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Since iOS 12 and macOS Mojave both got their final release dates at Apple’s special Gather Round event today, you might be wondering why the long-rumored new iPad Pros and Macs didn’t get any stage time in Cupertino. There’s a single, undeniably correct one-word answer to that question:
Every year since Apple became a multi-product-family company, it has had to decide whether to hold separate or combined media events for Macs, iPods, iPhones, Apple TVs, iPads, and Apple Watches. To most observers, what does and doesn’t show up at a given event is mysterious, but Apple actually uses pretty simple logic.
The purpose of an Apple event is to build global awareness and excitement for a new product launch. Any flagship product that has a new form factor or major internal changes could justify and headline an Apple event, and anything smaller — say, a speed-bumped Mac — could be announced alongside something bigger at the same time.
But there’s a soft limit on the number of announcements Apple will make at one event. If too many big products launch at the same time, some will inevitably get lost in the shuffle. For that reason, it treats major product, speedbump, and accessory announcements differently.
Today’s event featured three new iPhones — two new designs and one speedbump — plus the first substantial redesign to the Apple Watch. There were also final release dates announced for four new operating systems, plus a brief new feature and wider availability announcement for the HomePod speaker. By Apple standards, that’s enough major announcements to keep both journalists and customers plenty busy for a month. Moreover, since iPhones alone constitute roughly two-thirds of Apple’s revenue, to say nothing of the added millions or billions generated by wearables, accessories, and iPhone-related services, those items need their own spotlight.
It could have easily announced two new iPad Pros with Face ID, a new 13-inch entry-level Retina MacBook, and a new Mac mini at the same event. Ditto on speedbumps to other Mac models, a revised Apple Pencil, and other iPad Pro-specific accessories. Since Apple now sometimes makes such announcements months in advance, they’re all certainly ready to announce today, and might even be ready to ship, too. But from Apple’s perspective, taking the focus off the iPhone and Apple Watch isn’t beneficial. That might make people think about whether to save their iPhone upgrade dollars for a new iPad or Mac instead.
Regardless, Apple has provided a clue that you won’t have long to wait. Back in August, it abruptly removed a tentpole feature called Group FaceTime from its iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas, saying that it “will ship in a future software update later this fall.” That’s an atypically specific tip of the hat for Apple — and a perfect time to show off how multiple users’ faces, including Face ID-dependent Memoji, look on big iPad Pro and Mac screens.
So get ready for another Apple media event — and new point release updates to iOS and macOS — shortly after the dust has cleared with the new iPhones and Apple Watches. It’s going to be a busy run-up to the holiday season this year, but an exciting one.