Swift ABI Stability Delayed Again

17 February 2017

Swift Evolution:

Since July, we now have a much better understanding now of how to achieve ABI stability, with an ABI Manifesto detailing the list of all language/implementation work that is needed to achieve ABI stability. We have made substantial progress in that work during stage 1, but much remains to be done. Once Swift achieves ABI stability the ABI can be extended, but not changed. Thus the cost of locking down an ABI too early is quite high.

Given the importance of getting the core ABI and the related fundamentals correct, we are going to defer the declaration of ABI stability out of Swift 4 while still focusing the majority of effort to get to the point where the ABI can be declared stable.

In practical terms, there are very few advantages to Swift achieving ABI stability. The primary benefit is that it would allow Apple to ship Swift frameworks on its operating systems, rather than ones written in Objective-C. It would also reduce Swift compiled application size by a few megabytes as apps would no longer have to include copies of the compiled standard library.

In the scheme of things, these benefits are not critical to reap. The scope of Swift project is far wider than that. Improvements to compiler bugginess, optimisation and language feature development help a much bigger audience. Thinking egotistically as as a solo (indie/contract) developer, those changes mean everything and ABI stability means nothing.

Hence, I am not upset that ABI stability will not be achieved this year. I am disappointed that the Swift project is once again deferring a milestone goal, the same goal in fact. In the Swift 3.0 planning stages, ABI stability was touted as a headline change. A few months in, the core team pronounced it was too early and became a leading Swift 4 priority.

In fact, the Swift 4 open-source development structure was purposefully split into two phases, devised specifically to focus solely on ABI stability matters in the first phase. Phase one is now over, yet ABI stability is still nowhere close to being achieved, although there are now more formal plans about what needs doing. The reasons given for delaying it this time is that it would take too much time to implement the plans (and there are still several ABI-affecting things that need to be designed).

I would argue it was obvious from the outset that there was never going to be enough time in this development cycle to do it and that freezing ABI prematurely would be damaging. The fiasco is a prime example of project mismanagement that ultimately distracted everyone involved from achieving other meaningful, feasible features. The idea of achieving ABI stability should never have been on the table for Swift 4, let alone Swift 3. I hope that the next time ABI stability is brought up on Swift Evolution, it is appropriately timed.

That being said, with the course correction now in place, I look forward to everyone focusing on things which I deem important and useful for improving Swift, like completing the generics system (which was also deferred from Swift 3, for what it’s worth).

Planet Of The Apps Trailer Released

14 February 2017

As expected, it’s a consumer reality show like Shark Tank but focused on app entrepreneurs. It doesn’t represent a diverse view of the worldwide App Store developer industry … but I wasn’t expecting it to. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any ‘reality’ TV that does justice to real life. Hopefully, the series is entertaining to watch.

I still question the distribution strategy, wherein Planet of the Apps is only accessible inside the Music app and requires an Apple Music subscription. This feels like something that should be freely broadcast to anyone who wants to watch it; it’s advertisement for iOS through and through.

Carpool Karaoke makes more sense as premium content for Apple Music (it’s about music for one) but I think it might just go entirely ignored. The Late Show segments are viral phenomenons on YouTube with millions of views. That just isn’t going to happen for Apple’s series because there is no ability to share it with your friends; it’s soloed within Music and iTunes, plus it requires upfront payment to view.

iOS 10.3 CarPlay Adds App Shortcuts In Sidebar

13 February 2017

9to5Mac:

The biggest change with CarPlay in iOS 10.3 beta is directly on the Home screen. Three app icons now appear on the status bar. These apps a smaller versions of the primary app icons on the Home screen and stay in view eve when you’re in other apps. This makes it possible to switch between CarPlay apps without pressing the virtual Home button and going back to the Home screen each time.

While there are three app icons visible here, it isn’t exactly the last three opened apps that CarPlay picks. Instead, think of each app icon as a category: navigation, communication, and entertainment.

This is a well done feature. More than a naive list of the three most recently used apps, the sidebar reserves space for three specific purposes; one spot for maps, one for music / podcasts apps, and one for phone calls / messages. These categories map to the most common actions people want to do in a car — hands free chat, getting directions and playing some music. Subtle animations complement the behaviour and signpost state changes with smooth motion.

In iOS 10.3 beta 1, the time was squished down right next to the home button making the whole interface feel cramped. In beta 2, the time is centred in the available gap between the elements which gives it room to breathe. Much better.

On the CarPlay home screen, it does look messy as so many of the apps are duplicated as sidebar icons. I would hide the quick launch tray on the home screen and show the car manufacturer’s app in the top left corner instead.

OLED iPhone 8 Reportedly Priced Above $1000

8 February 2017

Fast Company:

A special 10th-anniversary edition of the iPhone is expected to be the ultimate iPhone, and it’ll come with a price tag to match—very likely north of $1,000, says a source with knowledge of Apple’s plans.

At first glance, a $1000 iPhone sounds ridiculous. A four digit price tag certainly evokes the necessary sticker-shock clickbait. If you think about and make some guesses though, it’s almost a non-story. A top-spec iPhone 7 Plus 256 GB model costs almost that much ($969) new from the Apple Store today.

With the forerunning rumors indicating Apple will be releasing both the radically-new OLED ‘iPhone 8’ and two cheaper iterative ‘iPhone 7s’ models (colloquially named), it is pretty logical for the amazing all-glass bezel-less monolith to be premium priced.

Assuming the OLED iPhone is bundled with 256 GB storage, a $1000 price point is only slightly higher than how the status quo stands right now. Apple can afford to start the base price of its fancy new model so high because it will also offer the iPhone 7s model at the usual storage tiers and price points.

This strategy will no doubt push iPhone average selling price upwards with a good mix of buyers opting for the shiny new stuff (myself included), which is clearly a goal for the company as unit sales growth lessens. With all that in mind, a rumor saying the next flagship iPhone will be circa $1000 isn’t all that crazy. Who knows if Fast Company’s source is reliable.

Apple Designing Low-Power ARM Chip For Future Mac Laptops

2 February 2017

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is designing a new chip for future Mac laptops that would take on more of the functionality currently handled by Intel Corp. processors, according to people familiar with the matter.

The chip, which went into development last year, is similar to one already used in the latest MacBook Pro to power the keyboard’s Touch Bar feature, the people said. The updated part, internally codenamed T310, would handle some of the computer’s low-power mode functionality, they said. The people asked not to be identified talking about private product development. It’s built using ARM Holdings Plc. technology and will work alongside an Intel processor.

What’s funny about this is that Apple is adding a new ARM chip, in addition to an Intel CPU, for better power efficiency. In general, the path to improving battery life in devices is about miniaturisation and simplification; less chips, smaller chips, new processes and architectures for existing chips. Squeeze more transistors into the same space and use the leftover area to pack in battery cells.

With laptops, the tolerances aren’t as punishing. There aren’t the same constraints as an iPhone. Adding a dedicated ARM chip for specific tasks will wring out some extra battery life. Nevertheless, it goes against the grain and doesn’t make sense long-term.

If the main processor was a custom ARM chip too, you could incorporate the low-power magic into it and not need an additional part. Less chips, even better battery life. This is already happening in the iPhone (the A10 Fusion) and has to be the roadmap for the Mac. The technical roadblocks to ditch Intel and x86 will take time, and some points cannot be overcome in advance, but that has to be the target. The goal.

For the sake of completeness, an alternative route would see Apple getting control over x86 chip design and itself creating power efficient silicon that includes all the necessary Power Nap, Touch ID and Touch Bar features. I think this is far less likely because Apple will want to build on its knowledge of producing ARM chips for iPhone and iPad, not start a whole new team for a unique architecture.

Apple Reports Record Revenue In Latest Earnings

1 February 2017

Apple:

“We’re thrilled to report that our holiday quarter results generated Apple’s highest quarterly revenue ever, and broke multiple records along the way. We sold more iPhones than ever before and set all-time revenue records for iPhone, Services, Mac and Apple Watch,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Revenue from Services grew strongly over last year, led by record customer activity on the App Store, and we are very excited about the products in our pipeline.”

iPhone, Services, Mac and Watch set revenue records. What flagship Apple product line continues to flounder? iPad. Specifically, Apple announced sales of 13 million iPads for Q4 2016, down from 16 million in the same period a year ago. It’s the only black mark on the books again.

Tim Cook said on the earnings call that they are in the early innings of smartphones and there is much work to do. If that’s the case, Apple has a ton of work to do for the tablet space. The rumoured trifecta of new iPad hardware is a good baseline to incentivise some sales but the software is the limiting factor. iPad components are beefy whereas the OS and app ecosystem is immature and neglected.

There are so many places iOS needs to improve to be a productivity machine. Everyone seems to be obsessed with the idea that iOS needs an overlapping windowing model like the Mac, and that split view doesn’t suffice. That might be the case, I don’t think it is a certainty. That discussion is almost a distraction though — there is so much other stuff that could be made better about the iPad software stack.

So many basic computing tasks are convoluted and messy on the iPad we know today. Tasks like tweeting an image embedded into a webpage in Safari, playing background music without getting interrupted, collating a handful of attachments from different recipients and sending them off in a new mail message, and so many other things that people want to do every day. Heck, it’s still not possible to look at two emails side-by-side.

I love my iPad Pro as an entertainment device but I hit walls constantly when I want to use it for more than that. I want Apple to push it so much further and I believe there is plenty of runway before we have to discuss if, and to what degree, iOS should envelop desktop metaphors.

Apple Will Soon Let Developers Reply To App Reviews On The App Store

24 January 2017

Apple:

When iOS 10.3 ships to customers, you will be able to respond to customer reviews on the App Store in a way that is available for all customers to see. (This feature will also be available on the Mac App Store.)

Adding the ability for developers to reply to reviews is handy, and widely requested by the community at large for years, but there are downsides. There is a high probability that the reviews section in the App Store becomes the de-facto customer support channel because that’s what users will see first. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Traditional application support software is feature-rich and sophisticated refined over many iterations and versions — standalone companies exist to fulfil this need. Technically, I find it hard to believe that Apple’s infrastructure for composing replies and triaging incoming comments will be up to scratch. iTunes Connect is not known for its ease of use or flexibility. Big companies are not going to like it because it inevitably won’t scale well to managing hundreds of reviews every single day and small indie devs are burdened with another job to do that they might not be able to justify.

I would also guess that the system is going to be pretty limited, like not supporting image attachments (for screenshots) or clickable outbound links. I’m also interested to see whether Apple will allow developers to ask the customer for contact information — like an email address — so they can continue their assistance outside of the iTunes sandbox.

There is also the other can of worms regarding the usual flaws of online communication. The reviews for apps are bad enough as it is and the ability to reply may exacerbate the problem rather than make it better. A badly worded response from a developer can easily incite an angry customer, even if the intention was to be helpful.

Customer support threads could also just clutter up the comments, depending on how they are presented in the interface, which results in a detrimental experience for customers who are simply trying to determine if an app is good or not.

The developer reply feature is not active in the current iOS 10.3 beta so it’s hard to say if this is a legitimate concern. I am secretly hoping Apple takes this opportunity to revamp the design of the reviews section in general.

Whilst Apple should offer the ability for developers to respond to reviews, it shouldn’t become a mandatory thing. I believe Apple should let developers choose whether they want to enable replies for their app; this preference would then be shown to customers when they go to leave a review so they can know whether to expect a reply or not. If developers choose to opt out, the App Store is no worse off than how it has been for the last decade.

New AirPods Ad

17 January 2017

This advert strikes a nice balance between being obvious and abstract. There’s a subtlety to the commercial that I like; it conveys the idea of wireless AirPods giving freedom without saying it. The dancer strafes up the side of buildings in a way that is somewhat realistic, it has an ethereal quality about it which makes the viewer question what parts are camera tricks and what bits are just good dancing.

I also think the choice to make the ad monochrome is interesting given the products on display are also white. Rather than filtering the video to single them out (like a Pleasantville effect), the AirPods blend in with the scenery. The beat at the end where the person takes the earbuds out to hear the sounds of the ‘real world’ is a great touch, too.

Apple Announces 'Record-Shattering' Numbers For App Store Sales Across 2016

5 January 2017

Apple:

Apple today announced that the App Store welcomed 2017 with its busiest single day ever on New Year’s Day, capping a record-breaking holiday season and a year of unprecedented developer earnings and breakout app hits. In 2016 alone, developers earned over $20 billion, up over 40 percent from 2015. Since the App Store launched in 2008, developers have earned over $60 billion, creating amazing app experiences for App Store customers across iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV and Mac. Those efforts helped kick off 2017 with a remarkable start, making New Year’s Day the highest single day ever for the App Store with nearly $240 million in purchases.

I wonder what the growth numbers would look like if games revenue was excluded. How much of that 40% growth is accountable to crappy freemium pay-to-win mobile games? I don’t think the App Store outlook is bleak but its health is not solely defined by how much its revenue increases year-over-year. A platform that can cultivate hundreds of addictive gambling ‘games’ — and nothing else — is not what I would consider a success.

Apple doesn’t release breakdowns of the headline statistics so it’s impossible to know if that is the truth, of course, but it is certainly true that the top grossing apps on the store are all freemium games with purchasable digital currencies. In the same press release, though, Apple lists quality non-freemium apps such as Prisma, Lumino City, Procreate and djay as being among the ‘most successful’. The definition of success (profit, revenue, or download count?) is unclear but it is encouraging to see those apps featured as examples of developers that are thriving.

Apple AirPods

23 December 2016

I love AirPods, no question. More than any individual feature or fancy tidbit, AirPods are remarkable in their straightforwardness. They almost lack technology. Take the earbuds out of the case and stare at them. Look for something that spoils the magic, something that reveals the way they work. No switches, buttons or plastic antenna windows — there is nothing to see. It’s just a bare headphone earbud which does not have a wire trailing from the bottom.

Pick them up. The AirPods are as light as normal earbuds and as small as normal earbuds. Standalone, no one would know they have digital chips, radios and components inside. The stalk is longer and the body is imperceptibly wider than an EarPod, that’s it. Imagine what a wireless EarPod would look like and the AirPods are pretty much exactly what you think of.

The charging case has more concessions to the technical implementation like the presence of a button on the back, the orange metal contacts in the cavity, the integrated Lightning port, and the most obvious giveaway being the status LED. Nevertheless, if you were tasked with making a plastic carry case for two earbuds, this is pretty damn close to that hypothetical design.

It really impressed me that whilst the case includes circuitry and a battery, it weighs inline with what I would expect a block of plastic that size to be without all the technology. It doesn’t feel like there is other stuff inside.

It is a feat how normal and plain and naturally-occurring the AirPods are as an object; I am mesmerised by how they act so smart but look so dumb. I mean that in a good way. The software experience of using them is pretty great too. I’m very happy.

AirPods Finally Available To Order

13 December 2016

9to5Mac:

AirPods are now available to buy from Apple’s Online Store, with delivery before Christmas. After many delays, Apple’s truly-wireless headphones are finally on sale which are the company’s preferred solution to the wireless audio future heralded by the iPhone 7.

AirPods will be available at Apple retail stores next week. Online, delivery estimates indicate customers will receive their units as soon as December 21 in the US, with some international customers getting even earlier estimates, as soon as Monday 19.

It’s great that the AirPods are finally available to buy, but this has been a farce; announced in September for October availability, delayed indefinitely at last minute, a long period of silence, release in small quantities in late December. For people that ordered within minutes of them being available, the AirPods will ship in time for Christmas. At the time of writing this, they are backordered into next year.

Even if they had launched on their original announced date, I still think Apple messed up. Zooming out, it’s pretty clear that the AirPods were meant to be released alongside the no-headphone-jack iPhone 7. Not having them available day-in-date blighted Apple’s messaging about wired headphones being archaic.

I think the launch of the iPhone 7 is also why Apple announced an ‘October’ window for AirPods when it evidently wasn’t a sure thing. The marketing for the flagship product pressured them into saying that the future was close. The indefinite delay is what got the attention but it really just compounded the original misstep.

I’ve got an order processing for delivery on Monday, the 19th. I’m really excited about getting them. AirPods are quintessentially Apple; futuristic, intelligent and elegant. They are earbuds pushed to their bare essentials, as far as technology allows.

macOS 10.12.2 Removes Battery Life Time Remaining Estimates

13 December 2016

Apple:

Apple didn’t have a ton of public information about how the battery life estimations were calculated, but we’ve talked to those in the know to get the scoop on why they’ve decided to remove it entirely following the MacBook Pro battery life concerns.

Our understanding is the reason is due to how the latest low-power processors work in addition to relatively newly introduced iCloud syncing features in macOS Sierra. The inaccurate ‘time remaining’ predictions were unable to keep up with or provide accurate information for users on the newest machines.

My personal experience is that this estimate was always widely inaccurate on every MacBook I’ve owned. It would change erratically and jump from seven hours to three hours on a whim, based on whatever intensive task was just opened. Its removal doesn’t come as a hindrance, therefore, because I was never really basing my computer usage around what that readout said. Some Windows manufacturers have already removed battery time estimates from their PC laptops.

The new update makes the Mac mirror how iOS has always worked, you can only see a percentage of battery capacity remaining represented numerically or graphically in the menubar icon. You quickly learn what a percentage of battery is roughly equivalent too. If you see the percentage drop rapidly, you will intuit that you are doing battery-intensive tasks and can adjust accordingly. When it falls below about 30%, in your head you can make a decision about whether to keep using it, do light work, or hunt for a power adapter. In short, just one number is enough information to be useful.

Now, there is an open question as to whether Apple could have engineered a more accurate time remaining algorithm, instead of merely canning the whole feature. Apple seems to think that isn’t possible — due to new CPU architectures, iCloud background processes — but I’m sure they could have developed a superior calculation than the very naive estimate they had before if they set their minds to it. There’s an elegance to matching iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch though.

This is also ancillary to the underlying point about 2016 MacBook Pro battery life being subpar. My interpretation of everyone’s anecdotal accounts are that it is lower than the 2015 model — any regression is disappointing. Personally, I’ve observed 7-8 hours of casual use on one charge. I would have happily traded some slimness of the chassis for a bigger battery that would have yielded another hour or two of longevity.

Topical Twitter

30 November 2016

I love Twitter, I check it constantly and tweet multiple times a day, but recent events have highlighted a deficiency in its simplicity. Having only one timeline is frustrating when the hive mind isn’t talking about things that I am interested in.

This limitation has come to the fore in recent months with the calvacade of political events that have happened this year. My personal enjoyment of Twitter has been hampered because my feed is just flooded every single day with news about Brexit, Farage, Hillary, Trump and countless other political topics.

Politics is important and these radical happenings (with world-changing consequences) are worth discussing, but I don’t personally go to Twitter for this stuff. I have carefully tuned my following list to focus on technology news and design. These past months, I’ve seen my timeline dominated by anything but technology, predominantly reactions to whatever stupid thing Donald Trump said.

It sucks. It’s grating. I didn’t sign up for that. Twitter is my escape from the real world where I can talk about USB ports, CPU speed and how the watchOS 3 Siri visualisation doesn’t animate in response to voice input. I feel like I’ve done what I can to curate my feed to my interests, I follow zero government commentators or political party representatives, yet the hive mind can still takeover on a whim and drown my timeline with news.

I think this is a fundamental constraint with the single timeline approach. Muting isn’t a solution; filters are laborious to maintain and don’t catch everything. The issue is not solely related to my reading list either. It’s also about the people that read my contributions: I think my technology tweets in the past couple of months have seen significantly less engagement because everybody is being overwhelmed by the political world headlines.

A sub-community to discuss technology, for example, just isn’t a concept in today’s Twitter. Stating this now it’s obvious but its never hit home in my head until now. I don’t think there’s been such an all-encompassing topic that has lasted this long before. I’ve always applauded Twitter for its simplicity and never before appreciated how alienating it can be.

As a result of my Twitter timeline being effectively hijacked, I’ve been spending more of my time on Reddit. Reddit has a main page comprising the most popular stuff but it also has categorisation called subreddits. If you visit r/apple, you are in a section of the site where you will only see stories about Apple, only see comments about Apple and only be talking to other people with a mindset to talk about Apple.

As Twitter searches for ways to make its product more approachable, I wonder if adopting some kind of topic-based timeline system has wider appeal. Twitter groups would bring users into a dedicated place to talk about a particular thing, isolated from the scrabble of the unfiltered main timeline. A peaceful island that acknowledges the wider world but is focused on a single collective subject. These topics would be curated by real people and ultimately managed by Twitter. (All tweets would continue to appear in the main timeline stream, in accordance with the existing visibility rules which control when replies and mentions show up.)

Apple Reportedly Closes AirPort Router Division

21 November 2016

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. has disbanded its division that develops wireless routers, another move to try to sharpen the company’s focus on consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue, according to people familiar with the matter.

There’s a difference between cutting products because they don’t make enough money and cutting products because they don’t align with the product strategy. Some products justify their existence in ways that aren’t about profitability or sales metrics. I think Apple TV is a good example; it makes very little money but gives Apple a crucial presence in the living room which enhances the usability of its other products. The iPhone is better because I can quickly AirPlay my photos to the television and that is only possible because of the set-top box.

Discontinuing products that don’t generate significant revenues is a slippery slope. If you extended the naive strategy to its extreme, Apple would drop every product that isn’t an iPhone because nothing comes close in revenue terms’ an outcome that is obviously unhealthy. It has to be more nuanced than that.

The relevance of a WiFi router is hard to judge. It is a pervasive part of iOS devices and Macs so a router is an essential component of the experience. However, Apple has failed to demonstrate that it can contribute features and functionality to a WiFi router that a third-party cannot.

I hope that Apple evaluated the AirPort roadmap, decided there was little scope for improvement over the status quo, and then shuttered the division. Whether I believe that Apple could add value to the router space is irrelevant; I have to trust Apple is in the omniscient position here about its own lineup.

On the other hand, if AirPort development was cancelled simply because it ‘only’ made a few million dollars, I would be deeply disappointed. Accessories support the core products — it is unreasonable to expect them to make money. Apple has the privilege to make choices that aren’t constrained by financials. Abandoning products that don’t make money is what companies on the brink of bankruptcy do.

Apple Releases Photo Book Celebrating Apple Product Design

16 November 2016

Apple:

“Designed by Apple In California” chronicles 20 years of Apple design through 450 photographs of our products and the processes used to make them. A visual history spanning iMac to Apple Pencil, complete with descriptions of innovative materials and techniques, it captures every detail with honesty and intention. Printed on specially milled German paper with gilded matt silver edges, using eight colour separations and low-ghost inks, this hardback volume took more than eight years to create and has been crafted with as much care and attention as the products featured within. It is both a testament and a tribute to the meticulous design, engineering and manufacturing methods that are singularly Apple.

Conceptually, I don’t object to the idea of Apple making a portfolio book of its best work. Using custom inks, meticulously chosen materials, and printing processes, Ive and the Apple design team are showing off twenty years of beautiful, marvellous, world-changing products in a bespoke photo book.

The products are photographed in stages, showing how things are made as well as the final results. Apple says it took them eight years to make this; Ive says that they had to reshoot some of the earlier products as camera technology improved so much in the interim the older photos looked antiquated.

I was disappointed that the book is just a collection of photos; accompanying text describing some salient design points for each of the products featured would have been nice to include. Anecdotal additions like that would have made the book more timeless, like an official record of significant Apple history.

I can understand, though, why it only focuses on imagery. One big photo per page is striking and impressive, achieved by disregarding ancillary clutter like words and names. It’s an aesthetic expression of ultimate focus and priority, which is what Ive would probably describe as Apple’s core design values.

I’d love to own this book but I can’t stomach the price. The high price was criticised a lot on Twitter for being insane but the $199 version really isn’t outrageous for what it is. Hardbound photography books are not cheap and this is not a mass-market item; part of the appeal is its exclusivity.

The $299 ‘upsell’ offering is where I draw the line on what’s acceptable; the fact that exists is a bit ridiculous. I don’t see a justification for manufacturing this in two different sizes. Make it big or make it small, doing both weakens the integrity of the whole thing.

The Retina Divide

10 November 2016

Six Colors:

What’s struck me in all of this is the challenge Apple’s had in getting the base prices of Macs down as it converts the entire product line to Retina displays. Since the first Retina MacBook Pro arrived in 2012 for more than $2000, it’s been a question—how long would it take before Apple could clear away the non-Retina laptops and iMacs from its product line while keeping the lowest prices of its product lines intact?

The chart excludes the iPad completely which I think gives a more accurate view of the lineup. You can buy a 9.7-inch iPad Pro with a high-density wide colour Retina display for just $599 and the analogous 12.9-inch model starts at $799, albeit currently lacking the P3 spectrum. Considering those prices, the Air sticks out like a sore thumb.

Windows manufacturers don’t seem to have a problem selling laptops with ‘Retina’ resolution displays far below the Air’s $999 retail price. They may not be as good as the new MacBook Pro or iMac displays but they are leaps and beyonds ahead of what the Air has. I don’t expect the $999 Mac laptop to feature a wide colour gamut screen, but I do expect it to have a resolution higher than 1400×900.

To take advantage of scale efficiency, I think Apple could easily package the same screens used for the current 12.9-inch iPad Pro, in a MacBook Air chassis. Bump the CPU/GPU slightly and you have a new Retina display MacBook Air. Straightforward, but way better than the current offering which is embarrassingly under-specced.