Saturday, 20 December 2008
What can we expect from a Schiller MacWorld, and beyond?
With Apple's recent de-emphasis of MacWorld, we may expect the announcements that Phil Schiller has to make to be reasonably low-key. The consensus view seems to favor a demonstration of Snow Leopard, with an earlier than expected release. The release date of 10.6 is, however, unlikely to coincide with MacWorld itself. Based upon previous OS X launches, it's more likely that it will be announced and demoed at MacWorld, but not launched until March.
Some have argued that Apple is rushing 10.6 to market before Windows 7 is released. But this also seems unlikely, for two reasons. Firstly, Apple was always planning to release 10.6 by Summer 2009, which means it was going to be out before Windows 7 anyway. And secondly, 10.6 is not a normal Mac OS X release - since it's focused almost exclusively on stability and performance improvements, rather than marketable new features.
In fact, given the focus of 10.6, it's likely that it will be a free release for users of 10.5. After all, with new features limited to arcane things like Exchange support, Grand Central and all-Cocoa apps, to charge consumers for the update would look a lot like charging to fix bugs in the existing product.
Instead, we can expect a relatively low-key Snow Leopard announcement - which perhaps goes some way to explaining the choice of Schiller rather than Jobs to headline MacWorld.
There's plenty more in the pipeline of course. The new Mac Mini will be an evolution, rather than revolution, and recent revelations indicate that it is likely to be launched at MacWorld. The new unibody 17" Macbook Pro (pictured above), will almost certainly be released at some point in 2009. But is unlikely to be ready for MacWorld, instead being quietly added to the Apple website in May. I'm basing this prediction on the rollout of the previous revision to Apple's notebook enclosures. In that instance, it was the 15" model that was released last, trailing the launch of the 12" and 17" models by around 10 months.
Finally, there have been plenty of rumors doing the rounds about a smaller, non-3G iPhone. However, given the importance of 3G in the iPhone proposition, it seems unlikely that they'll release a non-3G version at this stage. A smaller form factor is more likely, although the size of the user interface elements in a multi-touch environment is a significant physical limitation on just how far Apple can miniaturize. The screen can't go much smaller without requiring the introduction of a variant of the iPhone UI, and it's very unlikely that Apple would consider this. Also, Apple is unlikely to update the iPhone until the current model has been out for a year, (since it would risk alienating existing iPhone 3G users). Which means the next model will probably be released at WWDC in the Summer. Best guess is that the new iPhone will have a slimmer, metal, iPod touch style enclosure and a better camera with video support, in 16GB and 32GB flavors.