Macworld roundup, the good and the bad

Macworld is over and I've given myself an obligatory twelve hours to decompress. I got pretty lucky with my predictions. Apple did better in some respects than I expected (streaming Movie Rentals, multi-touch trackpads) but overall was a bit lackluster. The MacBook Air was the show-stopper but in many ways, it falls short of expectations. I'll cover this more in an upcoming post.

Out of my top 15 predictions, 1,2,4,5,12, and 14 (and 15 if you go easy on me) all got touched on - even if the details didn't all fall in line. As far as I can tell, Mr. Jobs didn't release anything that I didn't cover at least in part. A few of my higher ranking guesses got left out - most notably, #3 - All iTunes Music DRM would dissapear and #6 MacBook Pros would be refreshed with Penryn Mobile chips - look for those things to happen in the coming months.

My top 5:

  1. iTunes Movie Rentals - This is as close to a lock as you can get for a Macworld announcement. The Financial Times, the Wall St. Journal, Businessweek and Bloomberg have chimed in on this. You might be able to buy movies directly from your TV. The prevailing word is that movies will cost $3.99 for 24 hours. There will also be an update to AppleTV says Businessweek. It may be as big as the media center listed below or just incremental.
  2. Fox and others will be putting ready-for-iTunes content on their DVDs including your favorite Fairplay DRM.
  3. WRONG! All iTunes music will be free of DRM. With Sony's announcement yesterday, it is all but assured. And less than a year from when Steve Jobs wrote his little manifesto, Thoughts on Music.
  4. A 13 inch MacBook Pro "MacBook Air" that will be uber thin and without moving parts (besides keyboard). The optical drive will be external and the Boot drive will be solid state. Base model (nope) 32Gb and premium will be 64Gb. It will weigh in at under a kilo(close). It will go beyond "must have" with prices starting near $1200 (wrong - $1799!).
  5. iPhone SDK will get some airtime. Word is that Slingplayer (nope) might have made it to the platform. Most likely some games will have made it as well. People will probably be a bit bummed out. that Apple, not users, will control who gets to be on the iPhone (saving bad news for later).

Also, Apple surprised many with the Time Capsule:

14. Airport with a hard drive built in. To go with the many people who want to use Time Machine. 500Gb model starts at $300

Which also could be considered a begining to its home server product.

15. Leopard home server - kinda like Microsoft Home server except that normal people can actually use it. Bonjour/web interface. Does Backups/Webserver/Media Library/etc.

And Steve ended the show re-affirming its commitment to the environment.

12. Apple's new Green initiative. Across the board, Apple becoming more green. Greenest PC maker. "Even Greenpeace has to love us now".

The other stuff along the way should see its way into future Apple announcements.

  • All iTunes music will be free of DRM. With Sony's announcement yesterday, it is all but assured. And less than a year from when Steve Jobs wrote his little manifesto, Thoughts on Music.
  • MacBook Pros will get their 45nm Penryn updates. There is a reasonable chance that they will get a form facelift as well. Possible incorporating the color black and using the new keyboards that Apple has been slowly rolling out.
  • New Displays - Apple's displays are due for an update. Hopefully with iSightHD cameras built-in. A black bezel to match the iMac. Can they go above 30 inches in size?
  • Mac tablet of some form. A huge iPod Touch with more applications? This has been widely speculated but Apple has always been anti-tablet.
  • Mid-range, headless Mac. One of the biggest reasons for businesses not to adopt the Mac is the lack of a "regular computer". Apple might finally throw the enterprise a bone. Essentially a Mac Mini with a 3.5 inch hard drive and a PCI card slot. Easy to upgrade.
  • Speaking of business... Perhaps it's time for Apple to formally acknowledge the enterprise world? Apple could announce business plans, packaging, services, etc.
  • iPhone Updates. $100 off of the 8Gb and the 16Gb comes in at $399. Maybe even throw 3G in there - though most likely we'll have to wait until May for that. Oh and we'll likely see some more apps.

One thing I'd now like to revoke however, Blu Ray.

13. Blu Ray options across the line. The nail in HD DVD's coffin. If for no other reason than to screw Microsoft.

With the announcement of the AppleTV's HD streaming movies, I think Apple is done with optical upgrades until the prices between HD and regular DVDs is negligible. In fact, to push its HD rentals, it may forgo the formats all together - or at least longer than otherwise.

It's hard to top the Macworld 2007 with the iPhone and very few people will say that 2008 did. However, Apple does have some hits on its hands and is laying the groundwork for future innovations. Most notably when the MacBook Air gets its inevitable price chop and the new version comes out with a bigger 360 degree folding touch screen and 128 Gb of storage. Oops, I guess I just started my list for 2009!

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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