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Apple's March 2021 in review: HomePod dropped, iMac Pro ditched, and OS X celebrated

L-R: Justin Long, OS X, and the already much-missed HomePod

March 2021 was a busy, even hectic month for Apple, even though we didn't get any events and the company actually discontinued more products than it launched.

Despite all the talk and rumors, Apple didn't even launch an acknowledgement that it is working on an "Apple Car" in February 2021.

So as we headed into March 2021, you had to wonder whether the company was going to launch anything. And while we may never know this for sure, it looks as if Apple did. It allegedly launched a mole hunt.

What happened was that as we started the month, there were constant, building expectations that there would be an event on March 16. Then, no, it would be March 23.

There are always practically as many rumors about there being an Apple event as there are predictions about what will be launched at them. This time, though, it's suspected that Apple itself primed the pump by letting slip a false date to, presumably, selected people.

Apple only ever discusses how it reacts to leaks when it has to, such as in court filings like March's one against its former materials lead. You know that it's not fond of leaks, though, so a mole hunt is entirely believable.

Apple is hardly going to say it did this, though, or at least it's not going to tell us. If it's true, then Apple is highly likely to be talking with employees who are even now asking for an HR representative to join them. Apple could look forward to a lot of HR meetings throughout this whole year.

Whatever else went on in Apple Park in March, though, there were no events, and that is a little unusual. In the past five years, there have been Apple launches in March three times, most famously launching Apple TV+ in what now seems like the long-ago innocent time of 2019.

Anything before the coronavirus now seems ages ago, but there was one particular anniversary in this month which may have dated you. On March 21, 2021, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Mac OS X.

Scott Forstall
Scott Forstall

Looking back instead of forward

Apple doesn't often bring up its history, and it didn't this time, either. Ex-Apple staff did mark the anniversary, however, including former executive Scott Forstall. He tweeted a memory from when he was in the room where it happened.

It's an evocative thought. Steve Jobs, Forstall, and more, all in one meeting room and planning what would transform Apple. And so, by extension, transform the lives of so many of us.

Possibly also in that room, but definitely involved in the development of OS X, was former Apple engineer Imran Chaudhri. Together with former Apple director of software engineering Bethany Bongiorno, he now runs a company called Humane, which you practically have to work for — or invest in — to find out what it does.

Perhaps Chaudhri and Bongiorno learned secrecy from Steve Jobs, but Chaudhri was far from a sycophant. He recounted how he used to tease Jobs during OS X's earliest days.

Those were the days when the Mac was climbing back up into the ring after having had a few knockout blows from PCs. March 2021 gave us another flashback to Apple's past as Intel made a series of ads to remind us.

One day, former Apple staff Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno will reveal what their new Humane company does
One day, former Apple staff Imran Chaudhri and Bethany Bongiorno will reveal what their new Humane company does

Mac versus PC

It was not a complete success. Intel hired actor Justin Long, from Apple's original "I'm a Mac" ads, and had him begin each new segment with the words "Hello, I'm a... Justin."

Each ad begins with those words and with Long standing on a white background, briefly emulating Apple's ads. It must've been puzzling to people who don't know those, but after an instant, Long gets to head off to show us PCs, or PC users.

He gets to raise true advantages that PCs have, such as being better for games or how you can find a PC in every shape that's geometrically feasible.

Yet if it's targeting the people who remember the Apple ads, those same people are the ones who are quite aware that Apple has abandoned Intel. It's uncomfortably like hearing one side of a breakup story.

Unfortunately, like far too many breakup stories, one side feels the loss a bit more than the other. Where Apple has admitted to feeling giddy about how astonishingly well Apple Silicon has turned out, Intel has been sending it flowers.

Intel is spending big on marriage counseling, too, as it's investing around $20 billion in two processor fabrication facilities in Arizona. The firm is aiming to produce ARM designs for firms ranging from Amazon to Microsoft, and would really like Apple to come and see the new place.

Out with the old

As Apple moves forward, though, it isn't just ignoring its past, it spent part of March 2021 decluttering. First it discontinued the iMac Pro, which is perhaps not a giant surprise, given that we do know Apple Silicon iMacs are on their way.

Far more of a surprise — and unexpectedly a huge blow — was Apple's decision to ditch the HomePod, too. Much as we failed to appreciate the adorable MacBook until it was cancelled, or the ceramic Apple Watch until it was deep-sixed, so HomePod found new fans in its last moments.

It is genuinely a great device that has gone before its time. It will not be forgotten quickly - wait, what, the HomePod mini has a secret temperature sensor?

Hang on. The iMac Pro and the HomePod were both announced in 2017. So was AirPower, and we know happened to that. Please picture everyone at Apple Park now slowly turning to face the Apple TV 4K team.

Apple TV+ makes a mark

If the hardware Apple TV is long in the tooth, the Apple TV+ service is becoming a strong force in television and film. Producers are telling AppleInsider — severely off the record — that Apple is good to work with, and can be quick to make decisions, too.

During March 2021, we got to see some of that rewarded as Apple TV+ won many awards. To be precise, "Ted Lasso" won them.

"Ted Lasso" is a fully-fledged hit for Apple TV+

The comedy series, which in March was filming its second season, nabbed two of the prestigious Writers' Guild of America awards this month. Lauded for being both the Best Comedy and the Best New Series, too.

Add to that the fact that it also picked up a comedy acting Golden Globe award for star/co-writer Jason Sudeikis. And the series has nominations for the forthcoming Director's Guild of America and Producer's Guild of America awards.

If you want more proof that Apple TV+ finally has a true hit, try putting the words "is Ted Lasso" into Google. In March 2021, it now typically autocompleted with "on Netflix."

Not everybody likes Apple

Someday, someone is going to write the definitive history of all the App Store and antitrust legal rows that Apple is embroiled in. And when they do, we'll skip to the last chapter.

In other words, March was replete with legal issues. Forget the debates over whether Apple has changed from a hardware to a services company; it's at least largely a legal one now too.

This month's cases included the UK investigating whether the App Store has been very naughty breaking the law when everyone knows that only countries are allowed to do that. Then there was the Arizona Senate that was due to vote on whether Apple and Google should allow third-party payment systems as well as their own.

That could clearly have been a damaging result for Apple and Google, but they dodged a bullet. Arizona did not vote for it, but also did not vote against it. The senate chose not to vote at all.

You may choose to believe that something went on behind the scenes — and others have believed that — but this is something else we'll never know.

For one more example of something you can't find even when you search very hard, though, add clothing retailer H&M. Apple and others have been severely criticized for how they have bowed to pressure from China to remove map listings for the company.

H&M had over 400 stores across China, and every one of them has been removed from Apple Maps and the country's Baidu mapping platform. It's in response to the company's decision to stop sourcing materials from the Xinjiang region.

While Apple has removed it from Maps, though, a number of the stores are being removed from reality. Reportedly, 20 H&M stores have now closed down, at least temporarily.

Don't read too much into how every character in Apple's WWDC ads is wearing glasses
Don't read too much into how every character in Apple's WWDC ads is wearing glasses

Looking to the future

Anyway, if there weren't an actual event in March, there was word of one. Official word this time, not a leak.

Apple chose the end of March 2021 to announce that it would be holding this year's WWDC conference from June 7 to 11. Despite Tim Cook saying, separately, that he "can't wait" for staff to Tim Cook">, WWDC will be fully online.

One thing is certain. WWDC, and really the future, will be all about Apple Silicon.

The question is whether Apple's April 2021 will see more launches — or more products discontinued.