Macworld 2008 Predictions

Here on Monday, January 14, the annual Macworld Expo is beginning in San Francisco. This is the event in which both professional and consumer-level Mac users converge on SF’s Mascone Center to visit exhibits hosted by Apple and hundreds of companies that produce third-party products and software for the Macintosh and iPod platforms. Also there are numerous classes and how-to sessions that Mac users of all skill levels can attend to learn even more about the software and hardware they use. Without a doubt the highlight and most anticipated portion of the 5 day event is the Keynote on Tuesday morning. This keynote is traditionally given by Steve Jobs and this is the time when he introduces new Apple products. It was during the 2007 keynote that Jobs introduced the iPhone last year.

Each year the keynote (or “Stevenote” as it is sometimes called) is preceded by a whirlwind of rumors and predictions on the part of the mainstream media as well as the alternative media (ie. podcasters). The predictions have gotten some things right in the past but most of it turns out to be wishful thinking and wild speculation about what products his Steveness will announce. Since Apple has a long-standing policy of not discussing or announcing future products until their release, the predictors are left to their own imaginations and their analysis of past trends. I have never taken part in the aforementioned rumor mill that is such a part of the pre-Macworld hysteria however this year I actually have some strong gut feelings about some things. Two things in particular: a major change to iTunes and a dramatic change to the Macbook laptop line. And since most of my readership probably does not care about such things, I will keep my comments brief. But here on the eve of the Stevenote I thought it would be nice to list predictions and then see if I am at all correct.

iTunes 7.6

Each year iTunes and the iTunes Store have grown in functionality. The addition of video content, games for the iPod, ringtones for the iPhone and DRM-free music are some of the big changes that have happened in the last couple of years. I predict that Steve will announce the new version of iTunes (7.6) and that the major addition will be the ability to “rent” video content from the iTunes Store. This is a potential feature that once sounded completely ridiculous in my opinion. However with the advent of Apple TV (a unit that wirelessly syncs video content from your computer and then plays it over your HDTV), iTunes video “rental” seems plausible. Perhaps you will be able to select a “Rent” option on a given movie, then movie will download to your computer and you will have such-and-such amount of time to view it before it becomes inactive. The other option would be to take the Netflix approach and allow you to keep the movie for however long you would like but you must deactivate it before downloading another.

Some have speculated that the big iTunes announcement would be that it would go to a subscription model. I seriously doubt this will happen since Steve’s battle cry has always been that people want to purchase and truly own their content. However I do not believe the rental model described above would contradict Steve’s philosophy on consumer content ownership.

Major Laptop Line Update

The blogosphere and Mac User groups have long been ecstatic at the though of an “ultra-portable Mac”. There have been many different ideas on how such a product would look. Some have said that it would be very stripped down with no CD/DVD drive and only run on flash memory (which would allow for limited hard drive storage space) and that the device would be a sort of portable satellite for the user’s main system. It would basically mirror your main system and stay in sync with it. I do not believe this is what we will see. I believe that one of two things will happen. Either Apple will introduce a smaller Macbook Pro which is currently available in only in 15” and 17” models or we will see laptops across the board (Macbook Pro’s and Macbooks) going to a thinner, more portable form factor.

I have some other smaller predictions that many would not care about such as speed increases for iMacs, enhancements to .Mac , upgrades to iPods and the awaited release of the massive 10.5.2 update to Leopar. So rather than bore you with smaller details I will leave you with my two main predictions and we will see how well The Smoak House works as an Apple rumor mill.

And if I am wrong you can not make fun of me.

Josh H.

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