Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is underway, and Apple started the event as it always does: with a flurry of new announcements and just a smidge of hype. Here’s all the new hardware Apple announced at WWDC and what it means to your business.
Apple Vision Pro
The big headline announcement – and the one that Apple saved in classic “One More Thing” fashion right to the end of the keynote – was Apple’s first AR headset. To put that in Apple-speak, a “Spatial Computing” device.
What is the Vision Pro?
The Apple Vision Pro runs Apple’s new VisionOS platform, utilising micro-OLED panels and Apple’s own M2 chip – as seen in a host of MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro devices – alongside a new R1 processor that Apple claims will help reduce motion sickness and track the outside world.
Unlike a number of competitor devices in the market, the idea here is that you won’t be cut off in your own VR world. Instead, you can interact with those around you.
Using that R1 chip and the Vision Pro’s cameras, Apple says the headset can detect when there are people nearby. What’s more, people can see your eye movement, which should provide more natural communication.
While many of the scenarios Apple painted were more consumer-centric, there’s scope for collaborative teamwork within an Apple ecosystem. The company promises that iOS apps “will be there” for Vision Pro when it launches.
When can I buy an Apple Vision Pro?
Apple is being a tad coy about this, simply noting that it will go on sale in the US first early in 2024, with international availability later on.
What will it cost?
Apple’s take on the world of AR does use some quite high-end components, and it’s Apple, so it was never going to be cheap.
Apple states that the Vision Pro will cost “from US$3,499” when it goes on sale.
That suggests some higher-spec models may cost more, but at current market rates, that equates to roughly £2,800 (or $5,300 AUD) in today’s money. However, based on recent examples we can say with near-certainty that it will be around £3,700 in the UK including VAT.
And remember that Apple always announces US prices sans sales tax, so you’d have to figure in GST in Australia, plus Apple’s always interesting take on profit margins.
New MacBooks, Mac Studio and Mac Pro
The Vision Pro wasn’t Apple’s only hardware announcement at WWDC 2023. It also used the event to announce a new 15 inch MacBook Air, an upgrade to the Mac Studio and the new Mac Pro running Apple’s own M2 Ultra chip.
What’s new in the MacBook Air 15?
It’s bigger. The MacBook Air 15 is an odd device in many ways, because ever since its introduction back in 2008, the focus for the Air models has been on ultra portability; they’re the class of laptops you can easily carry between meetings or even remote work sites without hurting your back in any way. Famously (and I can say that I was there), Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs announced the first model by pulling it out of a manilla envelope.
Apple still tries play in that slimline space, claiming that the MacBook Air 15 is the “thinnest 15-inch laptop to date”, but its size means that it is still a bulky unit.
MacBook Air buyers must decide whether the smaller size of the 13-inch model makes more sense, or if the larger display would better meet your working needs.
While the new 15-inch model has longer sides to accommodate that bigger screen, that doesn’t equate to any additional ports, with just two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports and a MagSafe charging port, and the same M2 chips as the existing 13 inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13 models.
How much does the MacBook Air 15 cost?
The 15-inch MacBook Air is available for pre-order now with delivery (at the time of writing) from next week. Pricing starts at £1,399 in the UK, $1,299 in the US and $2,199 AUD in Australia.
What’s new in the Mac Studio?
Apple’s creative-focused headless Mac – if you ignore the upper tier Mac Mini – gets most of its refinements underneath its shiny aluminium shell, with an upgrade from the M1 Max or M1 Ultra chips found in last year’s Mac Studios with the new M2 Max and M2 Ultra chips.
The Mac Studio with an M1 Max or Ultra chip was already a small powerhouse creativity-focused machine, and at least based on Apple’s claims the new models should be all that, but just a little bit more. Apple’s claim for the M2 Max and M2 Ultra is that they will deliver a 20% performance jump over the prior generation in terms of CPU speed.
With the focus on work tasks such as video processing, GPU speeds are even more important, because nobody wants to wait around for that 8K stream to finish rendering. Here Apple’s claims are that bit higher, with a 30% claimed gain in GPU performance, and a jump in the neural engine of 40%. For processor generations those jumps are genuinely significant, quite a lot higher than many competing products.
How much, and when can I get one?
The Mac Studio with M2 Max or M2 Ultra will be available from the 13th of June.
Configuration of the Mac Studio can massively change the price you pay, especially for a top-end Mac Studio with M2 Ultra. Baseline pricing starts at £2,099/$3,299 AUD (M2 Max) and £4,199/$6,599.
If you have higher-end needs, however, a fully decked out Mac Studio with M2 Ultra 72-core GPU, 192GB of memory and 8TB of storage will cost you £8,999/$13,799 AUD.
If that’s the kind of processing power your business needs then there’s another Mac you might want to consider.
Mac Pro: Bye, Intel
The last remaining Mac that Apple was selling that had one of those little “Intel Inside” badges on it was the Mac Pro, which is finally being transitioned to Apple’s own M-series Apple Silicon inside instead.
Like the Mac Studio, that’s the M2 Ultra chip – there’s no lower-tier M2 Max version of the Mac Pro – configurable either as a desktop unit or in rack mountable design.
Apple took a long time to refresh the Mac Pro, and that means that it can make some quite bold claims around performance relative to the prior Intel-based generation, stating that it’s up to seven times faster than the older models.
The key allure of the Mac Pro models is configurability after purchase. The biggest limitation for Apple Silicon based Macs of any stripe is that everything from processor to GPU, RAM to storage all resides on the one chunk of silicon, with no real prospects for upgrades beyond attaching external hard drives.
The Mac Pro works around some of those limitations with the inclusion of six open PCIe gen 4 slots for adding additional expansion cards as needed. The key market here are workers in fields like video creation where fast turnaround, flexibility and processing power are a must, which also goes some way to explaining the price point Apple asks for these workstation beasts.
How much, and when can I get one?
Like the Mac Studio, the new Mac Pro models will ship from the 13th of June, with ordering already open. A baseline Mac Pro desktop will cost £7,199 in the UK, $11,999 AUD and $6,999 US.
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