maybe even 4 optimized. Or M3 on 3 nanometer legit when they finally get there? When Apple gets a few more generations of super scale CPUs, GPUs, and silicon features under the shipped column?
The long-anticipated VR headset, for sure. I’m working on that video soon. So, seriously, button up. But I could just as easily see that kind of obscenely high perf-per watt chip going into something like a latter day Apple II. A Magic Keyboard that just so happens to be the whole entire computer. A Mac mini that’s even more mini. Like, let the Mac Studio take over the box space, this is the new basically invisible space.
I mean, unless you hate Apple keyboards, in which case wait a few more generations and I’m sure Apple’ll be patenting an M5 in a damn Magic Mouse. But you still charge it like this… so whatever.
Point is, even with limited I/O on the back and sides, like a couple of Thunderbolt ports and an HDMI, you have a quote-un-quote desktop Mac that’s every bit as portable as a laptop. Hell, Sidecar it to your iPad at the coffee shop if you really want ultra minimalist macOS on the go. Then pair it back up with your Studio Display when you finally stop at work or at home.
I’m being beyond ridiculous right now, but only to make this point — with Apple silicon scaling from AirPods to, very soon, Mac Pro, across displays and devices, the potential is… limitless. Like Tim Cook Mission Improbable-ing chips into pretty much anything and everything that makes sense and offers that unique differentiation, that only-Apple angle his doctrine has defined.