Apple's 2011 Product Lineup - What's in Store?

ipad-2011

2010 was a boom year for Apple, but 2011's nearly upon us and the Apple rumors are already blossoming--can Steve Jobs company pull off yet more technology coups next year? Using what we know, and suspect, we've imagined Apple's 2011 products for you.

iPad 2.0

We've written extensively about the iPad 2 rumors--they're coming thick and fast now, and have given us a pretty solid idea about how the new tablet will perform, and what it'll look like. On that basis, we've thrown together a little rendered imagery about what Apple's next wonder-tablet might look like--it's at the top, and you can check out our video at the bottom of this post.

iMac

iMacs are an oft-overlooked part of Apple's portfolio from a media viewpoint. They sell like hotcakes, and their iconic form factor has inspired many, many copies in the PC industry. We suspect Apple will stick with a good recipe, and merely refine the ingredients in 2011. Expect a shallower casing, as the internal components are downsized thanks to expertise gained in the iPad and new MacBook Air designs. We're pretty convinced Apple will actually ditch the slot-loading DVD drive. Selling it as a peripheral will let Apple offer the iMacs at a lower unit price. The regular hard drive may remain, but Apple is very likely to include large SSDs as a build-to-order option. Faster CPUs from Intel, quicker graphics--you know the score.

MacBook Pros

These aluminum beasts will probably follow a similar developmental route to the iMac, though in this case more heavily influenced by the new, shockingly tiny MacBook Airs. Expect thinner chassis, possibly a move to a 16:9 screen ratio, and the end of the optical drive. We'd love to see SSDs as standard, and Intel's recent breakthrough in small SSD design could certainly come in handy--though we expect HDDs to remain as a special order build, where more capacity is required. Expect faster Intel Core i7 chips, better graphics, and longer battery life.

iPods

It is unclear how Apple will evolve its iPod lineup. The company's done a good job so far in refreshing the gizmos even while their sales are suffering from the cannibalistic effect of the iPhone. The tiny touchscreen Nano was particularly good. The iPod Classic may or may not disappear--it is the only portable Apple device with more than a hundred gigabytes of storage--while the other iPods will stick around, possibly cheaper and with more functions (such as movies and apps on a Nano Touchscreen 2?). The iPod Touch will closely follow the iPhone 5--for more on that, see below.

iPhone 5

We don't have an image for this one, for a very good reason. Little has been said about the next iPhone's form factor at all the usual rumor sources. Given the media-driven (and misleading) fiasco surrounding the "antennagate" flaws in the bold new design of the iPhone 4, and persistent reports that the glass back of the iPhone 4 is a structural liability, it's no surprise that Apple is keeping the iPhone 5 locked down. 

But we suspect Apple will tweak the iPhone's form factor slightly for the 2011 version. We imagine Apple will stay with its antenna-frame design, with better insulation to prevent any antenna-to-hand problems, but it may adjust the rear of the device. A return to plastic, perhaps? Something weird like ceramic? Or an aluminum rear-face, with an inserted Apple logo (which would be possible in this iteration because the antennas aren't concealed by an all-metal rear face)?

Inside we expect to see a dual-core Apple A-series chip, the successor to the A4, probably the same as the one in the upcoming iPad 2, and probably based on an ARM Cortex A9 design. The iPhone's resolution will likely remain the same (for app programming consistency), but it's possible Apple will push its dimensions to compete with glossier Android units. More memory in each model is a distinct possibility.

The big thing we suspect Apple will build in is smart NFC capabilities--transforming the already multi-purpose device into your wallet, metro pass, and digital ID in one swoop, and revolutionizing another industry. 

Everything Else

We guess the Apple TV will remain unchanged, that Apple will tweak the design and possibly the price of its Cinema Display, and that the entry-level MacBook will stick around to cover a lower price point. Considering the tiny new MacBook Airs are near its previous price point, though, it's possible the MacBook for 2011 will be even cheaper. The Macbook Pro probably won't get tweaked in design--though it'll be specced-up--and we suspect the Mac Mini will get the same treatment.

2011's MacBook Air will probably only get minor tweaks, if Apple does what it did with the first two versions of this computer. A boost to its CPU and storage and fine design elements will probably suffice.

And one more thing--any new stuff? Who knows, but Jobs' firm likes to keep its number of products low, and it's hard to imagine anything big on the way. Apple stereo Bluetooth headsets, anyone?

To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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7 Comments

  • daltxguy

    Fast Company used to be about cutting edge business practices, now it's free advertising for consumer companies and reviews of products already done everywhere else. I predict the demise of Fast Company.

  • Daniel

    Definitely agree Steve, it seems like FC are obsessed with the 'glamour' angle of tech business. All sizzle and no steak, so to speak.

  • R.S. Leuty

    Without sizzle you never get a good steak guys! Keep it real and quit the narrow mindedness of a geek drone. Thanks, that is all.

  • Harvey

    Just have a comment about your prediction for the 2011 MacBook Pros. In the description you say "Expect thinner chassis" and the illustration shows a much thinner body. But then in your description you expect the new model to come with a choice of SSD or HDD. This would be impossible, since an 2.5" HDD would not be able to fit into a "thinner chassis". It might be possible to fit a 1.8" HDD into a thinner chassis, but 1.8" HDDs don't have the speeds or capacities needed for a Pro.

  • Doug Bruhnke

    What an extraordinary line-up of new products these past couple years. Our offices have just completely converted to Apple products, and we look into 2011 with further anticipation at these productivity tool enhancements. Doug Bruhnke, Growth Nation

  • Michael Duffy

    We're waiting to see an iMac with pull-out side-wing screens, that would obviate the need for additional viewing screens plugged into your machine. The technology exists, and Apple is just the company to make it happen.