Image: Apple

In a last-minute invitation, Apple has scheduled an event for Nov. 10, 2020. Pro users are most interested in the possibility of Apple unveiling the new Mac hardware that was announced during WWDC’20; the Macs are expected to be the first devices utilizing Apple’s custom silicon-on-a-chip (SoC). It’s also expected that Apple will make macOS Big Sur available to the masses.

It is rumored that Apple will have a new Mac mini ready for the fourth quarter of 2020, and some signs point to the company also releasing a laptop in its MacBook lineup and perhaps even a new iMac–the rest of its offerings would transition to the new hardware over the course of its two-year roadmap.

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With the success of the iPhone and iPad already using Apple’s SoC designs (and pushing the performance barrier) while keeping devices lightweight and energy efficient, the new Macs are believed to offer an initial computing experience that rivals the existing hardware powered by Intel’s chips but with far greater access to the system’s overall hardware. Given its customized nature, which is controlled by Apple, this will allow for an unprecedented level of deep integration that should result in similar performance gains seen on the iOS-based devices year over year.

Here are the top five features that pros have been clamoring for Apple to include in its next Macs.

1. Increased storage capacities

While Apple’s existing storage options usually tap out at 2 TB for most of its lineup except the newest 16″ MacBook Pro, by including 4, 8, or 16 TBs of ultra-fast, on-board storage, it could seriously change how Macs are used–especially given that Macs are often leveraged as the last remaining salvo for macOS-based servers, the Xserve, is no longer an option. Increasing the storage capacity exponentially could allow these Apple devices to find their way into more storage heavy uses, like file and database servers or configured to function in a clustered setting for high availability. When considered this way, three Macs clustered could provide a quick, yet powerful server infrastructure that is both easy to set up and can be provisioned anywhere with adequate power and network connectivity.

2. Expanded network connectivity options

Most desktop Macs include a network port, but none of the laptop Macs do anymore. Many pros lament the loss of the ethernet port, and some begrudgingly carry a USB-to-ethernet adapter with them everywhere they go. While Apple is likely not to reverse that decision, custom SoC could allow Apple to offer more varieties of connectivity options when it comes to networking, such as multiple ethernet ports or faster, 10 GB connections given the direct access provided by developing its own silicon. This could be expanded to other types of connections, such as fiber channel (FC) that is used to connect to Storage Area Networks (SANs) or directly into a network switch for 10-40Gbps connectivity to the network’s backbone.

3. Faster performance than existing devices

Pro users want faster gear. While Intel produces incredibly fast chips, the cooling and energy requirements of the high-performance parts renders certain chips out of reach for all but the larger systems that can be manufactured to keep them cooled sufficiently enough to prevent thermal events from damaging the hardware.

Apple has a lot of experience in this area, particularly when it comes to the ever-slimming profiles of its mobile device lines, including iOS-based devices. These Apple devices have seen the largest performance gains consistently time and again by managing to make the most out of every resource despite being used heavily throughout the day. While this isn’t as prevalent a concern for desktop devices that are always plugged in, they can certainly benefit from efficiency bumps to enhance performance levels.

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4. Increased energy management efficiency

One of the biggest benefits to chipset manufacturers when shrinking die sizes is to gain better, more efficient performance from a reduced footprint–in essence, doing more with less. Sometimes, however, it isn’t so much about doing more as it is simply about doing it better.

By applying that logic to power management, Apple is poised to deliver a device that is as equally powerful as its predecessors yet sips power instead of gulps it–this is another area that Apple has made great inroads with on all its devices. Imagine the cost savings for enterprises when desktops and servers are deployed that could potentially draw little more power than an iPad Pro.

Furthermore, power adapters on newer devices could operate at a fraction of the wattage of current devices. Even if the new Macs operate at half the capacity, that’s a significant amount of power consumption that is reduced. Extrapolate that to include all the devices across the enterprise, and that could represent a huge reduction in the organization’s carbon footprint.

5. Unlimited performance configurations

Using the Mac mini as an example, the current base model is approximately 1.4-inches in height and includes a four or six-core Intel CPU (running at 3.0-3.6Ghz), along with on-board GPU, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB SSD in one 2.9 lbs package. By contrast, the iPad Pro 11″ is 0.23-inches in height, includes an 8-core ARM CPU (running at 2.49Ghz), along with an 8-core GPU, 6 GB of RAM, and 128 GB SSD in one 1.04 lbs package. Imagine taking the hardware of three of those iPad Pros and placing them into the one Mac mini’s footprint. With Apple’s custom silicon and engineering prowess, this is more than just a mere pipe dream–this is a very real possibility.

Put another way, it’s not unlike what organizations have been doing for years when purchasing large, powered blade servers to consolidate many physical servers into smaller footprints physically but still retaining the server’s functionality in virtual form. With that concept in mind, a modular tower, like the Mac Pro could essentially house dozens of re-engineered, custom silicon parts that would rival the performance of dozens of machines–all from one physical footprint. It could even be the rebirth of a modern day Xserver, albeit in blade architecture, to power an organization’s server backend or server farm, leveraging the high-density potential in Apple’s SoC.