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Update! The Night Owl’s Guaranteed Incorrect Macworld Predictions

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.