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Friday, January 4, 2008

Predictions for MacWorld SF Unwrap

What will Steve Jobs be unveiling to the faithful gathering on January 15th and MacWorld San Francisco? Apple normally reserves this home base venue and first of the year all-Mac conference for announcing big new products and recapping the successes of the last year.

Of course, Apple's biggest success in 2007 has been the iPhone. Even Apple's most avid critics and nay-sayers have come around to admitting the iPhone is one of the most successful tech products ever to be released. Jobs said last year their goal for 2007 was to sell 1 million phones and by now they must be approaching 5 million sold.

I know everybody is doing this now but here is my list.

iPHONE

I might be going out on a limb here but I am going to say Jobs will announce a 3G iPhone and retire Edge from all new iPhones purchased after 1.15.2008 with 16GB (at least) flash storage, improved Google maps, improved longer battery life, faux-GPS, editable icons and home screen and improvements to the SMS messaging. Copy and paste capabilites will be added and with good luck Apple and Adobe will be working hard to provide Java and Flash support.

Jobs will set the stage for iPhone SDK and hopefully they will be thinking about opening up the operating ecosystem to accommodate programers who will add capabilities that Apple won't brick with future firmware upgrades. Jobs will save some iPhone developments for the SDK unveiling in February but he should stoke the engine with basic tools for the developers.

APPLE TV

AppleTV was a non-starter in 2007 but it is clear Apple is preparing big announcements with partners in the movie industry to make it more of a movie viewing platform to rival Blockbuster and Netflix for home movie viewing. Although it would be much appreciated, I doubt Apple will truly bring the AppleTV up to the level of a TiVO type device for capturing and shifting broadcast and cablecast content or add serious DVR capabilities.

Apple is wrong to not to add the technology to make this a serious media device as they only hurt their standing in the home entertainment centers of the future. They could add the wow factor at Moscone Center if they make AppleTV a movie rental and Blu-ray DVR machine. Then, I'd buy one.

iTUNES

Apple will need to revamp iTunes for the film rental business they are entering into with the movie studios. While the record companies are letting down their DRM madness and loosing their harsh punishments, the movie rental business is a whole new kettle of fish. This upgrade will not be packed with features and new formats but will designate a new space for films and trailers to make it easier for Macs, iPhones, and iPods to find the new video content.

Trying to win an audience for movie rentals could be a hard nut to crack if Apple does not open the environment up and provide to restrictive terms of use. A lesson they should have learned from the emergence and wide-spread acceptance of the iPod is that most users of the mobile music player took their collection of CD's and loaded them into the their pocket jukebox without DRM or copy protection schemes that severely limited the use of the songs.

Putting a 24-hour use stipulations on movies and charging high rental prices will not lead to success either for the rental business on iTunes or the sales of AppleTV. In order to succeed, Apple will need to provide some easy avenue for current DVD owners to convert the movies they own to the digital format for use with their new HD entertainment centers.

MAC-MINI

Many have been predicting the demise of the Mac-mini, however, I think the entry level box is critical to Apple's increased marketshare for the MacOS. PC users want a box they can buy and still connect their old monitors and peripherals without buying the whole Apple package. Expect to see a hugely revamped Mac-mini. In fact, if anything, unlike previous MacWorlds devotd to iPhones and iPods this will be the MacWorld devoted to upgrading and clearly defining the Macintosh platforms both desktop and laptop first and foremost.

.MAC

The mystery with Apple is the lack of serious interactive capabilities .Mac provides its Apple subscribers. It is long past time that Apple improve this service especially to accommodate the serious needs of iPhone, iPod Touch users. .Mac has always been kind of cobbled together and very much behind the curve when it comes to giving Apple users interactive tools on the go. Google has truly kicked Apple's butt with making calendars, contacts, sechduling, groups and other social computing services, offering much richer and robust an environment for internet connectivity.

First and foremost, .Mac needs to drastically improve its ability to work directly with the iPhone so that project maangers can update their published iCal calendars on the fly. The .Mac teams motto ought to be "No docking required!" becaused docking and updating is such a pain and in today's compute of the fly world, you've got to be able to schedule, plan, and update as you go through the day and not just at the desktop.

Apple's exclusive contracts with ATT present major problems for international travelers and business people and Apple hasn't been thinking differently enough to service us but it is time. And it is time for .Mac to jump ahead ten years and get their head out of 1994 with .Mac.

ULTRA SLIM SUB-NOTEBOOK

I'm not sure if this will be classified as extending the iPhone platform or as an addition to the MacBook line but its coming. It might well be a new Apple platform, something akin to an iTablet. The one big product differentiation will be if it will use the verbless touch screen technology or a keyboard. I hear some critics complain that the iPhone needs a keyboard but they are still living in the 1970s. Keyboards are dead. Let them rest in peace. If you love keyboarding go get a job in the typing-pool.

As New York Times tech reporter John Markoff wrote about Jobs excitement of the touch screen technology in the iPhone "There are no “verbs” in the iPhone interface, he said, alluding to the way a standard mouse or stylus system works. In those systems, users select an object, like a photo, and then separately select an action, or “verb,” to do something to it." In the interview Jobs claims Apple has invented a whole new user interface with the iPhone. I think we can expect to see Apple extend this new approach to other Apple computing platforms.

Touch screen should become the future of mobile computing. If the new subnotebook has touch screen technology than it extends the iPhone and iPod Touch line, if it runs Mac OS apps seamlessly than it is a MacBook. Will it have iMac-like aluminum dock? Hopefully Apple will continue to push the envelop and make mobile computing a new category instead of just rekeying old concepts.

TIE-BREAKER: Some people say that Jobs hasn't use the "One more thing..." for awhile. However, he will announce the new Ultra-thin Subnotebook as the one more thing.

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