Apple events like the recent WWDC keynote are fundamentally silly things. They generate so much user engagement that the tech press goes all in. If you think in terms of ratings or traffic, Apple product-related news and its related coverage is always a bonanza.
While we pundits strive to be impartial, we also know that if it bleeds, it leads. In the tech journalism world, the closest we ever get to a story that “bleeds” is covering bleeding edge tech announcements at an Apple product event. Even actual news, like when an oil pipeline gets shut down due to hacking, doesn’t perform as well as when Apple announces (or might announce) new toys.
As such, we tend to mine it for all it’s worth. We publish expectations and rumors before the event, and some journalists (ahem) even publish articles about products that weren’t announced, speculating about when they might eventually be available…not that I would do such a thing. No, not me.
For this week’s WWDC, product expectations were quite high. The rumor mills were rife with expectations of a new MacBook Pro, possibly with actually useful slots returning after a long absence. Speculation also boiled, based on scant evidence, that a new M1X processor would be announced.
There were, in fact, no new computers nor processors announced at WWDC. So when will new Macs be announced? You guessed it. I’m about to speculate.
The following chart shows the months when new Macs were released. I’m showing release dates rather than announcement dates here, because the data was a bit easier to come by. Figure announcement dates (with the exception of the then-new iMac Pro and Mac Pro) occur a few weeks prior to release.
There are a few trends worth noting. From 2007 through 2016, there were always new Macs released in October. That trend seems to have fallen away in the last few years, but there have been releases in November and December. However, one constant seems to have stayed stable all the way from 2007 through 2020: New Macs become available in the last three months of the year.
Of the 64 product releases since January 2007, only nine occurred in July, August, and September. So, only 14% of all Mac releases occurred during July, August, and September. Of more interest is that all but one of those summer releases occurred in 2014 or earlier. In the last six years, only one release occurred in those months: a spec bump to MacBook Pros that occurred in July 2018.
Recent Mac release trends are a little more spotty in winter and spring, most notably recently in March and May.
So when will new Macs be released?
Based on historical patterns and a comprehensive analysis conducted by Steve, our sentient global supercomputer hidden deep within ZDNet’s top-secret underground lair, it’s unlikely you’ll get anything new before November.
If Apple is announcing a new processor upgrade to the M1, you can be sure they’ll make a fuss about it, and not just do a press release drop in the middle of the summer.
If there is any spec boost upgrade, and I highly doubt it, it might be an increase to the available maximum RAM on M1s, which right now are limited to 16GB. That RAM ceiling is most probably due to chip yields, so there’s a slim chance Apple might introduce a 32GB option — but don’t count on it.
If Apple is to release a new Mac Pro or iMac Pro based on Apple Silicon, or if Apple will release the rumored MacBook Pro 16-inch machine, or even a Mac mini based on a newer generation Apple Silicon chip, your best bet is November.
Apple has flat-out stopped doing Mac announcements in October, leaving room for the blockbuster yearly iPhone announcements. While Apple sometimes ships in December, announcements for December shipments usually take place earlier.
That leaves November. If you’re going to get new Apple Silicon Macs in 2021, it will be in November. Otherwise, you’re waiting for March or May of 2022.
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