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A Look at Apple Rumors for 2010

The feeding frenzy over stories about a possible tablet computer from Apple has consumed the tech media in recent weeks, but don’t forget that we’re talking about one product that is supposed to be launched this month. That leaves plenty of time for more mischief and speculation as to what Apple is going to deliver during the rest of 2010.

A new wrinkle on the iSlate/iTablet speculation front is that the expected media event later this month will also include a MacBook Pro refresh, sporting the latest Core i5 chips from Intel. Early benchmarks demonstrate the new processors are quite a bit faster than their predecessors from the Core 2 Duo family without requiring extra power. Now this sort of speed bump would not be unexpected. Apple’s note-books have already had revised case designs, so popping in faster processors and other enhanced parts every six or 12 months would be par for the course.

An unexpected surprise might be a revision to the aging MacBook Air lineup, which remains in production despite apparently being a slow seller. Then again, the folks who have embraced the Air may be quite as dedicated as the customers who stuck by the Mac mini even when Apple wasn’t putting a priority on refreshing the cheapest Mac desktop.

The next refresh would probably impact the Mac Pro by spring, to take advantage of the newest Xeon processors. Again, this would be a trivial upgrade, since Apple doesn’t seem inclined to put lots of development dollars into a model that doesn’t sell a lot of copies, particularly now that the quad-core iMac has become a viable alternative for people who want a powerful Mac that’s still reasonably affordable.

Then again, Apple’s environmental initiative might be sufficient to inspire them to streamline the Mac Pro. I have suggested that they could trim the case by as much as 50% and still provide the same degree of expandability. Greenpeace would be delighted, although cooling system concerns might limit the level of shrinkage.

I wouldn’t expect much in the way of changes for the iMac, except to include later generation chips from Intel. The new form factor has been an incredible success. But I could always dream for an update that would add space for a second internal drive. That might address a fair portion of the needs of folks who feel the iMac is too restrictive about such things. And, yes, I think Apple is smart enough to find space for another full-sized hard drive.

Expectations for the fourth generation iPhone vary. Some suggest it might come as early as April, others stick with the June or July timeframe, following a launch at the WWDC, where the version 4.0 software and developer’s kit will be introduced.

You can expect the iPhone to have pretty much the same form factor as today’s model, perhaps sporting a multicore processor and extra built-in memory with which to store more complicated OS code. Maybe Apple will even find a way to allow for enhanced multitasking in light of the competition. But I rather doubt that those recent rumors of a removable battery will come to pass. That’s just not Apple’s way.

The “X’ factor is Mac OS 10.7. As Snow Leopard approaches its one year anniversary, you can bet that Apple is working hard on 10.6’s successor. I would also expect that it’ll be a feature-laden release. Apple has had plenty of time to rest on its laurels and its time to take Mac OS X to even greater heights. The question, of course, is what features do they really need to add? So far, most of what I’ve seen represents refinements to the current way of doing things. I’m quite sure Apple’s developers have lots of brilliant ideas cooking in the code mines, and maybe they’re ready to unleash some of them in the next system upgrade.

One possibility is how Apple might address the inevitable 3D question. I’m not talking about shaded borders and other modest enhancements to the 2D motif. The world is ready for 3D, particularly in light of the great success of the science fiction movie “Avatar.” Now that the consumer electronics companies are devising schemes to separate you from your money when you buy new gear and 3D glasses to go with those gadgets, surely a practical use can be found for increasing the apparent depth of the legendary Mac desktop.

Moving towards the fall, September will no doubt bring the next generation iPod lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised to see enhanced camcorder capabilities for the iPod nano, perhaps with an HD chip to take it closer in performance to the Flip Video. The iPod classic may be resurrected with 128GB of Flash memory, and none too soon. And don’t be surprised if the iPod touch gets its own camcorder features at long last.

Notice I’ve said nothing about the Apple TV. Apple’s “hobby” gadget is long overdue for an upgrade, but what direction will they take? Will Apple acquire TiVO or just add their own brand of DVR capabilities? What about a 3D Apple TV? Let the fun and games begin!