The New M2 MacBook Pro and Mac mini

Today Apple announced the release of a few new Macs.

M2 Mac mini
The big news here is that there are multiple Mac minis. There is an entry-level M2 Mac mini and a souped-up M2 “Pro” Mac mini. The new Pro chip is clocking as an improvement of up 20% processing, 30% graphics, and 40% on the neural engine. This fills an existing gap in the line for desktop Macs between the entry-level Mac mini and the much more powerful Mac Studio.

M2 MacBook Pro
This is the next iteration of the Apple silicon MacBook Pro. The M2 MacBook Pro comes in “Pro” and “Max” configurations. This machine is iterative compared to the M1 MacBook Pro, with improvements of 20% in processing and 30% faster on graphics. Few people will need to upgrade from the M1 MacBook Pro, but those on Intel machines should look at this one closely.

Below is Apple’s announcement video.

Some Speculation on the Future Mac Pro

As we lead up to WWDC and look at the current state of the Apple silicon Macs, I can’t help but wonder what’s left for the Mac Pro. The thing that has me scratching my head is the extraordinary power of the Mac Studio. If you get a fully loaded Mac Studio, you’re getting one hell of a computer. The M1 Ultra, with all the bells and whistles, can keep up with the most expensive currently selling Mac Pro at a quarter of the price. So what is Apple going to do with the Mac Pro?

I think the new Mac pro will definitely be more expandable and more powerful than any existing Apple silicon Mac. I also think it will have a corresponding price tag. Let me explain further.


There are a group of people inside Apple known as the Pro User Group. They all make their living doing creative work with Macs, but they also work for Apple as very knowledgeable lab rats. They provide feedback for future hardware and software. I believe this group of insiders explains why the new MacBook Pro is so much more suited to pro users than its predecessor. I also think this group explains why the currently shipping Mac Pro does such an excellent job of supporting external cards and other bits of bolt-on technology that professionals need at the highest end.

I was lucky enough to get invited to Apple’s big unveiling of the currently shipping Mac Pro at WWDC a few years ago. At one point, they brought us into a series of rooms populated by some of these pro users. They were doing things like 3-D rendering, 8K movie editing, high-end sound work and video scoring, and many other creative endeavors that often lead people to buy Mac Pros. All of them were using specialized equipment inside their Mac Pros to get their work done. 

One conversation that stands out to me was with one of the pro users that spends time writing music for motion pictures. When writing music for a movie, you need an extensive library of musical instrument samples. The current technology for that involves large and processor intensive sound samples for each note of each instrument sample, some of which have multiple versions, like pizzicato vs. bowing and using a mute on a violin, for example. Now multiply that times every instrument you could need when creating a music score for a motion picture. 

The creative professional explained that historically he would pull this off by having multiple computers chained together. As he explained it, his needs were a very powerful central computer supported by specialized expansion cards. Where historically, he was doing this with a collection of lesser computers, he was able to do the whole project with one Mac Pro.

This was a common theme among the creative professionals. They all had some specialized card or peripheral they needed to get their work done. Thus far, with Apple silicon, we’ve got a series of increasingly powerful Macs, but none of them have the external peripheral support that these pros require.

Apple’s Pro User Group is still inside Apple and presumably still explaining how important it is to have this kind of expandability in a professional workstation. While the Mac Studio may be crazy powerful, it will not hold all of your violin samples or support these specialized cards.

So getting back to the new Mac Pro, I think this sort of expandability will be table stakes. Moreover, I think Apple understands that. I don’t know if the new Mac Pro will be as expandable as a currently shipping Mac Pro, but I expect it to accommodate Pros’ specialized hardware.

Compute Power

Compute power seems a little murkier. I could see an expandable Mac driven by something in the neighborhood of an M1 Ultra chip making the new Mac Pro, essentially, a Mac Studio Ultra + Expandability. But if I had to bet a nickel, I’d say that’s not the case. I think Apple will find some way to get a lot more compute power (Double the M1 Ultra?) from the new Mac Pro. So that new Mac would be something an order of magnitude more powerful than the Mac Studio, and expandable. 


I think the Mac Pro will be a computer with all the stops pulled out. And by all the stops I don’t just mean the hardware, I also mean the price. The existence of the Mac Studio gives Apple the ability to make a Mac Pro with a shocking amount of power and a shocking price to go with it. This will not be a computer you buy just because you like to have the latest and greatest. The people who want a computer like that will buy a Mac Studio. I expect the Mac Pro is going to be for serious professionals that will have no problem dropping tens of thousands of dollars on a computer for them to do their work better and faster.

Adding the Mac Studio to the line gives Apple a lot more room at the highest end. The new Mac Pro will not be a computer that most people need or can afford (myself included). But I do expect it to be a rocket ship, and the people who need that kind of rocket ship power and are willing to pay rocket ship prices will get a genuinely remarkable Mac. This is all speculation, but it seems to me like the stars have aligned for just this type of Mac. 

When will we see it? Who knows, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple shares some details about the new Mac Pro at WWDC in a month.

The Supply Chain and the Apple Silicon Release Schedule

Today 9to5 Mac put together some great sources indicating that the supply chain problems everyone else is facing are finally catching up with Apple. At the last quarterly earnings call, Tim Cook explained that for Apple, the supply chain problem wasn’t the big money parts, but the little commodity bits and pieces.

Apple made a fortune, partly because of its mastery of the supply chain. People will write books about how they did it at some point if they haven’t already. It looks, however, like that run may be hitting a few speed bumps.

There is a lot of speculation about new iMacs, MacBook Airs, and Mac Pros. I can’t help but wonder if these emerging supply chain issues may slow down that product release pace. At WWDC 2020, Tim Cook promised Apple would finish the Apple Silicon transition in two years. You can argue about whether that deadline happens at this year’s WWDC or on December 31. Time is running out either way.

If Apple is indeed going to be supply-constrained and not able to get everything out by this artificial deadline in sufficient quantities, will they announce on time and release in very limited quantities, or will they just let the date slip and wait to announce until they can deliver more units? Historically, I think the answer would assuredly be the latter. They’d wait. I know Apple is a different company than it was 20 years ago, but I hope that even with their current size, they’d still wait.

The Future of Mac Reliability

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Apple silicon and its implications for Macintosh reliability. Before the arrival of Apple silicon, a typical Mac logic board included a CPU, separate RAM, an Apple W2 or some other sort of secure enclave, chips to manage inputs and outputs, (often) a discrete video card, Apple’s separate machine-learning chips, and a bunch more bits and pieces that all now exist as the single System on a Chip (SoC) that is Apple silicon. So does combining everything in one SoC make the Mac more or less reliable? A case could be made for both points. Without all the digital tethers needed to tie all those separate pieces together, Apple silicon should have less that can go wrong with it and be more reliable. On the flip side, if something does go wrong on Apple silicon, the machine is probably dead.

When trying to predict whether these new Apple silicon Macs will be more or less reliable, it is important to remember this is not Apple’s first SoC rodeo. They’ve been making SoCs for the iPhone and the iPad for years.

A few days ago, I was on the telephone with an old friend, and he commented that his wife still loves the iPad I helped him set up about nine years ago. It is an iPad 2 and still working fine. I told him, “You should buy your wife an updated iPad. They have a good one for $329.” He had me on speaker because then his wife chimed in, “I don’t need a new iPad. This one still works like new.” Her nine-year-old iPad running on an Apple SoC still runs “like new” after nearly a decade. I realize this is anecdotal, but looking at iPads in particular that have a bit more cooling (even if it is just a big aluminum heat sync) and don’t get abused as hard as iPhones, I’m aware of a lot of very old iPads still in use.

Moreover, again anecdotally, I’m not aware of anyone I’ve spoken to who told me their iPad SoC failed. I know plenty of folks who broke the screen, but nobody who had the SoC fail them. Think about your friends and family circle. I suspect you’ve had the same experience.

I take this as a good sign for the new Mac SoC designs. The Mac SoC is a successor to those early iPad chips. Indeed, the new iPad Pros run on the current Mac SoC, the M1. If I were a betting man, I’d say that old running Macs are about to become much more common in the coming years. I sure hope so.

Assuming I’m right, the problem then becomes software. Even though my friend’s wife still loved her iPad 2, I’m sure her operating system has to be years old. Apple is generally good about supporting old hardware with new software updates, but what will they do if it becomes common for Macs to run reliably for 10 or 12 years? There is just so much to this Apple silicon Mac transition that seems to be rewriting the rule book. Exciting, right?

Rumored New MacBook Air

Mark Gurman is back, this time with a rumored new MacBook Air design in the works for later this year or next year. The goal is thinner and lighter with a smaller bezel. The MacBook Air is already pretty thin and light, but it really isn’t that much lighter than the 13” MacBook Pro. (2.8 vs. 3.1 pounds).

Either way, it appears the Macintosh Renaissance is in full swing. If you are thinking about getting a new Mac, but in no particular hurry, I’d recommend waiting a year. I expect the entire line of options will be different a year from now.

Apple Silicon in 2021

In the last few days, we’ve had rumors from both Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5 Mac) and Mark Gurman concerning the planned Apple silicon Macs (hopefully) for 2021. It looks like lots of interesting Macs are on the horizon.

14” and 16” MacBook Pro
There are two new rumored MacBooks Pro. The 14” design to replace the higher end 13” MacBook Pro has been rumored for years. These will likely get a souped-up version of the M1 with more cores and processing speed. It sounds like a new design and possibly a new screen technology. That part is expected. There are a few more tidbits I didn’t expect:

  • Demise of the Touch Bar. I’m actually starting to appreciate the Touch Bar. However, it may be going away with these new Macs.

  • New I/O. One rumor is that Apple will support additional connections. I find that one hard to believe. At best, I’d imagine an SD card slot, but we’ll find out soon enough.

  • There is also a rumored return of MagSafe for laptops. That would be amazing.

There are no rumors to this effect, but I would bet we’ll also get a second-tier Mac Mini (in a space gray case) with the same silicon as the new MacBooks Pro when they release.

The rumors are that we’ll get something similar to the look of the Pro Display XDR with a flat design on the front and back and removal, finally, of the iMac chin. It sounds like there will be two sizes, but they may both be bigger than this generation’s iMacs. It also isn’t clear whether these iMacs will get different Apple silicon than the iMacs Pro or not. There is also a rumored external monitor that will be more affordable than the Pro Display XDR.

This isn’t in the rumors, but I’d speculate that there will be two performance levels of the big new iMac, and the iMac Pro will go away.

Mac Pro
The prevailing rumors on this are that the existing Mac Pro will continue for the meantime to support Intel and the third-party ecosystem and peripherals around Intel.

The interesting secondary rumor is that Apple will make a separate smaller Mac Pro that will have a design similar to the G4 Cube. That Cube had a bunch of problems, but it was also a thing of beauty. I remember visiting a friend and lusting after his G4 Cube back in the day. With Apple silicon and its low thermals, I think it would be easy to build one in a cube. It would be a great capper to this Mac renaissance for Apple to make a cube Mac Pro.

Either way, it looks like we are going to have a lot of great options available to us once all this rolls out. I know it is against Apple’s DNA to share details ahead of time, but I really wish they would provide a product roadmap on this stuff. Many folks need to plan for buying new Macs (and Apple will most certainly sell a lot of them in the next few years). If we knew generally what’s coming, it’d be a lot easier to make intelligent decisions.

Windows and Apple Silicon

Things are evolving quickly for folks who want to run Windows on the new Apple silicon Macs. Hackers figured it out first, but now Parallels has Windows for ARM support working in its version 16 preview. Granted, this is only for Windows for ARM (vs. Windows for x86), but I didn’t expect this to happen so fast.

It’s still unclear if Microsoft is interested in playing along and offering Windows for ARM for sale separate from Windows for ARM hardware. Does that make sense when the Apple silicon hardware is both faster and lasts longer than traditional ARM hardware? Is that screwing over all those other Microsoft partners?

A month ago, I would have said that official support for Windows on Apple silicon is a pipe dream. Now I’m not so sure.

The Next Apple Silicon

Now that the M1 Apple silicon Macs are sinking in, I have been thinking about what Apple will do next. A few weeks ago, Mark Gurman at Bloomberg shared a scoop that Apple is looking to get up to 32 cores in a Mac with Apple silicon and also putting the gas down on their own graphics processors with up to 128 cores.

I’m, frankly, processing just how fast this M1 MacBook is.

If I were in charge, however, what I’d like to see Apple do is the following:

  • M1 — The existing M1 turning mere MacBooks into screamers.

  • M1(B) — This is the chip for the MacBook Pro and iMac, improving the core compute and graphics power of the M1.

  • M1(C) — This is the chip for the iMac Pro and perhaps a high-end MacBook Pro, even faster.

Understand, this is if I was in charge. I would be a little surprised if Apple ends up releasing three iterations of the M1 , and shocked if there were four. But given how far down the trail the Bloomberg article says Apple already is, we may get more flavors of M1 (before it turns into M2) than we thought.

Another consideration is that just because Apple releases a new A-series chip every year, it doesn’t mean they will do the same with the M-Series. They may have the M-Series on something more akin to a two-year cycle, giving them time to build iterations of the chip for the higher-end hardware.

Regardless, Mac enthusiasts have some exciting days ahead.