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It's the start of a brand new year, and as usual there is a lot happening in the first half of 2019, for both Apple itself and for connected companies in the rest of the technology sphere. AppleInsider details some of the things you should expect to hear more about in the next few months.
Mac Pro and iMac
Apple hasn't updated the Mac Pro for a considerable amount of time, with the only real change to the product line being an update to the 2013 model in 2017 that added a six-core Xeon configuration and dual AMD G500 GPUs. A change is well overdue.
At the time of the update, Apple revealed it was "completely rethinking the Mac Pro," with mentions of a new modular design that could be more open to upgrades than the existing cylindrical model. A new "pro display" was also promised, to accompany what Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller advised would be Apple's "highest-end, high-throughput desktop system, designed for our demanding pro customers."
We'd like Apple to ship the Mac Pro early in 2019, but we're concerned that it will be a very-late 2019 deployment, similar to how the cylindrical Mac Pro rolled out.
The long development time may also have helped the case for a high-performance system, such as the introduction of a 28-core, 56-thread Intel Xeon processor that is a great candidate for inclusion in the Mac Pro.
A related item that could also see some changes is the iMac range, as while Apple released new models in 2017, there weren't any notable additions made in 2018. The October event, which was tipped to include some Mac-related changes, focused on a new Mac mini as well as a new MacBook Air design, leaving the iMac alone.
An updated iMac lineup, or a refreshed iMac Pro, could easily be introduced alongside the Mac Pro, with the former offered as a more value-conscious option for consumers alongside the high-priced professional models.
The first couple of months are also a prime time for Apple to issue new versions of its iPad lineup. Considering Apple revealed an updated 9.7-inch model in March, it is plausible an annual refresh could take place at around the same time.
As for what such an iPad event could introduce, the obvious thing would be for Apple to make changes similar to the ones seen in the iPad Pro refresh late last year. Thinner bezels, compatibility with the second-generation Apple Pencil, and Face ID are all items that could feasibly be incorporated into the company's standard consumer tablet.
It may not be the only tablet that could be on the way. Rumblings from Chinese reports in December suggested a fifth-generation model of the iPad mini were in development, potentially making it the newest update to the depreciated pint-sized tablet range in over three years.
While the former is likely simply through anticipating an annual update, the latter is less likely, as there have been few other reports about the device, suggesting the ones that did surface may be speculating too much.
If Apple is going to produce a new iPad mini, details are likely to leak about it over the next few months leading up to its potential release later this quarter.
In Court with Qualcomm
While a company as large as Apple expects to end up heading to court for various reasons, one of its biggest battles of recent years will be taking place in April.
Apple and Qualcomm have argued since 2017 over royalties and patent licensing, with the former claiming the latter withheld $1 billion in patent license rebates and abused its market position. Qualcomm instead claims Apple is trying to pay less than the fair market value for standard-essential payments, breach of contract, and alleges the theft of trade secrets provided to chip rival Intel, among other issues.
The legal fight has already seen some decisions go Qualcomm's way, including a sales ban in China for some iPhone models, while a German court ruled Apple is violating a Qualcomm patent, potentially paving the way for a Germany-wide ban.
With the addition of a group of Apple assemblers also seeking $9 billion from Qualcomm in damages in a connected lawsuit, the battle between the iPhone producer and the chip company is becoming one that neither side wants to lose.
Qualcomm has seemingly suggested that it and Apple are trying to reach a settlement before the potentially expensive courtroom appearance, while Apple has repeatedly insisted no such talks have taken place, and is ultimately preparing itself for a long and protracted battle.
When it happens, AppleInsider will be covering the court activities, as well as all of the inevitable fallout afterward.
Privacy or No Privacy
Another thing that won't be going away anytime soon is the constant battle between technology companies and governments regarding privacy and security. While security agencies like the FBI want access to data, such as by weakening encryption, Apple and other firms have fought to prevent any backdoors or other similar elements from being introduced.
In the wake of major consumer data breaches and Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, consumer data privacy has become more of an issue than ever before, and lawmakers have taken notice.
In November, a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee revealed it was working on a potential bill that could allow the Federal trade Commission the ability to enforce and produce regulations that telecommunications firms have to abide by, relating to the personal data of consumers.
While the wording of the bill has not been officially confirmed, it is anticipated that a bipartisan draft could be finished "early in the session" this year. We're not sure exactly how the current shutdown will affect things going forward, but we'd be surprised if there wasn't big movement by June.
The More Immediate Future: CES
The first major technology tradeshow of the year is due to take place in a few days time. The Consumer Electronics Show is known as a venue for product launches from almost everyone in the technology industry, keen to show their wares and latest innovations that may or may not reach consumer hands later in the year.
Sure, it's a major event that's worth noticing, but in a world where companies hold their own flashy product launches, some may think it isn't that relevant anymore.
While Apple does not typically make an appearance at CES, the vast majority of hardware companies that work within the Apple ecosystem are likely to be in attendance, complete with a plethora of devices, accessories, and other items.
As usual, AppleInsider will be at the show, and will report on the announcements made on the show relating to the iPhone, iPad, Mac, home automation with HomeKit, and Apple's other products and services.
Hopefully this year there won't be a blackout on the show floor.