Top 10 things Apple could announce at Macworld Expo

Top 10 things Apple could announce at Macworld Expo

Summary: It's that time of year again, time to dust off the crystal ball and prognosticate about what Apple has in store for us at the big January love-in at Moscone.


crystal_ball.jpgIt's that time of year again, time to dust off the crystal ball and prognosticate about what Apple has in store for us at the big January love-in at Moscone. Macworld Expo opens in San Francisco in less than two weeks and predicting Expo announcements has become nothing short of a sport. So before you lay your money down for that shiny new computer, here are Jason the Greek's Vegas odds on Steve Jobs announcements for The Big Dance.

10. Mac OS X 10.5. Leopard will be Apple's sixth major release of Mac OS X. CEO Steve Jobs stated during his WWDC keynote speech on June 6, 2005 that "We intend to release Leopard at the end of 2006 or early 2007." Since it's less than a year after Tiger's release on April 29, 2005 it's not likely we'll see it at Macworld Expo. Look for a Leopard preview at WWDC 2006 sometime in June. Odds: 100-1.

9. Intel PowerBook. The PowerBook everyone is waiting for will be powered by a dual-core Intel "Yonah" processor and will feature a built-in iSight camera. Apple has recruited a bunch of former Sony VAIO engineers for the project and the PowerBook successor is rumored to be 20-25 percent thinner. Hopefully it'll be the PowerBook nano I've been dreaming of. Unfortunately, it's not likely as the pro software (Final Cut, Creative Suite, etc.) isn't universal binary yet. Rosetta emulation isn't fun folks. Odds: 50-1.

8. iWork '06. Apple's productivity suite will get upgrades to Pages and Keynote with the possible addition of a modern Office-killing spreadsheet application (rumored to be called "Numbers" or "Sheets"). If it reads and writes Excel files the Apple spreadsheet will be the final nail is Microsoft Office's coffin. Microsoft will waste no time in announcing the end of support for Office for the Mac if this happens. It would be great if Apple also bundled FileMaker pro or a spinoff application called iBase (like they did with Logic > Garageband and Final Cut > iMovie).  Apple should also make Pages into more of a true word processor and move all the DTP features to a separate application called iLayout - just to keep Quark and AdobeMedia on their toes. Bonus points if Apple were to release pro versions of Mail and iCal. Odds: 25-1.

7. iLife '06. iLife '06 will see updates to its core apps (iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, GarageBand and iTunes) and the addition of PhotoBooth and Front Row that will work with all Macs. iBlog could be acquired from Lifli Software and upgraded to publish to all major blog platforms including Blogger, Movable Type and WordPress (in addition to iDisk.) Apple could replace TiVO and your cable company's DVR in one fell swoop with iDVR. Several new applications are being bandied about as potential additions to the suite, including: Animator, Site Builder and Podcaster. Odds: 10-1.

6. Bluetooth remote control. The new BT remote will work with Front Row 2.0 on all Macs. A Radio Frequency (RF) remote is also possible, but it will require a USB receiver for the Mac which is a buzz kill. Odds: 5-1 on RF, 3-1 on BT.
5. Price Increases for iTunes. The iTunes Music Store will succumb to pressure from the music labels and the decline in online music sales and move its pricing model to a sliding scale. Less popular songs will start as low as US$0.19 while new releases will jump to US$1.99. A compromise by the labels will leave album prices at US$9.99 with the possible addition of lyrics. Odds: 10-1.

4. AirPort Ultra. This is a new portable AirPort base station with video. Bundled with a new application called AirTV you'll be able to stream video to your TV - in High Definition. It'll be bigger than the Express to accommodate the built-in HDMI connector and will sell for US$199. The upgraded AirTunes 2.0 software will allow you to stream any audio to it (not just iTunes), allow streaming to multiple Ultras at once and simultaneous playthrough on the computer speakers. Bonus: If you have an iSight camera or microphone it doubles as an intercom system.  Odds: 10-1

3. 1GB iPod nano. The iPod shuffle has been sold out for weeks and Apple could release a larger 2GB version, but they're more likely to euthanize the shuffle (like they did with the iPod mini) in favor of a 1GB nano. For only US$159 (US$30 more than the 1GB shuffle) you get a color screen and a dock connector. Apple will also add video support to the nano line via a firmware upgrade to boost sales of TV shows and video content. Odds: 3-2.

2. Intel Mac mini. It's no secret that Apple's moving into the living room and the Mac mini is the perfect platform to do it with. Apple could replace TiVO and your cable company's DVR in one fell swoop with Apple-ized DVR software (see iLife '06). Apple will also add a built-in iPod dock, a dual-layer DVD drive and Front Row 2.0 (see iLife 06) to the Intel-based Mac mini, code-named Kaleidoscope. Odds: Even money.

1. Widescreen Intel iBook. The first portable Intel Macs will be iBooks based on Intel's new Yonah chipset featuring a new 65nm process that's 70 percent smaller than the Centrino processor. Dynamic Power Coordination will allow Yonah's two cores to be controlled independently making it sip batteries slowly. The new IBook (capital "I") will feature a dual-core Yonah processor in the 1.5 to 2.0GHz range with a 667MHz front side bus. The new IBooks will ship in a single 13.3-inch widescreen (possibly High-Def) configuration. Don't be surprised if this IBook is the first to ship without a FireWire port.

Chime in with your predictions on Apple's announcements for Macworld Expo 2006 in the TalkBack section below before Steve's keynote address on January 10 - for full bragging rights. I'll be back on January 9 with a series of Macworld-week installments.

Topic: Apple

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  • Forgot One: Wireless BT Headphones

    Oops, I forgot one: Bluetooth headphones.

    There's a lot of buzz about Apple releasing wireless BT headphones or even an iPod with Bluetooth. Personally I think that the sound quality would be poor and that it would diminish the iPod experience. I get static on my Treo 650's BT headset if I'm more than about four feet away from it.

    Anyone else have an opinion on Bluetooth headphones and iPods?

    - Jason
    Jason D. O'Grady
    • bt headphones

      i think they'd be pretty cool (if the sound quality worked). just the ear buds on, the ipod in a jacket pocket. if you are walking or working out, etc, you'd still have a reception w/out the cord dangling around as you run.

      maybe have it where you could tune in to others ipods? commuting to work on a train w/ 10 other ipods, just pick a station?...

      but the only draw back is, no one would know you had an ipod if they didn't see cords coming down from those two white HEARING AIDS in your ear...

      but still, that'd be cool to not have to mess around w/ the cables (if the quality didn't diminish)
      • Two downsides of Bluetooth

        The main downsides to BT headphones are:

        1) Sound quality. Most BT headsets are just passable and start to fade when you get more than 5 feet away. this is tolerable b/c you're on a cell phone. i don't think that people will have this level of patience with thier high fidelity music.

        2) Power-consumption. My mobile phone gets about half the battery life when BT is on and used frequently. Can you imagine the complaints about a BT iPod's battery?

        - Jason
        Jason D. O'Grady
    • BT Headphones

      Wireless headphones for my iPod are a high priority for me. I use the excellent Logitech BT Headphones for iPod. The sound great, and work up to and beyond the 30 ft specification. Highly recommended, but I expect they're working on an update that uses the dock connector since the current 4G headphone attachment is no longer standard.
  • iBook first?

    I am surprised that Apple would release the iBook as Intel before the PowerBook. But possibly they sell more quanity of iBooks? Or maybe the annoucement will be the iBook replacement and a hybrid of the two tiers of notebook computers? It should be interesting. Waiting until January to order my new machine.
    • Lower end machines first

      Apple has always maintained that the first machines that will have
      Intel chips will be the lower end, consumer models. I think they're
      waiting for better chips from Intel for the workhorse machines, and
      also for application writers to finish up their Intel versions of the
      higher end software.
      tic swayback
      • who says?

        It's news to me that Apple has "always maintained" that the low end
        will go Intel first. I am certainly aware of speculation on that point,
        but can you point to any official Apple statement to that effect?

        And no, Steve Jobs did not say anything of the sort at WWDC.
        • iBook first b/c of software

          The iBook will get Intel'd first simply because the pro software isn't Universal Binary yet. Can you imagine the Photoshop and Final Cut Pro people complaining about performance (on an Intel PowerBook) that is worse than their current PBG4?

          The IBook (capital "I") buys Apple some time to get the Universal Binary versions ready.

          C'mon Adobe! Develop!

          - Jason
          Jason D. O'Grady
          • it won't be the iBook...

            I must disagree with my freind and fellow jammer/gambler Mr.
            O'Grady. It will in fact be the smallest PowerBook that gets the
            first Intel mobile treatment...allow me to make a case.

            First, I point to the release of the nano. For the weeks leading up
            to the release event the rumor mill was full of information about
            the 'new' mini. The rumors said that Apple was going to convert
            the mini to a flash based player with a color screen in a smaller
            form factor. All accurate predictions, but mistakenly applied to
            the mini instead of pointed to a new product. Instead, we had
            the death of the mini altogether and the introduction of the

            Fast forward a few months to the rumors of the first Intel Mac.
            The rumor mill has again been buzzing with comments about
            the new 13.3" widescreen iBook. It all makes sense - the
            addition of a widescreen display, the new Intel achitecture -
            except this is an iBook. In addition to the rumors above, there is
            one rumor that has been neglected and not factored into these
            predictions. The rumor involves the discontinuation of the 12"
            PowerBook. Several sites, including AppleInsider and ThinkSecret
            have reported on this possibility. Still with me?

            I postulate that Apple will release a 13.3" widescreen PowerBook
            to replace the existing 12" model in the current line. In addition,
            they will announce the release schedule for the new 15" and 17"
            models (to appear some time in the next few months).

            Think about it...a 13.3" widescreen would be approximately the
            same size as the current 12" model with a more rectangular
            form factor. Cramming a Yonah chipset into the smallest
            enclosure would be the first step in revamping the whole line...a
            way to demostrate how well Apple can accommodate the new
            Intel technology. Add to this the fact that the PowerBook line
            hasn't changed significantly over the last 2+ years and this move
            becomes that much more obvious.

            As for application development, the smallest PowerBook is
            targeted at the mobile professional, not the graphic designers or
            other power users who need a robust system to run the Adobe/
            Macromedia suites.

            Given the facts, the rumors, and the recent release events, I'm
            amazed that more people haven't come to this conclusion. Is
            anyone with me?
          • I'm with you

            I am with you on your predictions - form factor, widescreen, Intel - but I don't think it will be a "PowerBook", or a "iBook" - its going to be new, complete with a new name, probably more in line with the pro-line pricing.

            And, I like your thoughts on what most concerns the mobile traveler and therefore what the first machine will be. Where I work, the lightest, hottest (not temp) form factor that can run the OS that you deem necessary, takes the cake.
          • i dont care if they call it iBook or Powerbook

            i just care if it has a decent video card, or if its intel integrated. Im assuming since the intel integrated video is decent for low end, thats all the ibooks will get, and the powerbooks will get real video cards. That will be the main difference between the two. I want an intel apple laptop, but i wont get one until i can have a decent video chip in it.
          • I'm drinking this cool aid

            Dude, I totally agree, and came to the same conclusion as you. You've pointed out all the reasons why I also believe that Apple will update the PowerBook range with Intel chips and release them first, and not the iBook range. I would also like to add the following points.

            It just does not make any sense for a large consumer electronics company to bring out a new class of electronic in the low-end range first. Think about the digital cameras market. When, say Nikon, wants to bring out some new breakthrough technology like a 50 Mega pixel camera, do they bring it out in the low-end (read: high volume, low margin) consumer range (like the iBook in Apple world), or do they bring it out in the high-end (read: low volume, high margin) professional range (like the PowerBook in Apple world)? They ALWAYS bring out the high-end model first. This has better margins which helps amortise investment, which frees up more money to develop the consumer models, which if based on a successful pro-sumer model, will blow the market away and make the company a zillion dollars.

            Lower volume/higher margin objects expose the company to lower overall risk. If the high-end (PowerBook) model tanks, they can discount it and people will still buy them and Apple aren't left with stale, unsellable inventory (they've made that mistake before, they wont do it again). If it's a winner, you just end up with longer delivery times, which everyone is used to with Apple products anyway. Use this success and release a cheaper, slower (single core maybe) iBook 3-4 months later to appease the masses.

            Consider also that it also makes no sense to bring out a dual core Mactel iBook thingy that would out-perform the existing PowerBooks. You would just kill your PowerBook market immediately. They're not going to cannibalize the existing PowerBook market by bringing out a better iBook. Apple take risks, but they aren't stupid.

            Also, it's not called the _Power_Book for nothing you know. How would Apple market the new laptops if they had dual core CPU's that were faster that the existing PowerBooks, but sold at lower price point?

            And finally, if this machine can either dual-boot to a Windows OS (which, let's face it is the dominant business OS), or, even better, switch on the fly (which some people are suggesting), then this machine makes the perfect cross purpose machine for business people/developers/engineers (to name a few professions who frequently have to have the latest and greatest laptops) who need an MS (or even Linux) OS at work, but want an Apple OS at home. Businesses will finally start opening up their wallets for Apple hardware! (Read: Increase Market Share!)
            This functionality is probably not that desirable for iBook type buying people, who are more concerned about the bottom line and don't buy laptops that often.

            Is anyone with with me one this?
        • Lots of sources reported it

          CNet had the story back in June, the week of the announcement:
          Apple plans to move lower-end computers such as the Mac Mini to Intel chips in mid-2006 and higher-end models such as the Power Mac in mid-2007, sources said.

          Many took the statement to mean it would begin moving over its consumer products and notebooks first, followed later by its Power Mac desktop line for professionals.

          The analyst also updated his predictions on the first Intel Macs, saying that the iBook, PowerBook, Xserve, and Mac mini will likely be the first models to move to Intel because they are "weaker members" of Apple's product line that "would benefit moving to Intel."
          tic swayback
          • still waiting

            Okay, according those first two links, "sources" and "many" say that
            the first Intel Macs will be the low end. I'm still waiting for evidence
            that Apple has "long maintained" this fact.

            The third link contradicts what you say by declaring PowerBooks
            and Xserves among the first Intel-based Macs.
          • Where do you think those "sources" come from?

            Okay, big whoop, perhaps there hasn't been "official" confirmation,
            but nearly every story about the Intel switch since it happened has
            mentioned this.

            Pedantry is never pretty.
            tic swayback
      • The Software

        I agree with your last sentence - it's to give the software vendors
        time to get their apps into universal binary mode. The
        professionals are not going to like using Rosetta and they most
        likely are not using iBooks and Mac minis anyway, so it's better to
        have the consumer using those on Intel first because the smaller
        consumer apps are going to run fine under Rosetta and smaller
        consumer apps will likely be ported over to universal binaries
        quicker than the big pro apps.
    • iBook faster than PowerBook?!

      I agree, it seems very strange to offer an iBook that is a dramatically better performer than the PowerBook. If they do this, they might as well stop producing PowerBooks for awhile.
      • I doubt it.

        If the speculation is correct, and they are coming out with a
        13.3" iBook, it's probably not going to be much faster (if at all)
        than your 15" PowerBook. Just because it's a 2.0+ GHz Intel chip
        doesn't mean it's gonna out perform a 15" 1.67 GHz PowerBook.

        Note that Apple didn't update the 12" PowerBook this last time
        around, so my guess would be that they come out with the 13.3"
        iBook (and no larger iBooks), stop selling the 12" PowerBook,
        and come out with faster PowerBooks down the line.

        Of course, all this goes right out the window should Apple redo
        their product matrix, rename all their products, etc. I remember
        when Apple came up with the original 2x2 matrix of iBook,
        PowerBook, iMac, PowerMac. Think if they did that all over again
        with completely redesigned and renamed products.
        Mmmmmm....nummy Apple hype. :D
        • Yonah is fast

          "Just because it's a 2.0+ GHz Intel chip
          doesn't mean it's gonna out perform a 15" 1.67 GHz PowerBook."

          Yes, actually it does. Even the slowest 1.6GHz single-core Yonah
          would probably outperform the fastest PowerBook today, and any
          of the other Yonahs wouldn't even be in the same ballpark.
  • Two comments

    1) if there are indeed Intel-based Minis and iBooks that come
    out, then doesn't that mean that you'd also need prediction
    number 10 to come true as well (a new version of OSX)? What
    OS are these Intel Macs going to run?

    2) Airport Ultra would be lovely, if only for fixing the major,
    major flaws that Apple has ignored for the last two years in their
    Airport Express product, which hasn't been updated a single
    time since its release. The issues are 1) inability to stream to
    more than one system at a time--let's say you have a stereo in
    the living room and one in the den, and you want to have the
    same music wirelessly playing in both rooms at the same time.
    That's not possible with Apple's gear. 2) constant dropouts. Go
    read the Apple discussion boards, users are highly annoyed by
    the near constant dropouts that happen when using Airport
    Express to stream music. Songs just stop randomly, and Apple
    has refused to address the problem.
    tic swayback