Hype and Expectation

The rumour and speculation that surrounds each Steve Job’s keynote astounds me. I know of no other company that can create such an event build-up without really trying.

In just a matter of years, Apple (under Jobs’s leadership of course) has managed to turn these keynote speeches into a form of idealistic sermon to the gathered masses of Apple fans - both in attendance and those huddled around their computers (at usually ungodly hours) to squint at the usual live broadcast QuickTime stream. The anticipation for new products releases and updates leading up to each keynote is immense.

I guess the incredible loyalty and adoring devotion that Apple seems to impart upon it’s customers helps. Something about ‘thinking different’ as Apple once marketed themselves as, something about having more creativity or simply not wanting to be like everyone else.

I for one will be up and fresh at 4am this coming Wednesday to try and catch another Jobs classic “There’s one more thing…” moment. Predictions? I don’t normally weigh into the speculation, but here goes.

Media Center / iHome (ugh) hard to dismiss, given the focus Apple’s competitors have placed upon this ‘new’ class of home computing. On the negative, I’d have to say that Apple never usually follows trends, rather they create trends. Positively, I guess this segment fits tightly within their ‘Digital Hub’ philosophy and would bode well for keeping Apple customers on board in the face of competition from the Microsoft Media Center and Media Extender for XBOX. While the focus seems to be into hardware, they would have to release some software to run any kind of ‘Media Center’ style device, watch this space for another iLife app.

Headless iMac / xMac more likely to be the new entry level Apple Mac to compete against cheap PCs. Makes sense to make a cheap entry point for customers that wish to ‘trade up’ from their iPod to experience an full-blown Apple computer. Against this prediction, Apple has (recently anyway) been about premium products. They have not and will not ever attempt to compete purely on price - they don’t need to. It’s all about design and ease-of-use. Still a cheap, ‘head-less’ Mac would be great as a second PC for additional storage, be it for archiving video files or as an iTunes server. Perhaps the headless mac and media center will be one and the same.

iLife upgrade A given, it’s been 12 months since the last major update to this suite. Time for some more innovation.

iWork a strong rumour, a change of name and a high profile intervention by Apple Legal hints that this may actually happen, Apple may indeed release their own Microsoft Office competitor. In my opinion, it’s a massive ask, not really sure that Apple would want to burn Microsoft completely on this one. Having an ‘official’ version of MS Office for the Mac gives Apple products a degree of perceived legitimacy. If it were to disappear, so would this perception. I guess Apple’s own AppleWorks (nee ClarisWorks) product hasn’t been touched for many years, maybe the time is right, who knows. Interesting times indeed.

Flash iPod I guess it’s possible. There’s been rumour about this one for months. I suppose it’s a segment that could be expanded, maybe it’s useful as a second portable music player. As previously mentioned, Apple don’t usually tend to follow market trends which may count against it, however Apple aren’t always predictable either!

Breakout box / ‘Asteroid’ another strong rumour is for an Apple audio breakout box. It’s not really my bag, however with Apple’s investment in eMagic, I guess it would make some sense.

Mac OS X 10.4 aka Tiger would love to see Tiger finally released. I’ll most likely upgrade my iBook once this baby is released into the wild. Can’t wait for Core Video and Core Image.

Other hardware Finally I’d expect some other hardware updates. Perhaps a refresh of the iBook lineup and some speedbumps for other lines. Updates to the Xserve and the release of Xsan have already been announced, I for one took this as hard evidence that this years MWSF is going to be huge. That’s it from me, what are your predictions?

UPDATE: The Macworld keynote has been delayed by 9 hours to 6pm SF time - 1pm Sydney time. Correction: the Keynote is still on at 9am SF / 4am Sydney - the webcast has been delayed 9 hours to 6pm SF / 1pm Sydney. Note to self: read the article more carefully next time. Rumour about iTMS Australia seems to be getting stronger than ever too. AU$0.99 per song. Wow, hope it’s true.