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What if Apple's Magic act is just the beginning?

Michael Simon | Oct. 23, 2015
If they make that trackpad any bigger, they could fit a whole computer in there.

You can quibble over how the Magic Mouse 2 needs to be turned on its side to properly charge, but no one will complain about getting 8–9 hours of battery life out of a 2-minute charge. A full charge (2 hours) will net you a month, and it’s exciting to think how this technology could make its way into the iPhone next year. All-day battery life has always been an issue with the Apple’s smartphone, but the ability to squeeze an extra few hours out of a short charge could be a game-changer.

Mini and mighty

Back in 2004, the notion of a so-called headless Mac (at least one that didn’t cost thousands of dollars) was something of a pipe dream. The launch of the Mac mini shifted the landscape, introducing a Mac that was not only affordable, but also the most versatile computer Apple had ever released.

But while Apple’s Mac mini has seemingly hit a wall of indifference in its evolution, the miniaturization of the logic board has steadily progressed. The new MacBook features a remarkably small logic board that measures less than five inches yet is still able to power a 12-inch display and run a full desktop operating system. And the iPhone 6s is just as powerful, despite sporting a logic board designed to fit inside a much smaller case.

ifixitsolderedram 
The Mac mini—you know, the portable Mac that isn't a laptop—started Apple on a trend of designing smaller and smaller boards.  Credit: iFixit

Apple’s proprietary ARM processors have been slowly gaining on their Intel counterparts, but with the A9 chip, they’ve finally reached a degree of parity. In fact, the iPhone 6s actually outperforms the entry-level MacBook, raising the specter of an ARM-powered Mac in the not-too-distant future. But while the idea of an A10 or A11 MacBook is certainly intriguing—-giving Apple the ability to optimize OS X performance like never before—-the next step for the Mac might be a bit more, shall we say, magical.

Magic Mac

There may never be a hybrid device that can run OS X and iOS side by side, but that’s not to say they won’t converge at some point. As iOS matures it seems somewhat inevitable that it will meet OS X at some point in the future, both in terms of its own performance and the power of the devices that run it.

macbook 12 interior
What if the compact internals of a MacBook could be reengineered to fit inside the Magic Trackpad 3?

When Tim Cook pooh-poohs the notion of a hybrid Mac, I think he’s bring purposefully obtuse. Apple understands better than anyone that the future of computing is more aligned with iOS than OS X, but it’s content to let it happen gradually rather than force the issue. Instead of releasing a hybrid device that cuts corners and isn’t quite ready for prime time, Apple is taking baby steps to prepare its devices for the day when a single OS runs on all of them, with responsive apps smart enough to know where they’re running. The iPad Pro is a step forward to that end, but so are Apple’s newest accessories.

 

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