Although it hasn't received an official launch, El Capitan has been available since early last month in the form of a developer preview. Code contained within this preview references both a Mac with a 4K display, and support for a new Bluetooth remote control.
While the existence of these products remains unconfirmed, these references strongly suggest that Apple will be releasing a new Retina Mac and a redesigned Apple TV sometime in the near future.
A Mac with a true 4K display
El Capitan mentions Retina displays with several different screen resolutions, including 2304x1440 (found on the 12-inch MacBook), 2560x1600 (13-inch MacBook Pro), 2880x1800 (15-inch MacBook Pro), and 5120x2880 (the 27-inch iMac). Curiously, it also references a Retina display with a resolution of 4096x2304 -- a resolution that Apple doesn't offer on any of its Macs.
Of the different Mac models Apple currently sells, only two have yet to receive a Retina version: the MacBook Air and the 21.5-inch iMac. It's possible that the 4096x2304 resolution could make it to a different model, but it seems like a natural fit for the smaller iMac. The screen is noticeably smaller than the 27-inch iMac, but far larger than the largest MacBook Pro -- so a resolution that lies in between could offer the true Retina experience.
Interestingly, the 4096x2304 resolution is considered to be "true" 4K, the same resolution theaters show movies in. But consumer-grade 4K -- the type of 4K that's found on ultra-high definition televisions -- is a slightly smaller 3840x2160.
Even if the specs change, releasing a 21.5-inch iMac with a Retina display appears to be a fairly logical move, consistent with Apple's regular product refreshes. In that sense, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to investors.
The Mac is now a $25 billion business for Apple. Its growth has been modest, but fairly reliable, and it has outperformed the broader PC industry for most of the last decade. A new iMac with a better screen won't change much, but it should help Apple keep pace with its PC competitors, many of which are beginning to offer 4K displays with their desktop offerings.
Time for a new Apple remote?
More interesting may be the references in El Capitan to a new Bluetooth remote control. Apple's current remote control -- the Apple Remote -- is capable of controlling Apple's Macs. Should Apple release a successor, it only makes sense that it would update OS X to support it.
But the Apple Remote is known more for its ability to control the Apple TV, and the references in El Capitan line up with previous reports on a forthcoming Apple TV refresh. In May, The New York Times alleged that Apple was working on a new version of the Apple TV, one that would ship with an updated remote control. Both The Times' report and 9to5Mac's findings suggest that the remote will come equipped with a trackpad, a noticeable departure from Apple's prior design.
An updated remote may seem relatively minor, but Apple's penchant for designing excellent user interfaces has long set its products apart. A trackpad-equipped remote could mark a dramatic departure from the standard, relatively simplistic Apple TV UI, and form the basis of Apple's living room expansion.
The Apple TV doesn't have much of an impact on Apple's business today, but it could eventually become a more significant product. To date, Apple has sold more than 25 million set-top boxes, but it hasn't opened its hardware up to third-party developers, and the current Apple TV model is more than three years old. The code within El Capitan doesn't prove a new model is coming, but it lends further credence to the notion that an update is on its way.
Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.