Mac Musings

Predictions for Macworld Expo

Daniel Knight - 1999.12.22 -

January is Apple's favorite time of year to introduce new products. Coming on the heels of the holiday shopping season, which should be Apple's best ever, it's a chance to announce what dealers will be able to stock the shelves with in the coming months.

Predictions run from the mundane (faster versions of today's Macs - duh!) to the insane (see The Rumor Mill for some pretty off the wall suggestions).

The iMac

Current models run at 350 and 400 MHz. They'll be almost three months old, and both clock speeds seem pretty low relative to the 433 MHz and faster entry-level Wintel boxes. Odds are Apple will increase clock speed on both the entry-level iMac and the iMac DV. At the same time, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Apple replace the CD-ROM drive on the $999 iMac with a DVD player.

Whether Apple does this at Macworld Expo is pure speculation, but if they've cleared the channel of the old models, it would be the perfect time to announce a speed-bump.

The Power Macintosh

Apple has pretty much promised (Motorola permitting) a 500 MHz Power Mac G4 in January. If Motorola has solved production problems, there's an outside chance of 550 or 600 MHz models, but don't hold your breath. Sooner or later, however, we'll see those speeds.

Regardless, speed bumps are pretty mundane. The best thing Apple could do would be replace the pedestrian ATI Rage 128 video card with a real 3D screamer like the Voodoo3 card.

The iBook

As with the iMac, the iBook just sounds slow relative to all the $1,500 Wintel laptops with 433 MHz Celery (uh, Celeron) chips. On the other hand, power consumption must be kept down to keep battery life up. If a faster G3 exists with similar or better power consumption characteristics, expect a slightly faster iBook. Still, I don't expect anything faster than 366 MHz.

As for rumored changes to a slotless drive, addition of DVD, another USB port - don't count on it. Apple wants to keep cost down and make this the most affordable portable computer on the market, able to hold its own against $1,500 Wintel laptops.

If nothing else, regardless of what it does to retail price, Apple should boost base memory to 64 MB. A less garish color would be nice (graphite?), as would more speed. Best bet: 333 or 366 MHz iBook with 64 MB RAM and a slightly larger hard drive, probably 4 GB.

The PowerBook

The oldest model in Apple's line, everyone expects Lombard to be replaced by Pismo. Expected changes include a 100 MHz bus, faster CPUs (I think 400 and 500 MHz likely), a still thinner case (some Wintel laptops are just 1" thick), and less weight.

Expect DVD to be standard on both models, as well as an AirPort slot. A bigger screen is rumored. I'd love to see that, but I think that depends on Apple once again offering two different screen sizes. The current 1024 x 768 screen is incredible; the only reason to replace it is to offer more pixels, which may mean an even larger screen, which could mean an even larger footprint, which would not be a good thing for the already-large PowerBook G3.

Still, a 1280 x 960 or 1280 x 1024 screen would be a nice option. Even Apple's two-page 1152 x 870 would give me enough reason to figure out how to afford one.

That there will be an improved PowerBook is pretty much a given, as are more speed, less weight, and DVD. Beyond that, we'll see.

Other New Products

Rumors of an 18" flat panel Studio Display are common. It won't have the pinache of the 22", but then it won't have such a huge price tag, either. I think we're fairly likely to see a new Studio Display.

I'm not holding my breath, but I think a compact notebook (see MyBook and The Next PowerBooks for my guess on details) is a better than even bet.

I still don't anticipate an Apple-branded PDA. It would be a great product for a booming market, but it would be an uphill battle against the Palm OS organizers. But it would take Apple's focus from the core Mac OS computer market, something they can't afford to do until they are comfortably past 10% market share.

Anything else? Much as I'd love a monitor-free version of the iMac for use with existing monitors, I don't hold out much hope we'll ever see it.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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