Pre-Macworld 2009 Thoughts and Rumors

The good news is that with the keynote almost upon us, the Mac community has switched primarily from crying about Jobs not giving the keynote to instead focusing on the usual rumors and speculation. This is as it should be.

I’ve written about what I think of the change from Jobs to Schiller for Apple’s last Macworld keynote, so let’s talk about what we may see tomorrow. So many rumors, so little time…

Software

It seems there are three likely announcements on the software front:

  • An update to iLife appears likely. I haven’t seen much rumor or discussion on this, but it’s been over a year and it’s due. Unlike many who hated iMovie ’08, I rather like it, but would very much like to see enhancements in the area of titles and transitions. I’d also like to see the rather anemic sound controls updated.
  • I also see an update to iWork likely. Like iLife, it has not been updated in over a year. To me, it’s a testament to how solid Numbers was as a “1.0” product that it didn’t need a major “update” (as iMovie ’08 did) in order to make it more acceptable. Still, it needs some beefing up to help sell serious number crunchers, if that’s what Apple is after. As for me, I’d simply like to see more polish and more templates. When iWork ’08 came out, there was much discussion about how Microsoft’s Office had features 90 percent of users don’t use, so iWork was a better substitute. However, if Office is more than 90 percent need, then surely iWork is more than 85 percent need? In short, I’d rather iWork continue to focus on usability, and making its power more accessible, than getting more Office-like. There is some speculation that Apple will take iWork online with web apps. I think this is a great idea, but I sure hope that they can have performance about 20 times better than MobileMe. I’m hopeful MMe performance suffers because the service was so “broken” upon launch that tuning it was last on the priority list.
  • The third software announcement likely is news about Snow Leopard. Maybe a demo and some discussion of a release date, though I suspect that will be a very general release date.

Other software announcements we could see or hear about are for Apple TV or even the iPhone. The former seems more likely than the latter to me. It’s been a while since we’ve heard about Apple TV, so it’s due. My thinking is that ATV is going to get more and more like a merger between itself and Front Row. In fact, the rumor that Apple TV software may be able to run on a regular Mac seems like a worthwhile goal for Apple to shoot for. I’m especially interested in ATV because sometime this quarter I’ll be entering the HD TV world and am wondering if ATV or perhaps a Mac mini would be a good addition to my video system.

Hardware

Probably at least two announcements on the hardware front:

  • Many rumors focus on the Mac mini. It seems pretty certain there will be a revision, and it seems likely to me it will have the NVIDIA chipset of the MacBooks. We’ll also see mini Display Port because Jobs mentioned about 67 times during the MacBook introduction that Apple was moving to this for all their hardware now. Rumors that there will be Display Port and mini DVI don’t make much sense to me. Personally, I’d rather see the mini use the MagSafe power adaptor so it can plug into the new LCD displays than saddle it with two different display ports. Heck, if they feel they must add another display port I’d rather it be HDMI.
  • It seems a 17” MacBook is a pretty solid certainty. It’s time for the unibody 17 inch to make its debut. Latest rumors have it with a sealed battery. Not sure why Apple would go that route but it may become obvious once we find out what the laptop actually consists of. I’m one of the majority (yes, we are definitely and without question the majority) of users who never get a second battery so it doesn’t make any difference to me.

I could also see an update to Apple TV. Along with a software update maybe there’s a hardware update as well. Not sure this thing gets much more for now than speed bumps and larger hard drives. In that case they may just press release this one. In short, I do not expect a DVD or Blu-Ray drive in it (yet). If I’m building a new system I think I’d appreciate the former, but as to the latter I’m just not sure I want to go there. The idea of building a new library of physical media in a new format seems so 20th century to me. I want the new HD content I acquire to be downloadable media.

I don’t see much hardware talk on the iPhone front. I suppose a 32GB model is always a possibility, but then that could easily be press released as well. The iPhone I want needs more than just 32GB, it must also have a processor boost. It’s clear the processor is a weak spot in this device. I’m not updating my first generation model until that happens, and I don’t see that being tomorrow. As for the iPhone nano, I’ve written about that already. The iPhone is a platform, and if a mini can’t maintain the platform (and I don’t see how it can) then I don’t see Apple going there.

As always, I expect Apple to slip in a thing or two not considered above. Also as always, some of it may seem obvious and a great idea, and some may seem less impressive and turn out to be a bog thing later. In any case, bring it on, Phil, I’m ready…

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