What’s coming up from Apple in 2024?


We all expect new iPhones, iPads, Macs, the Vision Pro, and many other Apple hardware introductions with improvements and tweaks across the range, but what are the Apple trends and strategies we’ll discuss in 2024?

Business with a bullet

“It’s a computer. It’s a communication device. It’s an immersive entertainment experience.” No, it’s not three separate things; it is Apple’s Vision Pro, which I expect will be made available for sale in early March (though perhaps announced a week or two earlier). First adopters will include the most affluent Apple customers, developers, and enterprise IT leaders wanting to explore what the mixed-reality headset can do.

Of course, at $3,500 a pop, you can’t expect widescale deployment for business users, but if history has any kind of arc, you’ll see them appear in strategically important roles first before building out elsewhere. Enterprise software developers will I think explore these devices to see what and where they can make a difference. And there will be queues of interested customers outside Apple retail stores eager to sign up for an expert-led session using Vision Pro.

I imagine that Apple will try to tempt customers attending those Vision Pro sessions into taking a second customer journey toward new AirPods or even potentially an iPhone SE while they are there. And by the end of the year as the first-generation goggles perhaps debut in new markets, Apple will have new iPhones, Macs, iPads, and a range of souped up accessories to tempt them while they’re there — even as the Apple Rumor Engine(™) sparks up speculation concerning Vision Pro 2.

Accelerating supply chain

Those new iPads and that so-called “simplified” range of new Apple tablets? At time of writing, there’s a growing chance at least some of these will be manufactured in Vietnam. Apple and iPad partner BYD are working together not just to put iPad production in that country, but also to put product development resources there. We can’t be clear on the timeline, but as the company accelerates regional diversification of manufacturing across its products, it is reasonable to anticipate significant quantities of its hardware next year will come from Vietnam, Thailand, and — of course, given the rapid pace at which iPhone partners are investing there — India.

By this time next year, Apple’s work to build a more resilient, less China-based manufacturing network will be years into its first five-year plan. In Apple-world that’s enough time to put infrastructure for regional expansion into place, which means this activity will accelerate from here.

Open house

On its current trajectory, Apple will be forced to open up at least some of the orchards in its walled gardens to others starting in March 2024. It will have to in order to obey new EU guidelines, and while I suspect it will fight a rearguard action to protect its business in its biggest App Store market (the US), change now seems inevitable. All the same, the company faces a myriad of investigations concerning aspects of how it runs its business, and there will come a point where it’s cheaper to compromise than to hold the line.

Of course, once Apple does open up in the EU, the world will be watching to see what happens next. Will Apple be able to protect its customers even when it no longer controls the stores they visit or the transactions they make? Will iOS developers in Europe see their businesses collapse in the face of a poorly regulated market of copycat apps by unscrupulous developers? What will be the impact on enterprise customers as software sales for mobile devices become balkanized? Small questions. Big answers. No choice now but to try it and find out.

I’m not convinced the outcome will deliver any significant consumer benefit — it’s just going to expand the number of fat cats slurping at the cream of App Store profits. Customers will probably get increased security threats, while billionaires reap the benefits and Apple support staff are forced to tidy up the remaining mess. Here’s hoping Europe’s App Store economy keeps generating those employment opportunities.

Hearing health

One small prediction that may deliver profound results: Apple may next year introduce a hearing aid feature that works with AirPods. We don’t know too much about how this will work or if it will require new devices. Nor do we know the extent to which the feature will be medically calibrated or if it will simply be a useful tool for people who leave their hearing aids behind.

There’s money in ears, however. The global hearing aids market is worth an estimated $7.5 billion (2021), on the way to becoming a $10.2 billion market by 2026. To what extent can Apple’s health teams and software engineers work to turn AirPods into the most personalized and well-integrated solutions within that market?

With new health sensors for Apple Watch also in the frame, it may yet be the case that 2024 sees CEO Tim Cook’s frequently uttered commitment to supporting public health begin to play out, with an accent on heart health, fitness, hearing health, and diabetes. In the long term, and subject to change, visionOS suggests future opportunities in visual health, a market worth around $169.9b last year.

The power behind the throne

Powerful, low powered, and extremely high performing, Apple Silicon chips are now inside every Apple product. The company likely has a billion or so relatively recent chips in active service worldwide. Each one of those processors contains a Neural Engine, GPU, and multiple cores. You really feel the difference when you run a Photoshop transition. On the M3 MacBook Pro range, you speed through complex rendering and movie edits and can quickly build and deploy new data analytics models. Apple’s machines are on a fast evolutionary ride toward 2nm chips in around 2026.

Thing is, there’s much, much more they can do, and 2024 may see Apple begin to respond to Generative AI (which it calls its ‘Trend of the Year’) with more focused machine intelligence solutions that help customers — including enterprise clients — with their lives. Think of a combination of the benefits of Generative AI with the privacy and security of encryption, anonymity, and edge-process operations.

All of this available to a billion users from day one.

That, dear reader, is what I call leading from behind. The ecosystem is in place; what we don’t yet know for sure is if Apple will provide. We just know it’s trying.

What about the enterprise?

Declarative Device Management rolls off the tongue of every enterprise-focused Apple professional I know. They recognize that the future of secured managed devices will be password-free and characterized by on-device security awareness at the edge. Apple will be exploring what enterprises need, and 2024 should see it introduce more system extensions device management vendors can exploit to provide more powerful tools around security, identity, and network security. Don’t be too surprised to see an on-device security monitoring AI appear, too.

We’ll also be watching the action on Statcounter to assess the degree to which Macs are replacing Windows PCs in the next enterprise upgrade season. Windows currently holds 55.42% of the desktop operating system market in the US, compared to 33.24% to Mac. This time last year, Apple held 26.49% to 63.07% for Windows. The direction of travel is clear, but the big bucks will be if Apple can emulate this trajectory outside of America (it slowly seems to be), particularly in rapidly emerging markets such as India. I wouldn’t bet against it.

Want more? Please stay tuned. Please follow me on Mastodon or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.



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