With the doors of the Moscone center in San Francisco soon to burst open upon a Jobs-less Macworld 2009, the Internets are predictably alive with rumors–some more believable, some less believable, some just stuffed with desperate hope. Here’s a summary so far.
The iPhone, and particularly the globally-released iPhone 3G, unarguably catapulted Apple right into the limelight–once again Apple had developed an innovative, attractive and uniquely clever device. But that’s not enough for some: “the device is too big” they say, and rumors of a smaller iPhone “nano” version have abounded–after all, Apple did that with the iPod, didn’t it? Several case manufacturers have even “leaked” the supposed size specs. But with Jobs himself ruling out such a device pretty recently this rumor gets rated as 40% possible.
Unibody 17-inch MacBook Pro
When the MacBook and MacBook Pro followed the MacBook Air into all-aluminum body designs last year, the 17-inch Pro was conspicuously left out. Now there are strong suggestions it’ll follow its smaller and less powerful brethren into the clever unibody metal shell. But there’s reportedly a twist: just like the Air, the 17-inch Pro won’t have a user-removable battery. While this will surely anger some people, the reasoning is sound: Without the engineering required to make the battery removable, there’s more room for a bigger cell, giving more battery life–arguably vital for driving that large display. All very plausible: 80% possible.
According to MacRumors buyer’s guide the Mini hasn’t been updated for 517 days as of today. It lags behind the processor power and graphics power updates that every other Mac has had. Rumors are circulating that it will get a new all-aluminum body (completing the all-metal Mac line-up, except for the entry-level MacBook) equivalent Nvidia graphics to the new macs, a Firewire 800 port and the capability of driving dual displays with a mini-DisplayPort socket. Again, all very plausible: 90% possible.
While teasing the possibility of an iPhone Nano, the analystCraig Berger at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. also suggested a smaller iPod Shuffle is on its way. Agreed, with tighter integration of dedicated components on the circuit board, such a device is completely possible. The limiting factors are shrinking the battery tech and fitting in usable controls. Both can be accommodated if there are power efficiencies, and with an in-headphone-cable remote. But why would Apple bother? It’s already a fabulous, well-sold design. 30% possible.
iWork’09, iLife09 in the Cloud
Apple’s MobileMe solution put some core Mac desktop functionality into the Cloud, and there are rumors that both iLife’09 and iWork’09 will follow that model. An entire web-kit based work/graphics/movie etc. package would follow Apple’s design meme: MobileMe sets the precedent, and Apple already has the iDisk cloud data-storage option and the over-the-air remote access to your home Mac “Back to my Mac” facility. It’s certainly possible, though if it happens the desktop version may well remain too, since it’s arguable you’d want to work on your movies and word-processing offline. 40% possible.
OS X Snow Leopard
With Phil Schiller taking the keynote slot recently vacated by Jobs, there are rumors he’ll be demonstrating some of the advances and features of the OS X update Snow Leopard. The software is in advanced testing, and due for release in early 2009 so it’s pretty likely that it will get a showing, though perhaps not as the keynote centerpiece. Announcing an early release for the package would certainly steal some thunder from the upcoming Windows 7, though it’s less likely than a simple demo. 70% possible.
…One More Thing.
Will Schiller deliver a “One more thing” surprise product? That was a Jobs trademark, so if it happens it’d have to be done with some panache, and be designed to show that news of Apple product innovation can be delivered with or without Jobs. But what would it be? The rumored Mac tablet? A cheap low-end MacBook to rival the new netbooks but not actually entering that market? A Mac Nano? An enhanced Apple TV media server? A 28-inch iMac?
Time will tell. One thing is certain: Apple’s business success has been built on innovation, which certainly gives the company the power to come up with surprises.