MacWorld 2008 is coming next week and as expected, the blogs are alive with the sound of rumors. From new product announcements and existing product refreshes to the discontinued and ignored products, it is always a fun time of year. With Apple’s explosive 2007 that brought us the iPhone, the iPod Touch, a new iMac, and the latest iteration of OS X Leopard, the expectations have been set pretty high.
In 2007, the iPhone was the star of the show. What started as Apple’s entry into the mobile space ended up as a redefinition of customer expectations in the mobile phone market. It’s easy to predict a 3G iPhone in 2008, but that’s almost too easy and fairly minor compared to the software upgrades that could allow the iPhone to further dominate the segment. The only other hardware change I expect to see on the iPhone is larger capacity (16GB or 32GB, flash-based of course).
In 2008, while other manufacturers continue to try and catch up, I expect Apple to continue redefining how consumers use their iPhone. The iTunes Mobile Music Store (something I use way more than the iTunes Music Store experience on the computer) is a great example of how an existing business can leverage the mobile platform. Existing brick-and-mortar players like Starbucks could offer a web front end to their order process, allowing customers to order drinks from the couch without leaving their friends. This would even offer some interesting payment methods, such as allowing PayPal or another form of e-currency to pay for transactions.
Speaking of wireless features, Leopard added support for A2DP/AVRCP over Bluetooth, and it would seem to be an easy feature to add to the iPhone. Forget the simple task of syncing content with iTunes, I want full .Mac synchronization on the iPhone. Sure, it would be great to sync with iTunes, and it’s likely that iTunes would be the pipeline, but .Mac exists, has a synchronization client in Leopard, and should be fairly easy to port to the iPhone. One way or another, I think wireless sync would be a great next step for the iPhone.
In the notebook space, I’m betting on a completely new mobile platform for 2008. The specification upgrades that occurred in 2007 were interim steps to maintain the continuity from the PowerPC platform into the Intel world. Now that everything from Apple is Intel, it is time to refresh the design. From the bottom end MacBook to the top of the line MacBook Pro, I’m betting Apple will revamp the entire lineup. With Apple wanting to go green, it’s likely that we will see a near complete switch to aluminum, titanium, and glass (although the glass doesn’t seem very likely given the demands placed on a notebook system).
There is also a lot of hints that we might see a revolutionary touch pad that would include multi-touch and other iPhone like features. This would seem to make more sense than a touch screen, given a 13.3” touch screen might be a bit risky this early after the iPhone. Either way Apple wants to continue to lead the industry in touch interfaces, so they may try to jump even further ahead of the competition.
The Mac Mini is either getting a redesign or being discontinued. Lacie has discontinued their Mini Hub (which was a real nice unit that slid right under the Mac Mini) so they either know the form factor is changing or they are no longer available. My guess is that it will go away, the 20” and 24” iMac are the desktop kings right now. The only other idea in this segment would be a new headless home server with a hefty 750GB or 1TB drive, support for backing up notebooks running Leopard wirelessly via time machine, and maybe a built-in Airport Extreme style router. Apple has already proven it can build a cheap Mac that runs OS X, so why limit fixed function devices like a router to a custom OS when it can use its bread and butter, rock solid OS X.
The Mac Pro just got upgraded (specifications only) so it’s unlikely to see any time on the MacWorld 2008 stage unless it’s a product lineup slide. It’s so far off my radar anyway, I don’t think it is in any way part of Apple’s consumer product plan. The iMac may see some processor upgrades and maybe a professional 30” variant, but that’s just guessing since the new aluminum iMac is already a winner, one that can’t be even touched by Gateway or Dell.
One More Thing
The Apple TV is a turd that is seriously due for some polish. Recent news seems to indicate that we are certainly going to get iTunes movie rentals. They had better be in HD, and they had better have the same or better terms than the XBOX 360. I can get full HD movies on the 360 for around $5, so that’s the bare minimum. Add something to differentiate the iTunes offering and they’ll likely have a winner. Will it get people to buy the Apple TV? I doubt it, but they need to do something to make this segment work.
So those are my thoughts, take them for what they are worth. I guess we’ll find out on Tuesday what Jobs has in store for us this year!