Expo Crystal Ball: Hardware Prognostication

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Date: Wednesday, July 10th, 2002, 00:02
Category: Archive

Apple traditionally uses the bi-annual love-fest known as Macworld Expo as a forum to announce new products, and this month’s show will be no exception. It is around this time that I take a look into my proverbial crystal ball and prognosticate on what Apple may announce at next week’s Macworld Expo 2002 at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York City.

With that, I submit to you a list of some of the hardware that I think that Apple may announce.

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Apple traditionally uses the bi-annual love-fest known as Macworld Expo as a forum to announce new products, and this month’s show will be no exception. It is around this time that I take a look into my proverbial crystal ball and prognosticate on what Apple may announce at next week’s Macworld Expo 2002 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

With that, I submit to you a list of some of the hardware that I think that Apple may announce. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts and suggestions on Apple’s Macworld announcements using the feedback link below.

Hardware

17-inch LCD iMac – This would be an excellent addition to the lineup and would definitely provide a boost to slumping iMac sales. The biggest consideration is the weight of the heavier display on the swing arm and the price point. With the current 15-inch iMac models priced at US$1400-$1900, we have to believe that the larger LCD will add at least US$400 to the price, moving the base model dangerously close to the US$2000 price point. A little steep for a consumer Mac. Aside: The rumor-mogering MSNBC and ZDNet are already weighing in with 17-inch iMac stories. Guess they won’t be in the Macworld press area next week!

PowerMac G4 – The desktop Mac lineup is in desperate need of a speed and feature bump, and while they are at it, they could stand to update the long-in-the-tooth desktop enclosure as well. Dual PowerPC 7460 1.2 or 1.4GHz models are in the works with 8x AGP, Double Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM running at 166MHz and 800Mbps Firewire 2 (a.k.a. IEEE 1394b) ports, but 480Mbps USB2 is unlikely to make the cut because it directly competes with FireWire and FW2. Including USB2 would cede the peripheral connectivity title to Intel over Apple’s competing FW2 and Apple wouldn’t do that. Don’t get too excited though, Apple probably won’t announce the new desktop Power Macs for another month or so and the G5 is at least six to nine months out.

Portables – Everyone likes speed bumps and there have been a lot of questions about the role of the PowerBook and iBook in the Macworld announcements. There is a chance that Apple will make minor speed bumps to its portables, but there is little or no chance that a new form-factor will be announced. The iBook line was just updated to 700MHz on 20 May 2002 and the PowerBook G4 DVI line (667 and 800MHz) was introduced on 29 April 2002. Although secret PowerBook G4s running at 1GHz have been spotted in public they should not be expected until later this fall – earliest. There is always the possibility that a Special Edition portable loaded with RAM and a large HDD could be announced next week but faster models with on-board Bluetooth, Firewire 2 and other niceties are likely to be announced closer to the end of the year.

AirPort will probably not be updated until early next year (likely Macworld San Francisco, January 2003) as the company is evaluating both 802.11a and 802.11g as successors to the current 802.11b AirPort technology. Whichever vowel they choose, 54Mbps performance should warm the heart of any true mobile technologist when it arrives. More interesting is the potential of a combo 802.11a/Bluetooth card that will replace both the current AirPort card and the discontinued DLink Bluetooth adapter. This would definitely speed the adoption of Bluetooth by Apple customers – especially if they kill the AirPort only version. Hmmmm…

iPod – Apple has to be salivating at the prospect of selling the iPod to Windows users and would be fiscally irresponsible if they didn’t at least consider marketing the device to the “other” 95 percent. Toshiba’s announcement of the competing, Windows-only Gigabeat MEG50JS in June has to be forcing their hand. It is unlikely that a new PC-compatible iPod will get released next week, this is more of an Autumn announcement. While a price reduction isn’t out of the question, I think that Apple will leave the iPod (and its profit margin) pretty much untouched at Expo with the exception of a possible software/feature update.

Miscellaneous Hardware – Apple’s demonstration of their new Inkwell (or “Ink”) handwriting-recognition technology in Mac OS 10.2 (Jaguar) opens up the potential for all kinds of new hardware, including: touch-sensitive LCDs and trackpads, not to mention cool built-in styli for portables, but it is unlikely that new Ink-compatible hardware will come out next week without the software to support it. There has been plenty of buzz of a new “digital lifestyle” device being announced at Expo but no one has the juice. The only digital lifestyle devices that Apple doesn’t currently make are a) a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) like TiVo (iTV would be a neat piece of software, wouldn’t it?), b) some form of entertainment hub, a set top box that could stream Internet radio and MP3s to any device via AirPort or BT, burn and rip CDs and possibly even dock your iPod too, c) a PDA, d) a mobile phone (iPhone is reportedly trademarked to Apple), e) a digital camera, f) a SuperPod with a color screen and additional Firewire peripherals, or g) some form of tablet Mac. Last but not least, Apple could come out with a wireless keyboard and mouse, but dang, those things eat a lot of batteries!

Whew! That was a lot. But don’t expect Apple to announce even a fraction of what is listed above next week. These are just some of my thoughts. What are your Apple hardware predictions for Expo? Please post your name or handle for full bragging rights.

Next installment: Software.

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