Nearly six months ago, when we still had a hot summer on its way, Apple introduced us to its first M2 Macs. There was immediate speculation as to when we’d see the next and more powerful models with M2 Pro and Max chips, or their equivalents. Although I’m not keen on wild speculation, I took a look at the timeline of the M1 cycle and concluded that we wouldn’t see any Macs containing chips more advanced or powerful than the basic M2 until 2023.
When I posted my opinion on 9 June, it didn’t prove popular. One person commented “I expected the M2 series to be complete by Xmas 2022 despite the slower rollout of the M1. With the M3 coming in on the WWDC 2023”, against which I bet my eaten hat. Other better-known sources like 9to5Mac touted the release of Macs with M2 Pro and Max chips in “fall 2022”, and Techradar said much the same. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman stuck his neck out and claimed that Apple had set the third quarter of 2022 as its goal, but to be safe gave a window of a full six months into early 2023. As recently as 25 October, MacWorld was still expecting those models to ship in November 2022.
Although there are still a few days left in which I could be proved wrong, I’ve now got my I told you so! card out ready. As every remaining day in 2022 passes, it becomes increasingly apparent that the first Macs with higher performance chips than the M2 will ship early next year.
While some point to supply chain problems, I think there’s also a bigger reason for this, and for the more surprising absence of M2 iMacs and Mac minis, which seems to have passed with less comment. The M2 cycle isn’t just about the successor to the M1, but features the diversification of variants. Next year, we’re likely to see Apple flesh out its range of Apple silicon Macs to offer a wider spread of pricing and performance.
Consider first the iMac. In September 2017, Apple offered three different iMacs: a non-Retina 21.5-inch, a Retina 4K 21.5-inch, and a Retina 5K 27-inch. The second of those came with two i5 and one i7 processor options, and the 27-inch had three i5 and one i-7 available, giving a total of eight different display and processor combinations, and a wide range of prices.
The current M1 iMac comes with only one display option, 24-inch, and a single chip option, the original M1, with 4E + 4P cores. The only variations and price range are set by memory and capacity of the internal SSD.
The last Intel Mac mini also came in three processor options, from i3 to i7, but there’s only one M1 Mac mini.
I think one reason for M2 iMacs and Mac minis being no-shows this year is that, when Apple releases them next year, both models will offer a choice of chips, including higher performance variants probably designated M2 Pro and Max. There may well also be more than the current 24-inch display in the case of the M2 iMac. Rather than releasing these piecemeal, Apple intends introducing them together as options, so that has to wait until the M2 Pro and Max are ready to ship.
That leaves one model still unaccounted for: the Mac Pro. While some have pointed to this as Apple’s failure to meet its own self-imposed deadline for the migration to Apple silicon, I think that model is a very special exception. Given the capabilities of the Mac Studio Ultra, any model intended to exceed that is intended for a small and specialist market which may not even be ready to migrate to Apple silicon yet. If Apple hasn’t been discussing new Mac Pro designs with you yet, then Marketing doesn’t see you as a customer large enough to sway its decision-making over the next Mac Pro. I’m sure it’ll come when Apple is happy that it will sell. Whenever that turns out to be.
Of course, every next year is always better for Mac hardware. I suspect that in twelve months, Apple will have a far fuller range of Apple silicon Macs, instead of simply replacing M1 chips with M2s.