Hardware

Apple in 2018: The 4 biggest things that may impact businesses

Predictions are a tricky business, but Mac expert Erik Eckel is undeterred. After reading the tea leaves, he reveals four truths he believes 2018 has in store for Apple users.

Forecasting new Apple events, products, and innovations always proves challenging (as evidence, read my 2017, 2016, and 2015 predictions), but I remain undeterred. After considering technology trends, changing consumer preferences, and evolving business requirements, here are my Apple tech predictions for 2018.

SEE: Hardware purchasing task list (Tech Pro Research)

1. 2018 will be a watershed year for iPads replacing Macs.

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Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple sells more iPads than it does Macs; in fact, the company sells almost two iPads to every Mac. There are many reasons why.

The iPad Pro's processor and graphics performance, battery life, storage capacities, Microsoft Office 365-compatibility, support for a full-size external keyboard, and standalone apps for the most commonly used business applications position iPads as competitive replacements for most users' Mac laptops in 2018.

This is especially true considering the 12.9-inch iPad Pro model packs Apple's A10X Fusion 64-bit CPU mated to an M10 coprocessor, up to a half-terabyte of flash storage, and a Retina display capable of easily connecting to a large-screen display wirelessly using Apple AirPlay. Plus, you can purchase an iPad with integrated cellular network connectivity, a feature that is not even natively available on Macs.

In addition, there's the ever-increasing blurring of differences between the iOS and macOS platforms. Also, when you consider iPads boast a touch screen and iPad Pros support a stylus, a feature that's attractive to notetakers, graphic artists, and other creative professionals drawn to Macs, it's easy to see how an iPad can replace a Macbook, Macbook Air, or Macbook Pro.

SEE: Yes, iPad Pro is ready to be your work machine—with one baffling exception (TechRepublic)

I can think only think of one reason why some professionals are reticent to make the switch: It's the mistaken belief that an iPad doesn't provide the processing power business users require, so therefore it is a supplementary device.

2. The HomePod will be a hit.

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Image: Apple Inc.

Apple's HomePod, announced in 2017, will prove popular in 2018. Despite its name, bet on the HomePod to not only appear in homes but also in numerous conference and meeting rooms, offices, and break rooms.

Personal assistant-enabled devices, such as Amazon's Echo and Google Home, will continue growing in popularity. Apple will exploit the trend by delivering its elegant and high-quality speaker that seamlessly integrates with Siri, as well as Apple users' iTunes and Music accounts.

SEE: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (PDF download) (TechRepublic)

The HomePod speaker is so advanced that it analyzes the acoustics of each room in which it's placed and adjusts the sound to optimize playback, while also using beamforming technologies to better tune microphone operation. The speaker leverages a sophisticated algorithm to monitor music and dynamically adjusts playback for improved quality. Apple fans have come to expect innovative features from the company, and I believe Apple will continue delivering innovations with its personal assistant-enabled wireless speaker.

3. Apple will announce a new Mac Pro.

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Image: Apple Inc.

Apple's high-end Mac Pro was last updated more than four years ago. Despite being packed with multiple-core Intel Xeon chips and Dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics processors and scalability to support tons of RAM and storage, the machine isn't as exciting as it once was. The cylinder design and potent capacity made news on launch bit didn't translate into sales that set the world on fire.

Look for Apple to revisit its top-of-the-line Mac Pro machine with what I predict will be a completely redesigned chassis, CPUs, graphics power, and overall performance capacity. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple introduces an all-new (non-cylinder) chassis design, too—it's time.

SEE: After the iPhone X: Predicting the future of the smartphone (ZDNet)

4. Apple will introduce a streaming service.

In late 2015 I predicted Apple would introduce its own streaming service; I proposed the service would compete with Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. I'm not sure what's taking so long. The future of entertainment is streaming services. Amazon and Netflix know that, and it's one of the reasons their stock values keep climbing; it's also one of the reasons the two companies are making significant investments in their own film production studios and original programming.

Look for 2018 to be the year Apple introduces a streaming service—just don't expect Apple to build it from scratch. With as much cash as the publicly traded company has on hand, it's more likely Apple will buy a major production company, and then leverage its iTunes service and Apple TV devices to help distribute the content.

Considering the success Pixar experiences with most every production it green lights imagine the impact Apple could have with its own original programming. You may soon receive additional compelling entertainment options on all your Apple devices, from those in your living room to those in your office's break and conference rooms. Stay tuned: 2018 may be the year Apple's streaming service initiative comes together.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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