MacWorld 2009 Predictions

By the time this is published, we’ll likely know how wrong I am.  I’m writing this Sunday night and Monday, but most of the news at these events winds up breaking the night before.  By publishing this on the Tuesday morning of the keynote, I’m already looking dated.

To recap: Steve Jobs is not giving the keynote, for reasons the blogosphere (myself included) have speculated over and analyzed ad infinitum.  I believe it’s a sound business reason; others take off their tin foil caps long enough to analyze the bacteria in Steve Jobs colon and tell us Apple is doomed and that the sky is falling. (Wait, that’s just Wall Street, isn’t it?)

So Phil Schiller is giving the keynote. From all accounts, he’s a decent speaker. He’s more a “regular guy” than Jobs, and fairly entertaining.  I’m looking forward to what he comes up with. I think the reason he is up there this year is due to (a) Apple’s pull-out from MacWorld in general and (b) an attempt to show that Apple is more than just Steve Jobs.  If you’ve been paying any attention at all lately, Jobs has been welcoming more and more people onto the keynote stage to help show things off; the stage has been set, as it were.  Now, Jobs is fading off stage completely for this one to let someone else steer things. I’m sure he’ll be back for Special Events to announce revolutionary new products, but I’m also sure that Schiller will have things to announce at MacWorld.

Why?  First, you can’t prove that Apple is more than Steve Jobs without letting someone other than Steve Jobs show off something new.  Second, Apple has taken a hit from the Apple faithful by pulling out already. Why exacerbate that by disappointing them completely with nothing new to buy?  Third, there are plenty of things due for a revision, including the MacBook Pro, the Mac Mini, and the Apple TV.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see something else entirely new announced, just to show how strong Apple can be without its High Lord and Master Jobs on stage. I can’t predict that one.

I don’t think Jobs will make a special appearance at the show.  That would only upstage Schiller.  Maybe he’ll appear in a video before the keynote to welcome Schiller in, but that’s about it.  Having Jobs be “One More Thing” completely defeats the purpose of this keynote, for Apple.

I do think we’ll see Apple TV 3.  It’s a MacWorld tradition by now.  Like Apple TV 2, it’ll be a software update for existing customers, and a slightly revved up chunk of hardware for new users.  It has to include more internet connectivity.  I can’t see Apple cutting a deal with Hulu, as cool as that would be. There’s too much bad blood between Apple and NBC.  Maybe there’s some other video sharing site that it could link into? What else is there? I can’t see Netflix integration, as they’re technically a competitor to iTunes.

The Mac Mini will get an upgrade, but I think everyone else has already predicted this. If they could make it under $500, it would really help them with the netbook crowd, until the iPod Touch Tablet shows up at the end of the year. ;-)

Snow Leopard will be demoed in more detail.  I bet they set a release date and price.  And I bet the price is under $100 this time.  $129 won’t fly for what many see as merely a maintenance release.

iLife and iWork will be updated, too, just to remind people that they’re still out there.

The general theme seems to be Macs in the home and multimedia.  So I think you won’t see a MacBook revision.  That’s more for the developers/  You’re more likely to see an iMac rev.  I don’t see a cinema display rev or addition coming, either.

Finally, apart from the keynote, I predict that Andy Ihnatko will join Scott Bourne’s latest blog on consumer digital video. Ihnatko has only mentioned a meeting between the two in San Fran with an announcement forthcoming.  This makes the most amount of sense to me.

(Since writing the first draft of this post, Steve Jobs issued a statement that he’s had some minor health issues that prevent him from doing the keynote this year.  That could, theoretically, invalidate everything I’ve written above.  We’ll see.  But I bet it means we won’t see him with on stage with Obama talking about being the new CTO. ;-)