On the Dangers of Overwrought Expectations

November 22nd, 2006

Ask anyone who pays close attention to the happenings in the Apple universe, and you will get a list of the products that may be be announced at the Macworld Expo come January 2007. While there’s apt to be some variation here and there, and I’m not going you any of my predictions yet, a few consistent trends have emerged.

First, there’s the infamous iPhone, a mobile device like no other, which is supposed to show all the other cell phone makers how it’s really supposed to be done. Some are talking about using a “light” version of Mac OS X, which would have elements of the full operating system, and emphasize an easy way to go from one function to another. You’d have iTunes, untethered with artificial limitations, which would be able to retrieve songs from your Mac or PC, or even from the nearest cell tower.

Rather than put up with the limitations imposed by the traditional cell providers, Apple would lease spectrum from one of them, probably Sprint, which has experience with such things, and build its own boutique service. That such ventures have had mixed levels of success in the past isn’t a factor. Apple will learn from their mistakes.

The real video iPod, with larger screen, longer battery life, incredible amounts of storage space, wireless capability and everything else you can dream about, will debut. What’s more, the iTV media center will finally get its real name, and a genuine shipping date.

What about Mac OS 10.5 Leopard? Yes, some of you expect it’ll not only be unveiled during the Steve Jobs Expo keynote, but it’ll ship within days after that event. Yes, way ahead of the promised spring 2007 date. After all, didn’t they switch to Intel processors over a year ahead of schedule? Apple will really embarrass Microsoft in the worst way.

How is this headlong rush to completion going to be accomplished? Well, didn’t Apple release previous Mac OS X updates from 12 to 18 months apart? Surely they could do it all over again. They can do anything, right? The feature set will be downright extraordinary, with a new Finder and and other interface refinements and enhancements to die for.

The other products may seem anticlimactic after all this joy. No doubt the Mac Pro will appear in a version with twin four-core processors, although the Xeon chips are shipping now, so it’s possibly that version could show up any time as a build-to-order option.

Anticipation is high, and it will all follow a bang-up quarter, with sales going through the roof. Apple’s stock price is already at record levels, and things will only get better. Aren’t you downright disappointed that you didn’t buy all the shares you could afford when the price was $13 per share?

I could go on, but you get the picture. And, no, I don’t have any secret contacts at Apple or one of its suppliers filling this commentary with any of this information. I’m just repeating stuff that’s already been published elsewhere.

But none of this has happened yet, and what will the tech pundits think if some of the anticipated products don’t appear? Will they tell you that Apple’s prospects are no longer as compelling as they used to be? Worse, the stock price will take one huge hit, even though Apple never promised any of this stuff.

It doesn’t matter if these expectations are overly optimistic. Take Leopard, for example. While it would give Apple a psychological advantage to have the system out the door before Windows Vista ships to consumers — and that’s expected by January 30 — rushing to get it out the door can have unsavory consequences if it comes across as a little half-baked.

As to the legendary iPhone that has been rumored for so long, starting up a cell service from scratch is no easy task even if they’re using someone else’s bandwidth. Even if Apple just contracts with an existing provider — and Cingular is the company often mentioned — will the iPhone be all it can be, or just a baby step into a new product line?

In the end, all this and more may come to pass. Or there might be products you never expected, products the rumor sites couldn’t dream of or see in their crystal balls, and that’s when the fun will really begin.

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