The Mac in 2020: New keyboards, ARM Macs, and an iMac reboot?

Last year I predicted huge changes for the Mac for 2019, and let’s be honest—the changes were far more modest than I was anticipating. Mac Catalyst arrived, but a flood of Catalyst apps didn’t. Apple finally shipped a modular Mac Pro, two and a half years after committing to it. And the year closed with a new MacBook Pro without the butterfly keyboard that’s been the center of controversy the last few years.

2019 was a transitional year for the Mac. Will 2020 be truly revolutionary? I want to say yes, but the smart money is on “no.”

A year of laptop upgrades

The 16-inch MacBook Pro sure seems like the start of product transition that will spread across all of Apple’s laptops, replacing the old keyboard design with the new laptop edition of the Magic Keyboard. (The original Magic Keyboard debuted in 2015 and the butterfly keyboard design arrived on MacBook Pro models in 2016. I’m not going to relitigate this whole mess, but that’s three lost years. What a shame.)

The easy-money prediction, then, is that Apple will release a new smaller MacBook Pro, the successor to the current 13-inch model, with that same Magic Keyboard. I’d be shocked if this didn’t happen in the next few months. The only question is, will Apple be able to pull the bezels in and push the dimensions out enough to replace the current 13.3-inch display with a 14-inch model? For the record, I doubt it: It seems to me that the goal of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is to be a smaller pro laptop—making it bigger shouldn’t be a goal.

apple macbook air keyboard Apple

MacBook Air

A slightly more difficult question is the disposition if the MacBook Air. It’s about a year old now, which suggests that an update should be in the offing. Apple rarely redesigns Mac hardware after a single product cycle, which would suggest that the existing MacBook Air will get some minor tech upgrades but won’t inherit the new magic Keyboard.

It seems to me that this will all come down to Apple’s feelings about the most recent generation of butterfly keyboard. All I have are anecdotes to go on, but I haven’t heard a lot of reliability complaints about the “new materials” butterfly keyboard introduced this spring with a MacBook Pro revision. If Apple feels that it’s solved the reliability issues on the butterfly keyboard, it might soldier on with that keyboard on consumer Macs. On the other hand, if it feels that no amount of re-engineering can really fix butterfly keyboard (or its tarnished reputation), perhaps Apple will make the extraordinary move of altering the MacBook Air after one year.

If I had to bet, I’d guess that Apple lets it ride for another year, to the frustration of those who have been hoping for a MacBook Air with a Magic Keyboard. I’m not happy about it, but I think it’s the most likely scenario.

A new iMac, or not?

I was hoping for a major iMac redesign in 2019, and it just didn’t happen. Instead, Apple made some modest iMac updates in the spring, and…

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