• WWDC 2006: What You Can Expect from Apple and Others: Take Two!

    March 18th, 2006

    Yes, it’s several months away, but it’s not too early to continue my round of speculation as to what Steve Jobs will unveil during his WWDC keynote this year. Some of it you’ve heard already, but I’m going to add some additional elements that I think carry a high degree of probability.

    Well, at least when the event really happens, most of you won’t remember what I wrote anyway.

    At the top of the agenda will be Leopard, or Mac OS 10.5. The big question is whether it’ll be released this year, just in time to go up against Windows Vista. But I don’t see that happening, and not because Apple is apt to shy away from battles with Microsoft. I just don’t think it’ll be ready in time. At least developers, many of whom will still be struggling with Universal upgrades and the prospects of the new version of Windows, won’t have to contend with still another Mac OS upgrade at the same time. But you will learn enough to be tempted, and it’s quite possible Leopard will be released shortly after next January’s Macworld Expo.

    When it comes to hardware, however, I wouldn’t take bets against the official completion of Apple’s Intel migration, just 14 months after the original announcement and way, way ahead of schedule. The expected release of new desktop chips from Intel will signal the arrival of the Mac Pro. Will Apple abandon its three-year-old minitower form factor? I don’t think there will be major changes on the outside, but I do expect that the cooler running processor will allow Apple to ditch liquid cooling on the high-end models and extensively simplify the ventilation structure. There may also be room for another pair of Serial ATA drives, something content creators have been clamoring for. Both gaming-oriented and workstation graphic cards will be on the option list, and pricing ought to be very much in line with the current line, though I have slight hopes prices will drift down a little bit.

    The fastest model will probably again sport a pair of dual core processors, a Quad as it were, and Apple might even boast that Rosetta performance, despite the big speed hit, is actually in line with the Power PC version, and perhaps a little faster.

    All right, nothing surprising here. In fact, you’ll probably see an upgraded Xserve at the same time, again retaining much of the existing form factor.

    During the keynote, however, I expect some additional significant developments, but they won’t come from Apple. Steve will demonstrate the graphic applications that have gone Universal and then will bring Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen to the stage. Chizen will deliver the news content creators are waiting for, that Adobe Creative Suite 3 will be released this fall in Universal form. There will be a huge rush of applause from the audience, as he proceeds to demonstrate the incredible speed boosts under the Intel architecture. Tepid application launch times will be much faster, and key rendering functions in Photoshop will zip by in record time.

    Skeptical? All right, there have been rumors that Adobe is going to release its next Creative Suite this fall, but nothing official from Adobe, at least right now. But I have a high confidence level in this one, because Adobe is not just going to want to make its key products native for MacIntels, but fully compatible with Windows Vista. Since they have traditionally followed a simultaneous release schedule, this is one event that seems quite probable. No, I have no secret information from Adobe developers or product testers to offer. Just a hunch, but one that makes sense, although it puts lots of pressure on the company to fast track the upgrade.

    During the keynote, you can probably expect the number of Universal applications to number between 3,000 and 5,000, and I won’t attempt to deliver a more accurate estimate. There won’t be many left that people depend on.

    Except for one. Microsoft Office for the Mac. Now I don’t think Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit is necessarily under pressure to get the next upgrade out the door quickly, because the existing version runs quite well under Rosetta emulation. But there is one other Mac product many users depend on, and it is a product that, in the end, may hurt sales of MacIntels, and that’s Virtual PC, which isn’t compatible with the new Macs.

    Yes, we know that it is apparently now possible to dual boot Windows on a MacIntel, if you follow a special set of installation instructions. But that’s an awkward method, particularly if you need to interact with both operating systems at the same time. Yes, there are some other solutions to running Windows, but they are nowhere near as seamless or elegant as Virtual PC.

    So, yes, I expect that Virtual PC 8 for the Mac will also be announced during the WWDC keynote, and a quick demonstration will reveal that Windows will run so close to native speeds, you won’t notice a difference. There will also be full support for 3D graphics hardware, meaning the Windows games that’ll never come to the Mac will operate with great performance. And, no, I won’t back down on this one!

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