Macworld Expo San Francisco

5 minute read

Love to see your comments about MacWorld 2006 on your blog, if you have any. This year will be my first as an attendee, and I plan on drinking Steve’s Kool-Aid all week. Even sadder, I’m looking forward to it a little bit more than Christmas…..not sure what that says about me.

So, if you have predictions, comments, hopes or desires you want to see happen that week, I think you have enough geeks that would enjoy hearing your perspective.

Kind Regards,


I can’t pass up a question that someone asks me to answer. I’ve been thinking about it a little, but not too hard this year.

First, a recap of the current rumors is worth listing. According to MacRumors, there are six strongish rumors.

  • Intel PowerBooks
  • Intel iBooks
  • Intel Mac mini
  • iLife ‘06
  • iWork ‘06
  • Leopard Preview

New Hardware

The current popular rumor which has risen to the level of fact via the mechanism of urban myth is that Apple will transition the low end Macs first. While all the speculative stories in the media about the transition said that Apple would be doing so, followed by the high end machines, at no point did Steve say that in the keynote. Go ahead and check the transcript. He didn’t say it. The other part of that rumor is that the transition will start mid-year.

But starting next year we will begin introducing Macs with Intel processors in them and over time these transitions will again occur. So when we meet here again this next time next year, our plan is to be shipping Macs with Intel processors by then, and when we meet here again two years from now, our plan is that transition will be mostly complete.

I don’t see mid-year anywhere in there. The closest thing to that is that Intel Macs will be shipping by the next WWDC. That doesn’t preclude earlier and actually in a way suggests before. So let’s put the myth to bed.

As far as I can tell, the only reason that people are suggesting that the iBook will be making the transition so early is because of those early rumors. Given, I’ve been wrong before, but I simply cannot see the motivation for Apple here. The cost motivation is bullshit because industry analysts have already stated that Apple had a sweetheart deal with IBM that gave them the chips cheaper.

While better battery life, power consumption, and performance are all excellent reasons to upgrade the laptops with Intel, they aren’t good reasons for upgrading the iBook. Customers looking to purchase the iBook aren’t likely to care enough about those issues to the point that it would affect sales. The iBook’s real selling point is the price point.

The Powerbook on the other hand, does need these things. Badly. The Powerbooks have been long in the tooth for a long time now. The best evidence of this is the fact that the last Powerbook revision had no processor speed bump at all. As far as I know, that’s unprecedented (save the Powerbooks going from G3s to G4s, but they gained new chips). Apple needs to bring attention back to the Powerbooks. A fancy new screen isn’t going to cut it for long.

That just leaves the Mac mini. While the same argument I made against an iBook transition applies to the Mac mini, it is Apple’s switcher machine. Making it an Intel machine means that dual booting with Windows will be possible, allowing switchers to feel safer because they can run a full up Windows installation for software they still need. It’s a terrific safety net. Further, virtualization software will make running Windows inside OS X nearly transparent.

Media Mac mini

A fairly significant rumor about the mini came out of Think Secret. New features include an updated Front Row, DVR functionality, an iPod dock built in, and a 3.5″ hard drive.

The iPod dock and 3.5″ hard drive are completely unexciting to me. I don’t care if they do it. I think the dock is cutesy and unnecessary. The 3.5″ isn’t exciting because a stacker device already corrects any performance or storage issues.

An updated Front Row is a no-brainer, as is it becoming available for all Macs (though it may be for pay). Apple trying to restrict it to a single machine is a practice in futility.

What’s really exciting about this is the DVR functionality. I don’t count the iTunes Music Store carrying TV shows as DVR functionality. While it does suggest a future model that video content may be delivered over (you know Comcast and the cable providers are already headed that way with On Demand), it’s not currently viable due to cost and show availability. Recording TV off cable is viable right now.

DVR is really compelling when coupled with existing Mac functionality. Imagine a $500 machine that can act as a TiVo, play DVDs, burn DVDs, play your iTunes music, show off your photos, play video games, etc. All that and it’s so small that stuffing it in your entertainment center is almost easier than with a normal DVD player.

Not only does the Mac mini become the ideal switch machine, but the ultimate consumer gateway into Macs. It becomes conceivable that people will begin buying them not because they’re a computer but because they’re a great complement to a TV. This is assuming of course that Apple thinks ahead and makes it easy to attach to TVs without DVI (by adding some kind of more traditional video output).


The last three rumors are completely boring, so predictable to the point that they’re not rumors. That is all.

The Summary

Here’s what I foresee happening. The iBook processors will be bumped up to current Powerbook speeds. The 14″ might actually get a better resolution than the 12″. The Powerbooks will move to Intel. I expect they’ll start using the new Airport/Bluetooth combo cards, or that will become completely integrated with no way to remove it.

The Mac mini will start shipping with a new Front Row and Intel processors. As much as I like the idea of it doubling as a DVR, it may not happen.

One thing I’d like to see, thought it probably won’t, is Apple start prepping for 802.11n with either some MIMO products or something that will be capable of being updated to the 802.11n standard. I’m a little disappointed with the lack of rumors in this aspect of Apple’s business, and it’s time that they returned to being on the wireless forefront.