As is traditionally the case, there has been some pretty wild speculation about what Apple plans to introduce at this year’s Macworld. Some insist it’s 3G iPhone time, others look for a tablet/touch computer, and everyone sees Blu-ray everywhere. But Apple upset the cart a bit this week by introducing new, faster Mac Pros and Xserves during CES, and a number of strong leaks point to iTunes movie rentals, updates for iPhone/iTouch, and the company has all but confirmed the SDK.
Let’s take a look at what we know and what we don’t, starting with the firmest information. And read to the end to see my own wild speculation…
- Further Mac Pro and Xserve updates are extremely unlikely.
- iTunes movie rentals are all but confirmed, but will it be version 8 or version 7.6? I bet on the latter.
- An update to the iPhone/iTouch (1.1.3) is in the wild and has received much press, plus it would be required to support those movie rentals, making a Macworld intro very likely.
- Leopard needs a rev, and 10.5.2 has been spotted (if you pardon the pun), so that’s a likely Macworld intro.
- Apple officially announced the iPhone/iTouch SDK back in October, and claimed it would be released in February, so it’s likely they’ll spend some time focusing on what it can and can’t do, and probably will introduce some third party apps, too. Mac Rumors suggests a Sling Player app, at least, and I’m looking for some games.
- I expect a revved MacBook Pro, with the new Penryn CPUs, thinner and prettier, but nothing really amazing.
Maybe Yes, Maybe No
- I’ll bite on the long-talked-about subnote rumor, but it’s definitely not a sure thing. I’m expecting a 12″ or 13″ subnote with flash storage (no internal hard disk or optical drive), and a super-thin aluminum and black (iPhone-type) case. But I do not expect it will have a touch screen or tablet, though the funky touch pad might have some enhanced multi-touch capabilities.
- The early release of the big-box Macs suggests to me that we can expect updates to the portables, but the MacBook was just updated in November, so I expect it’ll be left alone for now.
- The Cinema Displays are getting long in the tooth, so they need a rev, and this would be a good time to do it. I expect another aluminum and black look (like the newer iMacs), and would be shocked if iSight and an IR receiver wasn’t built in. I’m also expecting expanded Windows compatibility, more aggressive pricing, and DisplayPort and HDCP, but all this might not be mentioned in the keynote.
- The demise of the Mac Mini has long been rumored, but I hope it isn’t true. I’m looking instead for a new small desktop Mac with a new industrial design. How about a PCI-Express slot, too?
- I’m definitely not expecting a 3G iPhone, though a 16 GB model and shuffled-down prices would be a good bet.
- I don’t expect a big Blu-ray splash at this show. The Warner Brothers announcement was too late to change product plans, and Apple was conspicuously waiting the HD war out on the sidelines.
- Something needs to be done with the Apple TV, and this might just be the big announcement. I like the idea of this being Apple’s first Blu-ray product, and a Blu-ray Apple TV at a nice price to replace my DVD player might just get me off the couch and into the stores. But I seriously doubt this Apple TV will have a tuner, let alone DVR capabilities.
The Big One
OK, that’s out of the way, that’s the show. But wait, there’s one more wild imagining in my head… As Jeremy Toeman pointed out, an enhanced Cinema Display could make a darn fine TV. So let’s walk down this path a little…
Lots of folks were disappointed that Blu-ray drives remain unavailable, even on the new Mac Pro, and I just said I didn’t expect one in the revved MacBook Pro, either. But what if Apple is ahead of us all on this one. What if the update to the Cinema Display also included a Blu-ray drive?!?
Introduce a new line of displays – call them Home Cinema or something. Put in an internal iMac-like Blu-ray drive that can both play standalone to the display or be connected to a computer (over FireWire or USB) and used as a computer drive. Suddenly every Mac has a Blu-ray option, and those Cinema Displays start looking like a much better option than a Dell or ViewSonic at half the price. Lots of folks would love a more-converged entertainment computer, and some might just buy the big Home Cinema as a standalone entertainment unit.
But let’s follow Jeremy’s suggestion a little further… Roll the guts of an updated Apple TV (running full OS X) right into that Home Cinema and create a Macintosh Cinema. It’ll have integrated iTunes movie rentals and Blu-ray, and could be used as a regular computer with the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
And roll out the guts of the Macintosh Cinema and you’ve got a worthy replacement for both the Apple TV and the Mac Mini.
And please, Apple, buy TiVo and integrate that, too!