Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rubbing the genie's lamp

A week an a half from now is one of the favorite things an Apple watcher can experience - a Stevenote (tm). This Stevenote will be to kick off Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), and Apple has some neat things on the agenda. With the demise of MacWorld Boston (RIP), WWDC now represents one of only two in-country regularly scheduled Stevenotes - the other one, of course, is at MacWorld San Francisco in January. At last years' WWDC, Jobs announced the migration to Intel chips. At last January's Macworld, he announced the first two shipping Intel-based Mac systems (the iMac and MacBook Pro). WWDC will mark about 7 full months since Intel initial shipments, and there's still some pieces of the puzzle left to fill. Here's my prognostication about what is likely to be announced at WWDC, and the odds I'd attach to each of them.

By the way, clients of mine pay for more nuanced versions of this. Enjoy the freebie!

- A Mac Pro (or similarly named PowerMac G5 replacement): 99.5%. The only thing that can derail this announcement is a last-minute manufacturing problem. Look for the Mac Pro to be equipped with 1 or 2 dual-core Xeon processors (preserving the 64-bit goodness of the G5), but otherwise to be close in specifications to the current G5 towers. A new enclosure is likely - Apple always changes the tower design with new processor families.

- New Intel Xeon-based Xserve: 80%. It may be skipped if they don't want to steal any thunder from the desktop announcement. No idea on specs, other than that it'll stay at 1u height. I hope to see onboard video and built-in hardware RAID, thus saving both PCI-X slots for expansion (it may move to PCI Express at the same time). If Apple skips this, look for a low-key announcement a few weeks later.

- iTunes movie download service: 30%. Apple doesn't usually announce this kind of stuff at WWDC - they usually either hold separate press events or do it at MacWorld.

- Speedbumps for existing Intel Macs: 60%. They may do that for a model or two, but for the most part they'll be done in passing, like they normally are in the Windows world. Expect a clock increase on the MacBook Pro by September, and maybe a move to the new Core 2 Duo (pin-compatible with the original Core Duo) for iMac before fall, as well.

- Death of the G5: 100%. Even if Apple doesn't dump them on announcement day, they will drive the final stake in the G5's heart that day. Expect Power Mac G5s to be available for a couple more months, and Xserve G5s to be available for about the same time - maybe a little less.

- Adobe coming out on stage to suck up: 75%. I think they'll be out there to demo CS3, and to say that it's ahead of schedule (even if they have to lie and/or eat crow to do so). Adobe pissed off Apple when they weren't at least partway done at the Intel Mac launch. They're going to have to pay tribute, or Apple may...

- Apple adds to their Pro software line with Photoshop killer: 40%. If Jobs isn't happy with Adobe he may pull this out of the skunkworks and fire a major shot across Adobe's bow.

I have other guesses as well - but that's the batch I'm sharing pre-WWDC.

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