I have some questions about HomePod. 1. Do I have to own an iPhone to have the HomePod? 2. Will they release an SDK, or software development kit, for developers to build on? 3. Given that the HomePod is a home device, and people won’t be able do the “status bling bling thing,” will Apple be able to sustain a play in this category or are they going to have the HomePod just so that they will be able to say that they have one of those doodads?

Apple shared very few details about HomePod, its new smart speaker. But here’s what we know about how the device works:

1. Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, will primarily work with Apple Music.

2. The device will also play audio that is streamed over Wi-Fi from an iPhone using AirPlay, which means you can stream music from third-party apps like Spotify or Pandora to the speaker as long as you have an iPhone.

It’s highly unlikely that you will need an iPhone to use HomePod, but you will probably need at least an Apple Music account if you lack an iPhone.

Regarding an SDK, Apple did not announce one for HomePod this week. But it’s reasonable to expect one in the future.

As for whether HomePod will be successful, we will have to wait and see. The device’s $329 price tag is exceptionally higher than Amazon’s $180 Echo and Google’s $129 Home. But HomePod’s price is on par with the $299 Sonos Play:3. The Sonos products — multispeaker systems designed to be spread throughout various rooms in the house — are the most similar to HomePod, and the people who are willing to spend so much on Sonos products may be willing to splurge on HomePod.

iPhone and iPad

Are there any proposed upgrades to the iPad Mini, which is the entry-level and smallest iPad?

There were no updates for the iPad Mini at Monday’s event. In March, Apple refreshed its iPad Mini 4, which was released in 2015, with larger storage capacity (128 gigabytes). Apple has said its larger 9.7-inch iPad tablet has been its hottest seller, so you can expect Apple to minimize updates for the smaller model in the future.

Regarding the iPad Pro, why does Apple persist in not providing trackpad capability? This seems irrational to me.Without a trackpad/mouse capability, the device is not useful for those professionals who use spreadsheet software primarily. De facto, this then leaves out a very large portion of the professional user group – financial, engineering other related technical users.Touching that screen interminably in not going to cut it for these users. Your thoughts?

Adding a trackpad to the iPad would practically turn it into a PC. Apple continues to distinguish its Mac and iPad products with user interfaces that rely on different ways to control them. Its Macs are controlled with a mouse and physical keyboard, and its iPads are primarily controlled with a touchscreen. However, to your point, the iPad is increasingly resembling the Mac, especially now that a physical keyboard is practically a must-buy if you get an iPad Pro. In addition, there is now a virtual trackpad mode in iPad: touch two fingers down on the keyboard to bring up a digital trackpad on the screen.

What is the scoop on the iPhone 8? Are there any advancements and are they significant? The past few models appear to represent a plateau in the phone’s development. There have been some software upgrades but besides the camera nothing big. What do you think?

According to multiple sources, the next iPhone will reduce the borders, or bezel, surrounding the screen — so you will get a larger display in a compact body. This is the current design trend in the smartphone industry. The LG G6 and the Samsung Galaxy S8, which were released this year, also featured thinner bezels.

I have been debating whether or not an iPad Pro is a worthy investment ever since I acquired my MacBook Pro about a year ago. With iOS 11, would you argue that the iPad Pro can adequately perform as a ‘substitute’ laptop for those days when lugging a MacBook around isn’t as appealing? Could you briefly recap what iOS 11 means for the iPad Pro world in terms of its functionality as an everyday work device?

The iPad’s operating system is increasingly resembling that of a Mac. Most significantly, iOS 11 will include a file directory that lets you manage files similar to the Finder system on Mac. In addition, iOS 11 includes the ability to drag and drop items between multiple app screens, similar to the desktop interface of interacting with apps inside multiple windows. As for whether or not the iPad Pro replaces an everyday work computer, the jury is still out. We will have to wait and see when iOS 11 is officially released in fall, as well as what apps are available for iPad.

Other than software, personally what makes me gravitate toward a laptop for work is simply what the word implies: it can sit on top of my lap more comfortably. Apple offers a detachable keyboard for iPad Pro, but a laptop’s attached keyboard is always going to feel more solid and stable.

Will there come a time when iPad Pro can run Photoshop?

The iPad Pro already runs Photoshop apps — just not the exact same software as what you are used to on a desktop. Adobe tailored its software to be more suitable for mobile devices. Examples include iPad apps like Photoshop Express, Adobe Lightroom and PhotoShop Sketch.


Is there any hope that Apple will move to support its professional users, perhaps by totally rethinking the design and upgradability of the Mac towers?

Many of the announcements at the Apple conference were aimed at professional customers. Apple debuted a new iMac Pro, for one, which starts at $4,999 and can support up to an 18-core processor. Apple also once again upgraded its iPad Pro, its tablet for professionals. As for the Mac Pro tower, which is currently shaped like a cylinder, Apple has not updated that computer for nearly four years. In recent interviews with the news media, the company said the computer was a failure and that it was working on “something great to replace it.”

Hi, Brian. I was looking at the MacBook Pro and when I saw the charger, only one question came to mind: What would Steve Jobs say, especially considering the commercials (Hi, I’m a Mac / I’m a PC) featured a PC in a wheelchair after being injured when someone tripped on the cord and pulled him off the desk?

You are referring to Apple’s shift to USB-C, the modern standard for USB, and away from its proprietary magnetic charging port called MagSafe. Among many complaints, this was one of the most controversial changes about the new MacBook Pros.

Based on conversations with employees, my understanding is that Apple made this decision for a number of reasons:

1. The MacBook Pro batteries last so long now, so how often are you sitting around with the cord plugged into the computer anyway?

2. The laptops keep getting lighter and lighter, and at some point tripping over the cord might still pull the computer off the desk even if it’s connected with a magnet;

3. The accessories industry is slowly transitioning into using USB-C for video, audio and power, so might as well go all in on this port now.

(Personally, I will miss MagSafe as well and I still prefer the MacBook Air in part because of that charging port.)

It’s easy to forget about the Mac Mini — the tiny box-shaped desktop computer — which has not been upgraded since 2014. There were no updates for the mini computer announced at Monday’s event, but in recent press interviews, Apple said the Mac Mini remains part of its portfolio, and it did not announce any plans to discontinue the device. In other words, there might be improvements made to the computer eventually, but it’s tough to say when.

Can I get some iMac advice? I’m trying to gauge when to replace my current iMac, but unsure whom to trust.

The new standard iMacs ship this week and the next Mac operating system comes out this fall. It would be perfectly fine for you to get the new iMac now and download the next Mac system, a free update called High Sierra, when it arrives this fall.

However, be wary that brand-new operating systems often have bugs, so I would advise you to wait a few months after High Sierra’s release to make sure the coast is clear. And as always, make sure to back up your data before you upgrade to the next operating system.

If you are considering an Apple laptop, now is the time to get one. Apple refreshed each of its laptops: The MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro all got updates this week with improvements like speed increases. We probably will not see another update to the MacBook line for at least another year.