Macworld Expo Forecast: What's Up Steve Jobs' Sleeve?

Our Apple expert John C. Welch is eyeing new iPhones, upgraded laptops, and possible announcements regarding the Mac Mini and Apple TV.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

January 10, 2008

4 Min Read

Now that I've written about what I'd like to see from Apple in 2008 (see related story), I'd like to delve into what I think we're going to see at Macworld Conference & Expo 2008, which begins in San Francisco on Jan. 14. I'll also provide what I think are the odds for my predictions.

  • An iPhone software update that talks better to Mac OS X 10.5 Server. Okay, I cheated. I honestly think that even if we don't see Steve talk about it on stage, we're going to get an iPhone update that lets at least Mac OS X 10.5 Server directly talk to an iPhone. It's too obvious not to do, and it's just silly that an iPhone can't talk to Apple's own server other than e-mail and iTunes. Chances: 90%.

    More details on the iPhone SDK and a choice early adopter demo that will include Exchange connectivity, with a possible early release. Again, this is a gimme. The iPhone SDK will be less than a month away by the time Steve walks on stage for the Macworld Conference & Expo keynote. It is silly to think he won't show off what you can do with the SDK. The most obvious choice is an Exchange connector application. For one, it's the big thing that every IT pundit wants for the iPhone. For another, considering the tweak that the iPhone smacking Windows Mobile around must have given Ballmer (particularly in light of his claim in April 2007 that, "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance."), showing how an iPhone can be the best Exchange phone client is just a chance to twist the knife a little. While Jobs may consider Gates a friend, I have my doubts if he feels the same way about Ballmer. Chances for a specific SDK release date: 100%. Chances for SDK application demos: 100%. Chances that an Exchange client will be one of them: 90%. A new iPhone 3G model. This one seems obvious, but it depends on one thing: how good are the new 3G chips with regard to battery life. If they're good enough, sure. By the keynote, it will have been almost six months since the iPhone release. That's plenty of time for Apple to come out with a new model. Without 3G, it will be hard to get excited about it. With 3G, it's easy. Chances: 50%. A new ultralight laptop. The call is there, the ability to make one that doesn't suck is there. The question is, does Apple see the marketshare? I think so, but it's not a lock. Ultralights have some hardcore fans, but most of them have already bought MacBooks. So the question becomes, can Apple make an ultralight interesting enough to switch? Chances: 75%. Upgrades for the laptop line, possible touchscreens. For the first part, almost a given. Intel announced the Penryn 45-nm chips. They're faster, stronger, better, yadda. Apple likes to announce fasterstrongerbetter at Macworld. The only real question is will the overall laptop design change, and the big question there is, will the MacBook (Pro) line(s) get an iPhone-derived touchscreen. Honestly, I don't know. Yes, there are people who swear tablets are the future. But look at the sales on the PC side. All WinTel tablet sales combined can't outsell Apple's portable line. While there's a great use for them in various vertical markets, by and large, tablet sales have sucked. If Apple can create something that's more than "look, a touchscreen" and integrate it into the MacBook line, then sure, I can see it. If nothing else, designers and artists will lose their minds about it. But otherwise, no. Chances for laptop upgrades: 100%. Chances for a touchscreen as part of that: 40%. Chances for a "pure" tablet, i.e., no physical keyboard: they introduced that June 29th, 2007. It's called "iPhone." Some kind of announcement regarding the Mac Mini and Apple TV. Steve's got to say something about these. Yes, they both have a great little form factor, but they're not really getting a lot of attention. They've been rather ignored, at least publicly, for some time now, which is a great sign that they're going to get some kind of slot at the Macworld Conference & Expo keynote. (Steve calling the Apple TV a "hobby" is a possible sign that there are changes coming.) Whether that's a redesign, a replacement like the Mini replacing the eMac, or a combining of the two into a "Mac Home Media Center," noteworthy upgrades for both, I'm not going to guess at, but something's got to give there. Chances: 100%. Just one more thing... Duh, it's a keynote, and there's no iPhone to dominate it. Chances: 100%. Stealth upgrades for things not announced at the keynote. This always happens. Random Xserve, Xserve RAID, other stuff that's necessary, but not cool enough for the stage. Again, duh. Chances: 100%.

So there it is, what I want to see from Apple in 2008, and what I think we'll see at the Macworld Conference & Expo keynote. After Expo, I'll have a write up on what really happened (if I'm not posting something during the show) for both Apple and third parties.

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