An early look at Macworld Expo 2005

Believe it or not, we are only two months away from another Macworld Expo! (And even scarier, around seven weeks until Christmas! AHHH!) So I was thinking, and without going into the rumor mill, what can we expect at this Macworld Expo?

On the Apple side, I think it is reasonable to look for both a new hardware and software product announcement. The new iMac was just released, so I don’t expect anything new on that end. The PowerMac G5 line is still relatively fresh, but a huge speed boost would probably be in order come the first of the year. I would not, however, consider a G5 speed boost a Steve Jobs “One More Thing” moment. I expect he will mention it in passing during the keynote, however.

The big focus from Apple over the last few years has been, of course, the iPod. As we all know, the iPod was recently updated, with the new iPod Photo. So I don’t expect anything from that quarter either.

The leaves the portable line for updating. The G4 Powerbook is now getting very long in the tooth, as is the iBook line. The Powerbook line is particular needs a big performance boost, but there is are a lot of questions about Apple trying to stuff a hot IBM G5 processor into a slim notebook. For those who say “But Apple put it into the new iMac, and that is an all-in-one slim design” I would point out that while technically true, the iMac is almost 7-inches thick. That is, by today’s standards, way too think for a notebook computer.

So what is Apple going to do? I don’t know, but I suspect that a G5 Powerbook will be released, and that the new Powerbook line will look much different that today’s lineup.

The iBook just received a G4 speed boost, but I don’t expect Apple to release a G5 iBook over the next eight to twelve months if a G5 Powerbook is in the offering. They (Apple) won’t want to cannibalize the higher profit Powerbook line with a cheaper iBook line at close to the same processing power. It was the same when they originally released the current wide-screen G4 Powerbook line; the Powerbook got a G4, the iBook stayed at a G3. Apple did not release the current white iBooks until over a year later, and even then it kept a G3 for another year. Today, the price VS performance difference in the iBook and Powerbook line is not so great, and you can buy an iBook with almost as much power (but not a widescreen display) MUCH cheaper than a Powerbook.

I also think that Apple will release a totally new hardware product, something we have not seen before. What it will be, I don’t know and would not hazard a guess. But I think that with the success of the iPod and booming iMac sales, Apple will look to expand the wow factor of products with a third tier hardware solution that will catch everyone off guard.

Software, I think Apple has at least one major surprise coming. I don’t know if it will be a photo or music application, or something totally new. A lot of people have been clamoring for a new version of Appleworks. That is a huge hole in Apple’s iLife suite right now, and I hope it is one Apple moves to fill soon. If Apple does update the Appleworks suite of business tools, I believe they will make it more consumer oriented, leaving Microsoft Office X the professional users. Apple will also rename the software for marketing purposes. This new productivity suite will probably sport many of the same solutions that Appleworks covers, such as word processing, database, drawing/painting, and spreadsheet. As easy as Appleworks is to use today, it is still daunting for new users, so a simplified and easier to use office suite would be a welcome addition.

With the size of the hard drives in the iPod line approaching the same, or close, storage capacity of the consumer level machines, I think Apple would do well to come out with a better backup solution than they have in place now. Back up your iMac to your iPod would be a great marketing slogan, and with Apple controlling both hardware and software, they could really step up and make an attractive backup solution for their users.

From third party developers, I expect to see a plethora of iPod toys, many to take advantage of the new color capacity of the iPod. Now that the iPod is in color, and selling a bazillion units, I think that a new market has opened up for Apple and third party developers: games!

Games on the iPod would be a natural fit. Some will argue that with Song releasing their new mobile game player, the PSP, and Nintendo has their dual-screen Gameboy, the market may be saturated. I think that because the iPod is already so popular, and the video game market is so large, it is a natural fit.

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Think about it: the iPod already has a dock port. Imagine a PlayStation-Like controller that you could plug into the dock. Your iPod would fit right on top of the controller. Since the iPod already has such a huge hard drive, owners could download the games to their iPod over the Internet, using the same type of software to protect them from bootlegging or Peer-To-Peer networks.

Great games for the iPod, with a bevy of game add-ons, would take it to the next level. If Apple opens up the iPod to third party game developers, we could see some really fun titles.

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