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  • Update! The Night Owl’s Guaranteed Incorrect Macworld Predictions

    January 7th, 2008

    It’s a sure thing that lots of so-called tech reporters have been making the rounds predicting what Apple will unfurl at the Macworld Expo next week. While I’m sure some of those guesses are on the money, and I also suspect Apple spread some of those tales for maximum impact, others will be thoroughly off-base.

    Now I have often told you long-suffering readers that I am not much at prognostications, nor am I qualified to do industry analysis in the fashion of my friend Ross Rubin of the NPD Group. But my opinions are as good as anyone else’s, otherwise, and so long as you understand I’m probably going to be downright wrong in everything I suggest, I’m going to take a stab at it.

    Next week, you can have the pleasure of showing me up for the mistakes I’ve made, even though I’m admitting to them in advance, or you can simply include your own predictions in your comments to this article.

    Surely the iPhone is going to get tremendous coverage, even though Apple is apparently hinting that Macworld Expo this time out will primarily be a Mac party. That’s great, since last year’s event might have been subtitled iPhone World or iPod World if you wanted to be more accurate.

    So can we expect anything at all about the iPhone? Well, perhaps. I may be premature to expect a upgraded version that supports AT&T’s 3G network, but perhaps you’ll see a higher-end version with 16GB Flash memory. It may even come at the same price as the 8GB model, which will make the low-end iPhone a $299 product. Sorry, folks, no rebates this time; just the standard 30-day price protection.

    As to that forthcoming iPhone SDK, the official way for third parties to build software for the iPhone, how about it showing up this month rather than the next, as originally promised? That will create a flurry of excitement and even bump Apple’s stock price by a few dollars.

    On the iTunes front, since the mainstream press has already let the cat out of the bag, you can expect the highly-anticipated video rental deal with Fox, and perhaps a couple of other studios will join the party. I just hope, though, that this agreement won’t deliver a lame result, such as paying $2.99 or $3.99 for a 24-hour rental. That’s pathetic, when you consider the value you get from Netflix. How about seven days?

    But since this is supposedly a Mac event, I have to admit I can see where there might be a market for a thin and light Mac note-book. This might be regarded for the replacement of the late, lamented 12-inch PowerBook G4, but would owe more in its concept to the original PowerBook 2400 series. That means that it’ll probably ship with Flash memory, either 32GB or 64GB, but require a docking station (perhaps standard equipment) that will contain a standard hard drive and an optical drive. That will allow Apple to provide an ultra-tiny form factor, with a weight of less than four pounds, and battery life of at least six hours under normal use and abuse.

    As for the name, how about a MacBook mini or MacBook slim? Yes, this would be a member of Apple’s professional note-book line, complete with discrete graphics card and perhaps sporting one of Intel’s new Penryn chips for maximum performance and low power utilization. Other Mac note-books, and even the iMac, which uses note-book components, are in line for new chips too.

    In the original version of today’s commentary, I wrote about the anticipated upgrade to the Mac Pro, containing a pair of the new 3.2GHz quad-core Xeon chips employing the new Penryn design. Well, of course Apple surprised us all by releasing the new Mac Pros a week early, with all models this time sporting a pair of quad-core processors. You can find out more about 2008 Mac Pro from Apple’s site. The Xserve was similarly blessed.

    As you might expect, the new chips, combined with Leopard’s enhanced support for multiprocessing, enable this powerhouse workstation to blow the previous model out of the water in benchmarks involving a larger range of applications. Indeed, you’ll see huge performance enhancements almost across-the-board. Apple claims up to twice the speed and better compared to the previous Mac Pro. Even lazy applications, such as Microsoft Office for 2008, will open almost instantaneously.

    Missing in action is Blue-ray. Now that Warners is supporting Sony’s technology, it’s high time to ditch HD-DVD and get high definition DVDs moving before other delivery mediums, such as online, take over. So why is Apple still behind the curve, or will be there further announcements next week? What about placing a Blu-ray drive in a revitalized Apple TV?

    And one more thing: Apple’s display line is extremely long in the tooth and overpriced compared to the competition from Dell and other companies. They are sadly in need of a revision, and that might come among the various Macworld announcements.

    Of course, there’s apt to be a surprise or two from Steve. But that’s all from me, at least for now.



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    8 Responses to “Update! The Night Owl’s Guaranteed Incorrect Macworld Predictions”

    1. Dana Sutton says:

      Yes, I’d agree with most of these:

      a.) announcement of the availability of a reasonably rich and compelling library of rental downloads in an attempt to perk up Apple TV sales, maybe coupled with an announcement of a second-generation box that can handle HD.

      b.) Maybe a new line of monitors (glossy screen at least as an option, styled more like the current iMac?) or at least drastic price cuts on the present line, up to 50% on the 20″ and 23″ models (which is what it would take to make Apple displays competitive with those sold by HP, Dell, etc. etc.).

      c.) A new MacPro (if Intel is yet in a position to supply new-generation chips in sufficient quality, this seems a lot less than certain), featuring a SATA port and BluRay as a b. t. o. option. Maybe a featuring a new case design.

      d.) OS 10.5.2 with better multiprocessor support and various improvements (such as a new version of Time Machine that works with networked servers and maybe even AirPort, and a more sophisticated Spaces with some new tricks, such as supporting a different background for each virtual desktop). Old hierarchical dock folder back as an option.

      e.) Possibly a new and improved iPhone, although I’m not sure that sales of the first version have softened enough yet to make this necessary. So maybe later in 2008?

      A headless Mac to fill the gap between the iMac and the MacPro? That seems less certain. This has been such an obvious need for such a long time and yet Apple has managed to ignore it, so I don’t put it past them to keep on ignoring it some more.

    2. Of course, Apple fooled us all by getting out that Mac Pro update a weekly early. But, other than the new chips and other logic board enhancements (better PCI ports), and standard Bluetooth, it’s largely unchanged otherwise.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. Dana Sutton says:

      It’s very weird that Apple would release the new MacPro (and MacPro Server) a week before, since that steals a good deal of Steve’s thunder. Note the way the price points have been upped: the cheapest new MacPro is about $600 higher than its predecessor. Also, except for Photoshop, there are so few programs out there that can capitalize on the availability of 8-cores that very few average customers are going to see a great deal of benefit (see the various speed tests that have been run on the current 3ghz 8-core model, which are so unmpressive that the general advice of reviewers has been “save your money”). Unless Apple has something VERY dramatic up its sleeve in the way of a modified Leopard that can, in effect, take any app. and make it multicore-friendly on the fly, this relegates the entire MacPro line to the status of an exotic workstation for folks running high-end scientific and video-editing software. So in terms of both price and intended audience, the gap between the iMac and the new MacPro becomes huge. So, yes, now I think that Apple is about to announce a consumer-oriented Mac to fill that gap, and I suspect that the reason why Apple put out the new MacPro so casually is that it is now a niche product, not very important in their scheme of things.

    4. It’s very weird that Apple would release the new MacPro (and MacPro Server) a week before, since that steals a good deal of Steve’s thunder. Note the way the price points have been upped: the cheapest new MacPro is about $600 higher than its predecessor. Also, except for Photoshop, there are so few programs out there that can capitalize on the availability of 8-cores that very few average customers are going to see a great deal of benefit (see the various speed tests that have been run on the current 3ghz 8-core model, which are so unmpressive that the general advice of reviewers has been “save your money”). Unless Apple has something VERY dramatic up its sleeve in the way of a modified Leopard that can, in effect, take any app. and make it multicore-friendly on the fly, this relegates the entire MacPro line to the status of an exotic workstation for folks running high-end scientific and video-editing software. So in terms of both price and intended audience, the gap between the iMac and the new MacPro becomes huge. So, yes, now I think that Apple is about to announce a consumer-oriented Mac to fill that gap, and I suspect that the reason why Apple put out the new MacPro so casually is that it is now a niche product, not very important in their scheme of things.

      Considering that the standard Mac Pro contains a pair of 2.8GHz quad-core Xeons, with twice the memory, a larger hard drive and a better graphics card than its predecessors, at $300 (U.S.) more than its predecessor, you’re getting a much better value for the money.

      So it’s not really a price increase. You can downgrade to a single quad-core processor model and still get more performance than the standard configuration in last year’s model. That product would cost be $2,299, $100 more than the cheapest version in the previous lineup, and it still has the larger RAM configuration and bigger drive.

      I think you might want to be a bit more careful in your comparisons.

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Derek Bartholomaus says:

      a.) announcement of the availability of a reasonably rich and compelling library of rental downloads in an attempt to perk up Apple TV sales, maybe coupled with an announcement of a second-generation box that can handle HD.

      All current Apple TV’s can handle HD (albeit 720p rather than 1080i/p). The problem is that the iTunes Store doesn’t offer anything in HD except for some video podcasts. The JPL and Hubble Telescope astronomy podcasts in HD are amazing, btw.

    6. Dana Sutton says:

      I think I’ll stick to what I said. The so-called “base” models of the new MacPro are all 8-core, so I guess that makes the 4-core model a b. t. o. option. That means the MacPro is being repositioned as a considerably more high-end line aimed at a niche market. That in turn means that the gap between the iMac and the MacPro is wider than ever and cries out for filling. And the release of this new line seems almost like a casual throwaway, which Apple wouldn’t do if it regarded the MacPro as a mainline consumer product. So I bet that Steve’s Next Big Thing is going to be that gap-filling, consumer-oriented Mac everybody’s been screaming for.

    7. I think I’ll stick to what I said. The so-called “base” models of the new MacPro are all 8-core, so I guess that makes the 4-core model a b. t. o. option. That means the MacPro is being repositioned as a considerably more high-end line aimed at a niche market. That in turn means that the gap between the iMac and the MacPro is wider than ever and cries out for filling. And the release of this new line seems almost like a casual throwaway, which Apple wouldn’t do if it regarded the MacPro as a mainline consumer product. So I bet that Steve’s Next Big Thing is going to be that gap-filling, consumer-oriented Mac everybody’s been screaming for.

      Well, no, because the cheapest model is only $100 more than the cheapest configuration of the previous model.

      Peace,
      Gene

    8. Bill says:

      There’s little point in putting flash memory in a consumer-grade notebook.

      The expense is enormous (retail: 32GB SSD $250, 64GB SSD $1500 vs. $150 for a 2.5″ 250GB SATA hard drive)

      Power savings don’t increase runtime significantly, since other systems use far more power than the hard drive.

      The big advantage to SSD is shock resistance: great for a Toughbook, but pointless in a MacBook.

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