WWDC was great, except for the great stuff we didn’t get
June 16, 2022 June 16, 2022
WWDC 2022 last week was a lot of fun, with numerous software announcements and, to be frank, more Mac news that we had dared to expect. But we’re hard to please here at Macworld, and can’t help but think about all the things that weren’t revealed.
Let’s start with the device that many pundits expected to be the tentpole announcement the entire event would be based around: Apple’s long and eagerly awaited AR (or mixed AR/VR) headset. The hardware itself is still a long way off, by most accounts–it probably won’t arrive until 2023–but it seemed reasonable to expect some sort of preview of the interface and AR environments that Apple is working on. No such luck.
The headset is one of Apple’s wild cards, rumored products that would cause genuine excitement at any event. Another on that list would be the Apple Car, but this too was conspicuous by its absence. Apple’s obvious development work in this area was confined to some cool CarPlay updates that also won’t be here until next year and may take even longer to get right. To be clear, absolutely nobody expected the Apple Car to appear on stage honking its horn midway through the keynote, but its continued absence is symptomatic of a wider lack of excitement.
In the place of innovation we got iteration—satisfying and substantive iteration, but iteration nonetheless. It was a pleasing surprise, for example, that the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro both got the M2 chip, which wasn’t expected until later this year, but these are still just new versions of existing product lines. Only Apple can generate such hype from a product refresh.
The Air, admittedly, got a smart new look along with its new chip, but we’d love to have seen those new vibrant colors that leakers predicted before the event. And the Pro wasn’t even redesigned. It was literally just a spec bump.
While we’re on the subject of iterative refreshes, how much longer will we have to wait until the launch of the second-gen AirPods Pro? Among other things, these are expected to bring support for Apple’s Lossless (ALAC) format, and on that basis alone would have been a decent fit for an event focusing on software and services. There also weren’t any new iPads–which maybe was a long shot, but the iPad Pro was unveiled at WWDC 2017–and the wait goes on for the next version of the Mac mini, which hasn’t been updated since 2020.
Perhaps the most disappointing miss, however, was any word at all about the next version of the Mac Pro. WWDC is the Mac Pro’s traditional stomping ground, with both the 2013 and 2019 models launched there, and the new model was widely expected to make some sort of appearance this year, even if only as a glimpse of work in progress. What a grand flourish that could have made.
I’m having an enjoyable moan here, but of course I recognize that WWDC is primarily a software event. There are five operating systems to talk about, and once you chuck in those MacBook updates as well there was never going to be room for much else.
WWDC 2022, indeed, was packed with new features, with iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura all creating buzz with important and intriguing new features. Expecting Apple to find time amid all that to talk about new iPads or AirPods was always unrealistic. Even if there was time, it would have reduced the impact of each announcement if it was crammed in with dozens of others.
What I’m conscious of, though, is that Apple events don’t come along very often. Sometimes you get only three in a given year: a spring event in March or April, WWDC in June, and the iPhone launch in the fall. Other years we get four, with a Mac event in October, and some years, there are even more than that. But this year there won’t be another event for two months. This is all we’re getting for a while.
Apple could spread things out, particularly since it doesn’t currently have to fly and feed large groups of developers and reporters whenever it holds an event. There could be a virtual event per month without creating any great logistical headaches that I can see. But this isn’t the Apple way. And as long as that’s true, annoying journalists like me are going to carry on complaining about all the things that aren’t announced on the rare occasions when the company speaks to us.