As we close in on the WWDC and Apple’s expected new product announcements, there are a number of expectations from both Apple customers and the media. Some will happen, simply because they have already been revealed and it would be foolish to expect otherwise. Some won’t, not because they haven’t been revealed, but because they don’t make much sense.
Look, for example, at Snow Leopard. Apple made it quite clear it will be largely a streamlining and performance upgrade, without a lot of new features. Yet that hasn’t stopped some of the rumor sites from suggesting there are going to be unannounced features thrown in at the last possible moment, thus giving developers little or no time to check them for compatibility with their products prior to 10.6’s release.
Now if you believe this claim, and it does have a romantic ring to it, you have to realize that developers have been seeded with Leopard prereleases since last year. During that time, they have no doubt been working hard to enable their software to harness such features as enhanced multithreading support and the ability to offload some processor tasks to the graphic chips.
While it is nonetheless true that any major project such as an operating system is a work in progress, what does Apple gain by misleading its loyal developers in this fashion? Does it make them more inclined to build Mac products? How does it help the public, when they are stuck waiting extra months for their favorite applications to fully support those new features?
As Mr. Spock is apt to say, “That, sir, is not logical!”
My feeling is that there may be a few new capabilities announced for Snow Leopard, but they are not going to represent a major interface redesign or anything close to that in scope and purpose. The real issue is whether Apple will charge you a full upgrade price for a copy, or will reduce it drastically, as many have suggested. The major issue is strictly one of marketing impact. I think Apple will benefit by keeping the price exceptionally low, particularly in comparison with Microsoft, which will no doubt charge an arm and a leg for the top-of-the-line edition of Windows 7.
Another rumor has it that Apple is poised to make major cuts in Mac pricing. Why? Because the netbooks and new Microsoft ad campaign are driving home the alleged fact that Macs cost more! The fact is, of course, that they don’t when the hardware and software are directly and accurately compared with Windows PCs. Even those jumbled Microsoft ads show little more than the fact that someone can get an inferior computer for less money; nothing more, nothing less. That’s the equivalent of telling people that users of Windows PCs are absolute morons!
Now that’s not Microsoft’s intention, but that’s the end result.
This is not to say that Apple can’t find ways to reduce pricing. They could, for example, offer a 17-inch iMac for the consumer market at, say, $899. It may not seem cheap in a world where a full-sized Windows desktop is $399, but it would hold far more value, and still deliver a decent profit for Apple.
I’d also like to see the Mac mini return to $499 (the original price of the PowerPC version), but I don’t know if they can build and sell enough at that price to justify such a move. Maybe they can, and that would also help Apple grab the budget end of the PC market without having to compromise any of their principles.
The other rumor has it that Apple must deliver a cheaper version of the iPhone, simply because there’s price resistance for costly smartphones. Of course, if you compare the alleged equivalent models from RIM and other companies, their subsidized pricing is quite similar to that of the iPhone 3G.
Would Apple consider a nano version with a smaller screen? I suppose it sounds romantic enough, but the existing screen strikes me as sufficiently small already. Some people have troubles with it, and I admit that I’m sometimes compelled to take out my reading glasses to assist. So how could a tinier version possibly succeed?
I suppose that Apple could reduce the size of the iPhone by making the Home button and other features smaller, but not by a whole lot. I’m more inclined to believe that there will be a grown up iPhone with a much larger screen and more powerful components, one that would truly serve the function of the Apple netbook.
As I’ve said before, this sort of skepticism doesn’t mean I don’t expect to be amazed by Apple as I consider their possible new product announcements for the rest of the year. But I also try to be a realist about such things. Too bad some members of the media have other ideas.