Speculation rife as Macworld looms

Speculation rife as Macworld looms

Summary: Prior to the start of next week's Macworld event, rumours have been circulating around sub-notebooks and virtualisation

TOPICS: Hardware

The usual rousing Steve Jobs keynote, and announcements around virtualisation and — surprisingly — Microsoft applications look like being the highlights of next week's Apple fest, the annual Macworld event in San Francisco, which starts on Monday.

If Steve Jobs is to launch anything major in his keynote it may be an ultramobile device somewhere between the MacBook and the iPhone — the obvious name being an iPad. But no-one expects anything that will match last year's announcement of the iPhone, which, along with the arrival of the Leopard OS, set the company off on a successful year that ended with increased market share and a beachhead in the world of smartphones.

Statistics gathered by web-analysis company Net Applications suggest that the number of Macs accessing websites grew from 6.8 percent in November to 7.31 percent in December, a steady growth no doubt helped by the poor performance of Microsoft's Vista.

Apple has been hostile to virtualisation, despite recently allowing multiple instances of Leopard OS to be run on a single Apple machine and despite its importance across the industry. But, ironically, the Mac does serve a role in improving Apple's share of the virtualisation market: the popular Parallels system allows users to run Windows software on a Mac.

We expect Parallels, previously known as SWsoft, to announce expansion plans at Macworld, and its competitors VMware and Moka5 will also be there. It is just possible that Apple itself may open up to the idea of running its operating system on different hardware.

Microsoft will launch Office 2008 for the Mac, allowing Mac users of the suite to catch up with features in Office 2007 and improving compatibility between the two Microsoft products. However, the offering faces competition from Apple's own iWork office suite and open-source equivalents such as NeoOffice.

The main rumours circulating around Jobs's keynote suggest he may announce either a "MacBook Mini" with solid-state storage, an online movie rental business, or that Apple may adopt Sony's Blu-ray disc format.

The one thing we'd bet on for Jobs's keynote would be a fond farewell to the speeches made over the years by Microsoft's Bill Gates. Gates's final keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week marked the end of a tradition which has seen the last several years begin with manifestos from the PC industry's two leading figures.

Macworld itself is expected to grow, with the organisers predicting an increase from last year's 40,000 visitors to 50,000 this year.

Topic: Hardware

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