Here’s why 2024 is going to be a slow year for the Mac

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We’ve finally made it into 2024, and if you’re of the Apple persuasion, it feels like there’s a huge amount to look forward to this year. Yet that’s not true for everything Apple makes — in fact, this could be an incredibly quiet 12 months for the Mac.

I recently wrote about how 2024 is going to be packed with major releases from Apple, yet among all the goodies that will be coming our way this year, there’s only one Mac announcement that I’d consider notable for fans of Apple’s computers. And even then, I’m talking about the MacBook Air getting the M3 chip, something the MacBook Pro got back in 2023.

So what gives? Why is 2024 likely to be such a dull year for Mac users? And is there really nothing on the horizon to look forward to in the world of Apple computing?

The Vision Pro effect

Apple CEO Tim Cook standing in front of four Vision Pro headsets.

Essentially, this all boils down to one immense new product: the Vision Pro. Apple’s high-powered (and high-priced) headset is undoubtedly the company’s main focus, and it’s been siphoning resources away from everything else, the Mac included. You have to look at the lackluster software releases that were iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma to see that.

With the Vision Pro’s release date just around the corner — late January or early February are the current leading bets — Apple has been pouring its resources into the headset in a major way. Reports have indicated that the company has moved engineers away from a whole range of other products and onto the Vision Pro over the past year or so, and without people to work on new features, everything else inevitably suffers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really looking forward to checking out the Vision Pro, but I’ll probably be watching from the sidelines rather than snapping up a $3,500 headset myself. I’d much rather get some solid upgrades to products I use every day, and I don’t think I’m alone there. I understand why Apple is going hell-for-leather on the Vision Pro — it’s going to be the biggest new Apple device in years — but that single-minded concentration is having a knock-on effect on things I care about a whole lot more.

Missing in action

An open MacBook Pro on a table.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

Rumors have suggested Apple has a lot up its sleeve when it comes to the Mac — it’s just that most of it isn’t coming this year.

Look at the M4 chip, for example. This could bring massive changes to the Mac lineup, but it’s almost guaranteed to arrive in 2025 rather than 2024. Apple hasn’t even finished deploying its M3 series of chips — the MacBook Air is still on the M2, while the M3 Ultra is nowhere to be seen — never mind the M4. And speaking of the M3 Ultra, I wouldn’t be surprised if this also slips to next year, given how long it took for the M2 Ultra to launch after the M2.

While Apple released a new iMac in 2023, the long-rumored iMac Pro is probably destined for 2025 at the earliest. Mark Gurman – one of the most reliable Apple leakers around – doesn’t expect to see it this year.

Even the smaller things seem to be heading for a delay. Multiple reports have suggested Apple will switch out the mini-LED displays in the MacBook Pro and replace them with OLED panels, but that still seems to be some way off. For example, display industry expert Ross Young believes we could wait until 2026 or 2027 for the tech.

All that to say, most of the major updates we’ve been anticipating for months are likely to drag out beyond 2024. That’s disappointing, but with the Vision Pro looming on the horizon, I can’t say I’m surprised.

Glimmers of hope

Craig Federighi introducing macOS Sonoma at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2023.

We know it won’t be an entirely empty 12 months for the Mac because every year Apple releases a new version of macOS. I have no idea what’s planned for 2024’s edition, but hopefully, there will be something to write home about when Apple debuts it in June. That itself is something to look forward to.

Going back to Mac hardware, there are a couple of new devices that might see the light of day soon. Apple first launched the Mac Studio in March 2022, then followed it up in June 2023 with an M2 Ultra version. That roughly 15-month cadence means we could see another version with the M3 Ultra towards the end of 2024.

Apple might also find a way to surprise us this year. For example, the Mac mini had to wait three years between its M1 and M2 versions, with the latest edition coming in June 2023. But who’s to say Apple won’t mix things up and shorten the time between releases with a new version this year?

I don’t believe there will be absolutely nothing worth shouting about this year when it comes to the Mac. If nothing else, we’ll get a new version of macOS and probably a MacBook Air upgrade, and for some people, that will be enough. But I can’t shake the uneasy feeling that this is going to be a pretty quiet 12 months — and maybe my wallet will thank me for that.

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