Tuesday at noon Eastern, Apple chief Steve Jobs will take the stage at San Francisco’s Moscone centre for his annual Macworld Expo keynote. Here’s a roundup of analysts’ predictions for what he’ll announce. (And don’t forget to play our first annual Macworld Predictions Game!)
iTunes Movie rentals. The cat is pretty much out of the bag on this one. Over the holidays, it leaked out that Apple is set to announce digital movie rentals through iTunes. Fox and Disney are said to be sure bets, with Warner and Paramount on the fence.
iPod-ready movies on DVDs. Some studios (Fox?) may include a second digital copy of movies on DVDs that can be ripped onto a computer and loaded onto an iPod.
Ultra-thin laptop. The most widely anticipated hardware announcement. Analysts think it could include all or some of the following: flash-based storage (instead of a spinning hard drive; this helps keep computer skinny and use less battery power), an external optical drive, 13.3-inch display (same as MacBooks), aluminium case (to match MacBook Pro line), embedded wireless (3G or WiMax) Internet access, and multi-touch technology (as seen on the iPhone and iPod touch). RBC pegs the price at $1200 or more.
Apple TV update. As we’ve noted here before, the Apple TV set-top box was a decent device, but now needs more features to compete with a growing field of rivals — Xbox 360, PS3, Netflix/LG tie-up, etc. Beyond movie rentals, Apple might add Safari Web browsing, TV tuner (AmTech prediction), “media server” capabilities, and DVR software (RBC). Could also interact with iPod touch and iPhone via wi-fi (RBC).
Blu-ray discs. A few weeks ago, AmTech analyst Shaw Wu predicted Apple would announce Blu-ray integration. We were sceptical at the time because the format war with HD DVD was undecided and we didn’t think Apple would force a product with questionable industry support onto its customers. And Apple updated its Mac Pro line without Blu-ray discs last week, so we’d be surprised to see Jobs will make any hi-def disc announcements tomorrow. But now that Blu-ray has pretty much won its format war versus HD DVD, it wouldn’t be a surprise at any time if Apple integrated the drives into its Macs or Apple TVs.
Minor iPhone updates. We expect Jobs to give an update on the iPhone’s progress, including some new software from Apple. We don’t expect him to say he’s sold 5 million phones since last summer; we think a more reasonable number would be about 3.7 million. In December, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster guessed there could be some iPhone/iPod touch games announced at Macworld. The NYT reports that new Google software for the iPhone is set to hit today. And at some point, Apple will need to shed more light on the software developers kit it’s prepping for mobile developers. We know that Apple will be announcing a new iPhone this year that can connect to ‘3G’ wireless data networks, but we don’t expect that tomorrow. More likely: Apple might increase the memory in iPhones to 16 gigabytes. And Apple could announce some new carriers in more countries.
Odds and ends. Wireless backup/storage devices? Minor updates to MacBook and MacBook Pro lines? New Apple displays with built-in iSight cameras?
What do you think? Enter our first annual Macworld Predictions Game!
See Also: What’s In The Air For Apple?
Five Things You Won’t See At Macworld
Blu-ray Not Coming To Apple’s Macs
Wu’s Macworld Picks: MacBook Mini, Blu-Ray, Movie Rentals
Why Wait For Macworld? Tablet Mac Already Shipping
Apple At Macworld: Tiny MacBook, No 3G iPhone?
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