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Apple March 2019 announcements

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Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Apple will be hosting another show on March 25 for media members it is inviting to the Steve Jobs Theater:
Ars Technica said:
“It’s show time:” Apple confirms March 25 event at the Steve Jobs Theater
Streaming TV, news subscriptions, and new iPads are all possible subjects.

Apple has sent invites out to members of the press and other guests for a March 25 "special event." The tagline and animation on the invitation strongly suggest that the company's long-rumored streaming TV service will take center stage. The invitation is accompanied by the words "it's show time." Apple used the same tagline in 2006 for an event at which it unveiled its then-future Apple TV product.

... TV may not be the only thing on tap; Apple is rumored to be working on a premium magazine and news subscription service built on its acquisition of Texture. That service might make an appearance on March 25 as well.
Apple said:
Apple Special Event
Live from the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino.
March 25, 2019, at 10:00 a.m.
Apple said:
Apple Special Event. March 25, 2019.
From the Steve Jobs Theater, Cupertino, CA.
Watch on March 25 at 10 a.m. PDT.
 








Apple will be hosting another show on March 25 for media members it is inviting to the Steve Jobs Theater:
Curiously, my wife took part in a 'focus group' event about media viewing habits a few weeks ago. She had to sign an NDA and so far has kept pretty tight-lipped about the subject. One thing she did let slip was that we would probably hear about it in March. Coincidence?
 


Today, Tuesday, sees Apple releasing an updated iMac.
And there I was, waiting for a refresh but finding the memory in the 21.5” iMac still isn’t user-upgradeable (without ungluing the screen and removing the logic board and voiding the warranty).

There’s no way I’m paying Apple an extra £540 for 32 GB of memory (24 GB extra), when I can buy a 32GB kit for £200 elsewhere.

Looks like Apple is not getting my money for at least another year.
 


Unless I have missed something, you can't have 10Gb Ethernet on the new iMacs, a crazy decision for what is being marketed as a workstation, especially as it is offered on the new Mac Mini. Upgrade pricing is, as usual, extortionate.

Apple is rapidly moving beyond what I can justify spending.
 


So I should update my iPad Air 2 to an iPad Air? Someone needs to tell Apple Marketing about ascending numbers.
The iPad numbering scheme is insane. Looking at Mactracker, the sequence from oldest to newest (not counting cellular variations within a model) is:
  • "iPad" series
    • 2010: iPad (no number - 1st gen)
    • 2011: iPad 2
    • 2012: iPad (no number - 3rd gen)
    • 2012: iPad (no number - 4th gen)
    • 2017: iPad (no number - 5th gen)
    • 2018: iPad (no number - 6th gen)
  • "iPad Air" series
    • 2013: iPad Air (no number - 1st gen)
    • 2014: iPad Air 2
  • "iPad mini" series
    • 2012: iPad mini (no number - 1st gen)
    • 2013: iPad mini 2
    • 2014: iPad mini 3
    • 2015: iPad mini 4
  • "iPad Pro" series
    • 2015: iPad Pro (no number - 1st gen at the 12.9" size)
    • 2016: iPad Pro (no number - 1st gen at the 9.7" size)
    • 2017: iPad Pro (no number - 1st gen at the 10.5" size)
    • 2017: iPad Pro (no number - 2nd gen at the 12.9" size)
    • 2018: iPad Pro (no number - 1st gen at the 11" size)
    • 2018: iPad Pro (no number - 3rd gen at the 12.9" size)
So we've got six generations of "iPad", five of which share the same branding and six different "iPad Pros" that are all branded identically despite four different screen sizes and four different release-years (strongly implying four generations of product design).

And now we get to add to that a third-generation Air and a fifth generation "mini", which look like they will also be branded without any numbers. And they have features (like Pencil support) that were previously exclusive to "iPad Pro" models.

I don't think they could get much more confusing if they tried. Or maybe they are trying. It would certainly explain a lot.
 



The iPad numbering scheme is insane. Looking at Mactracker, the sequence from oldest to newest (not counting cellular variations within a model) is:
  • "iPad" series
    • 2010: iPad (no number - 1st gen)
    • 2011: iPad 2
    • 2012: iPad (no number - 3rd gen)
    • 2012: iPad (no number - 4th gen)
    • 2017: iPad (no number - 5th gen)
    • 2018: iPad (no number - 6th gen)
  • "iPad Air" series
    • 2013: iPad Air (no number - 1st gen)
    • 2014: iPad Air 2
  • "iPad mini" series
    • 2012: iPad mini (no number - 1st gen)
    • 2013: iPad mini 2
    • 2014: iPad mini 3
    • 2015: iPad mini 4
  • "iPad Pro" series
    • 2015: iPad Pro (no number - 1st gen at the 12.9" size)
    • 2016: iPad Pro (no number - 1st gen at the 9.7" size)
    • 2017: iPad Pro (no number - 1st gen at the 10.5" size)
    • 2017: iPad Pro (no number - 2nd gen at the 12.9" size)
    • 2018: iPad Pro (no number - 1st gen at the 11" size)
    • 2018: iPad Pro (no number - 3rd gen at the 12.9" size)
So we've got six generations of "iPad", five of which share the same branding and six different "iPad Pros" that are all branded identically despite four different screen sizes and four different release-years (strongly implying four generations of product design).

And now we get to add to that a third-generation Air and a fifth generation "mini", which look like they will also be branded without any numbers. And they have features (like Pencil support) that were previously exclusive to "iPad Pro" models.

I don't think they could get much more confusing if they tried. Or maybe they are trying. It would certainly explain a lot.
Is that not the same as for the old Mac Pro, and all the iMacs?

There was never a Mac Pro 1, Mac Pro 2, Mac Pro 3, etc. (until the new Mac Pro)... they were just known as their normal name, and you had to know whether it was a 1,1 or 3,1 or 5,1 in the case of the old Mac Pros.

The only device that doesn’t, currently, avoid this lack of numbering is the iPhone, but that will surely come as X, XR, XS will have to accommodate the next model... so either XX or Xi or XL or X2, etc. or just iPhone (11.8, 12.1, 27,2, etc.).
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I'm a little shocked that the new iMacs still have only two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, like the old, low-end MacBook Pro and new MacBook Air. The iMac Pro, new Mac Mini, and Touch Bar MacBook Pros all have four (while the Mac Pro and MacBook have none). Perhaps this is due to the demands of the internal 4K/5K display?
 


Well spotted, Ric. I still can't help feeling Apple have totally lost the plot, at least as far as the Mac is concerned. They seem to make such arbitrary decisions.
 



Apple seems to have a lot of trouble keeping its documentation up to date:
Poking around the Internet Archive Wayback Machine entries for that "Install memory in an iMac" page reveals that "Published Date" should probably read "Date of last revision." The January 2 version shows minimal changes to the prior Jul. 24, 2017 version, the most consequential adding "2017 iMac" to some of the body text.

Plus, January 2018 is over a year ago.
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Storage in the new iMacs is pretty lame. There's apparently no T2 chip involved, and Apple doesn't even tout high-performance SSD storage, like it did for the iMac Pro, new Mac Mini and MacBook Pro, suggesting that the newest iMacs are... not all that great in storage performance. (I'd love to see Fusion and SSD benchmarks, if anyone has the opportunity to run some.)
Apple said:
IMac Pro
  • 3.3GB/s write performance
  • 2.8GB/s read performance
Mac Mini
Mac mini now includes all-flash PCIe-based storage, with up to four times the read speeds of previous flash options.

MacBook Pro
MacBook Pro includes a solid-state drive that’s blazing fast, with sequential read speeds up to 3.2GB/s.

iMac
Storage is about space. But it’s also about speed. A Fusion Drive gives you the best of both worlds. The apps and files you use the most are automatically stored on fast flash storage, while everything else moves to a high-capacity hard drive. From booting up to launching apps to importing photos, it’s faster and more efficient to do it all with Fusion Drive. It comes standard on all 27-inch models, and on the 21.5-inch model available at just $1499.
I think it's shocking that Apple's still selling hard drive-only configurations with all of macOS's anti-hard drive optimizations. I mean, how much does a measly 24 GB of fusion flash even cost the company? I bet it’s less than a dollar....
 


And there I was, waiting for a refresh but finding the memory in the 21.5” iMac still isn’t user-upgradeable (without ungluing the screen and removing the logic board and voiding the warranty). There’s no way I’m paying Apple an extra £540 for 32 GB of memory (24 GB extra), when I can buy a 32GB kit for £200 elsewhere. Looks like Apple is not getting my money for at least another year.
Then [you may be] waiting much longer — as in forever. The 21.5" iMac eliminated user-upgradeable RAM starting with the late 2012 model, and Apple has given us no reason in the over 6 years since to think that will change.

You'd be better off to save up for a 27" iMac, which does have user-accessible RAM slots, and add third-party RAM.
 


Then [you may be] waiting much longer — as in forever. The 21.5" iMac eliminated user-upgradeable RAM starting with the late 2012 model, and Apple has given us no reason in the over 6 years since to think that will change. You'd be better off to save up for a 27" iMac, which does have user-accessible RAM slots, and add third-party RAM.
I have a 27" iMac 5K for home use, along with a 4,1 Mac Pro with 30" Cinema Display.
I use the 21.5" iMac as my 'portable' machine for work (I used to carry the Mac Pro around and have a skateboard-like sled I pull it around on). It's my 'portable' machine that needs upgrading and has to be 21.5", as it's all I can fit in an overhead storage bin on a plane. My other option is a new Mac Mini or MacBook and separate monitor, plus full-size keyboard (can't stand laptop ones) - all to fit in an LTA iLugger.
 


I'm a little shocked that the new iMacs still have only two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, like the old, low-end MacBook Pro and new MacBook Air. The iMac Pro, new Mac Mini, and Touch Bar MacBook Pros all have four (while the Mac Pro and MacBook have none). Perhaps this is due to the demands of the internal 4K/5K display?
Yeah; or not necessarily the display itself, but the graphics card.

Intel still supplies only 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes on their desktop processors. The AMD graphics chip takes up to 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, so they already need to be shared with Thunderbolt. A Thunderbolt 3 port exposes 4 PCIe 3.0 lanes worth of bandwidth, so 2 TB3 ports = 8 lanes, leaving 8 lanes worth of bandwidth for the display. (The SSD and other peripherals also share some of these; I'm not sure of the internal architecture.)

The iMac Pro uses Xeon W processors, which have 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes (ideal for a workstation or high-end desktop, but too expensive for the iMac); the Mac Mini has no discrete graphics chip. The MacBook Pro is an interesting case — some configurations use only integrated graphics, some use discrete graphics. The highest-end MacBook Pro will tie up a lot of its 16 PCIe lanes for graphics, so heavy TB3 use will slow down the graphics card, but presumably there’s less data to be transferred in many cases given the smaller screen, and the graphics will still be faster than the integrated Intel graphics or the previous generation.
 


Storage in the new iMacs is pretty lame. There's apparently no T2 chip involved, and Apple doesn't even tout high-performance SSD storage, like it did for the iMac Pro and MacBook Pro, suggesting that the newest iMacs are... not all that great in storage performance. (I'd love to see Fusion and SSD benchmarks, if anyone has the opportunity to run some.)
I tend to agree, though the last-generation iMacs had decent SSD performance from what I’ve heard. I’d love to see a T2 with its integrated SSD controller in the iMac. I suspect that Apple may have been caught by Intel’s slowly-slipping schedule for 10nm Ice Lake processors and the PCIe upgrades that come with them; I’m expecting that the next iMac is likely to include a next-generation processor and the T2 (or a T3).
I think it's shocking that Apple's still selling hard drive-only configurations with all of macOS's anti-hard drive optimizations. I mean, how much does a measly 24 GB of fusion flash even cost the company?!
I’m not entirely thrilled by this either, but the 128GB SSD Fusion drive works quite well. (The 24 GB feels low to me, but I suspect Apple has analytics data showing that a lot of customers have a working set which is small enough to fit on it with the exception of music / photos / videos, which are mostly accessed in a large sequential stream, which hard disk drives work well for.)

It really comes down to cost of the cheapest model, I suppose. A 2TB hard drive is about $50 at retail. A 2TB SSD is $250 or so. Adding, say, $150 to the base price of the machine is going to be a hard sell for a lot of people. I don’t know what margins Apple gets / expects, but the alternative of adding $100 in BOM cost for a $1100 machine would hurt a lot.

Honestly, I have a 2TB Fusion drive, of which about 1TB is used, and I probably rarely access 800 GB of that. I have several external SSDs for various purposes — and, while having a bigger internal SSD would be nice, I’m fine buying external storage. My buying decision isn’t really based on the internal SSD size. So that’s something else to keep in mind… maybe it wouldn’t help sell systems much.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
It really comes down to cost of the cheapest model, I suppose. A 2TB hard drive is about $50 at retail. A 2TB SSD is $250 or so. Adding, say, $150 to the base price of the machine is going to be a hard sell for a lot of people.
Just to be clear, I'm not arguing that iMacs should be all-SSD, like the Mac Mini and Apple laptops with their exhorbitant storage pricing; I'm just saying that a hard drive only iMac in 2019 with not even a miniscule 24 GB of flash for a fusion setup seems like it would be perversely bad for performance, given the optimization/anti-optimizations in macOS 10.14. (In fact, I recommended that a client on a very tight budget bump up to the fusion configuration on a low-end refurb for that reason, when their old iMac died completely.)

I know different people have different performance tolerances, but I simply can't imagine being stuck on a hard drive-only system after the performance misery that OS X 10.9 introduced to hard drive performance - that update forced me to update a whole family's MacBook Pros to SSD from hard drives to make things bearable. I've been assuming things haven't gotten any better in later macOS versions. I haven't thoroughly tested hard drive-only configurations, but performance is so miserable when booted from a backup hard drive, I even keep primary backups on SSDs. (Fusion drives with reasonable flash size are apparently fine and certainly seem like they'd be more tolerable for performance, but I don't have any personal experience using them.)

It's not just macOS, either. I've added SSDs to improve performance with both Windows and Linux systems, because going back to hard drives after using SSDs just wasn't fun.
 


Storage in the new iMacs is pretty lame. [...]
I think it's shocking that Apple's still selling hard drive-only configurations with all of macOS's anti-hard drive optimizations. I mean, how much does a measly 24 GB of fusion flash even cost the company? I bet it’s less than a dollar....
your milage may vary, but I'll state as universal anyway:

No one should buy a Mac with a spinning hard drive, and no one should buy a Mac with the 1TB Fusion (the one with the the 32GB flash portion, as opposed to the 128GB version on the original Fusion drives or the 2 and 3TB current model Fusion drives). If one has purchased with the spinner-only or 1TB Fusion option, one should return the computer. Make Apple get the message.

Yes, Apple charges too much for storage (and for RAM). But even offering a 5400 (or even a 7200) rpm spinner, even if paired with the utterly inadaequate 32GB flash to make it a Fusion, does us all a disfavor. It. Is. Too. Slow. Fusion drives, especially smaller ones, serve only to make fast machines slow.

Fusion was an interesting idea in 2013. The market has matured. But has Apple?
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
The iPad numbering scheme is insane....
Yep.
Luke Dormehl said:
Please, Apple, sort out your product naming nightmare

... Apple has always exhibited superb marketing skills. Cupertino created brand names that became ubiquitous and unleashed marketing strategies that observers still speak of in hushed, reverent terms.

It’s understandable that a global company operating in many fragmented markets would offer more than a handful of products. But Apple’s product naming strategy is beyond broken. It’s a mess of meandering product lines, abandoned naming schemes, and lowercase and capital letters (“iPad mini,” but “iPhone Max”).

This crazy-quilt nomenclature is one thing for tech bloggers who write about this all the time and can grok the intricacies (with only the occasional reference to Apple’s spec sheets). But it’s something else entirely for average customers.

The beauty of Steve Jobs’ four-quadrant grid was that it made clear exactly who each product was for. Today, that’s something that even Apple fans likely struggle with. As much of a fanboy as I am for Apple’s ’90s products, I have no desire to go back to that naming chaos.

Come on, Apple: In a world where all your devices increasingly work well together, can it be so difficult to come up with a naming strategy that doesn’t induce headaches?
 


There were also updates to the available iMac Pro configurations today. You can now kit out a configuration, complete with "an 18-core Xeon-W, Vega 64X, 256GB of DDR4 ECC memory, and a 4TB SSD", for a cool $15,699.
 


What surprises me is that Apple could make a 512GB SATA SSD an option, replacing the spinning HD. The cost for a 1TB laptop drive and a 500GB SSD are pretty close, and it would plug into the same spot so no redesign needed. Even if they used the cheapest no DRAM QLC drives the performance would still be better (and a little bit of DRAM would go a long way). Call them “Basic SSD” and “Performance SSD” to differentiate between the 2.5” SATA units and the PCIe units, and charge the premium for the latter. And let customers decide if they want 500GB or 1TB of slow SSD or 250 or 500 of fast SSD.
 


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