Monday, August 07, 2006

WWDC Pep-Rally

I'm back from a week in the Ryukyus and somewhat slow internet connections. I'm just in time to give you my pre-take on the big Mac shindig about to start in a few hours. Let's see if my hopes or my 'reality checks' hit the mark.

If you've been paying attention to AppleInsider, PowerPage, and ThinkSecret - you've heard some general things, and some specific predictions. These range from expectations of a bounty of new desktop, laptop Macs, iPhone, and Leopard, to just Leopard previews and desktop Macs, or just and iPhone and delayed updated iPods. It wouldn't be surprising for Apple to plant some false rumors with some bloggers to keep us off guard. Mac maniacs are even analyzing conference banners hung in advance the last couple days to predict what will be released.

My crystal ball is a little warped, so I'm gonna give you my 'wish list' and my 'reality check' of what will likely come out.

Wish List:

1. A TRULY portable Mac. I've harped on this before, and I'll continue to until Apple gets it right. The MacBrick, err MacBook is an inexpensive portable, but it's too freaking big for public transport commuters. It's not a suprise that Apple's sales figures in Japan were down in the last quarter. Any laptop heavier than 2kg is not going to appeal to Japanese people, when they can get products from Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, and other that are smaller, lighter, and at comparable prices.

2. iPod with a PSP-sized screen. Watching vids on the current iPod is a joke. The next iPod release needs a watchable screen - touchscreen or not, not some incremental pap. With Zune on the horizon, Apple needs to move the ball up the field while it still has possession.

3. iPDA. We have lots of PDAs to choose from, but none of them are very Mac-friendly or use the MacOS. This would be a big coup for Apple if they can impart their style and functionality on a PDA for the rest of us.

4. iTunes 5.o. I like iTunes and feel that it deserves the bulk of credit for success of the iPod. However, iTunes is starting to show it's age and parts of it seem kludged together (like podcast subscriptions). Yeah, maybe this will come with Leopard anyway, but sooner is better.

5. iPhone. A true iPhone could serve as a PDA, if done right. If it was a VOIP phone, it could be used anywhere in the world with WiFi. Otherwise, it won't see the light of day outside the US for a couple years. (Remember how long it took for the iTunes store to get finalized in Japan?!)

Reality Check:

Apple has many contraints, and has worked hard to avoid promising too much given the big disappointment with the Apple HiFi event. Smart money says they'll suprise us with a couple of things, and upgrade other things incrementally. Here's what we'll likely see...

1. Leopard Preview. Apple is going to hammer Microsoft on the lack of Vista by showing off its new OS incarnation and giving a realisitic release date. It's clear from the banners at WWDC and the leak on PowerPage that Leopard will be showcased. However, don't expect Leopard to be so different from Tiger it will be incremental. I wasn't so impressed with the PowerPage previews of Leopard - mostly eye candy.

2. Intel Desktop Macs. It's likely Apple will get their whole line on Intel soon, and WWDC seems to be a good place to announce this. Expect two Intel Macs with two speed configurations, and some whizbang hardware doodad, like dual layer optical drives.

3. Updated Nanos. The easiest thing to upgrade in iPod land is to increase the capacity of the Nano - up to 8Gb. However, these could be delayed a month if there are flash memory supply contraints.

4. MacBook SpeedBumps. The Pro line could see some speed increases, but they don't need WWDC to announce these.

OK - that's it for my preview post. I think it's best to have low expections, so we can be suprised. However, Apple hasn't surprised me much in the last year.

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