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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

Great Expectations: What Will, and Won't Be Announced At MacWorld
July 9th, 1999

MacWorld has often reflected the best of times and the worst of times during the years. Since the return of the prodigal son to Apple's helm, MacWorld certainly has fallen into the former category. We are in the Best of Times, with big huge capital letters. Apple and Mr. Jobs have consistently chosen MacWorld to make some of their most momentous announcements. Not the least of which included the Microsoft patent dispute buyout/investment deal and the rollout of the Blue & White G3. This year's Summer MacWorld is expected to be no exception. In fact, there may be more pressure on Apple to deliver a stellar announcement or two than all other MacWorlds combined. Rumors, always a main course in an Apple fan's daily diet, have been flying for months, and even Wall Street has jumped into the prognostication game. It is likely that Mr. Jobs will not let us down and that this MacWorld will be one to remember.

The Big One

The rumor that has garnered the most attention is certainly the P1, or Consumer Portable. The Consumer Portable is the fabled 4th corner of Apple's product strategy. The other three being professional desktops (Blue & Whites), consumer desktops (the iMac), professional portables (the PowerBook G3), and consumer portables (the as yet unannounced, though acknowledged, P1).

Originally slated for release as early as 6 months ago, the P1 is to the PowerBook what the iMac is to the Blue & White: reasonably fast, not very expandable, very cool looking, and priced for the more casual consumer. It sounds like something a consumer can use to do everything consumers tend to do (e-mail, surfing, word processing, low-end graphics) and is light and pleasing to the eye. This is a device that Apple has NEVER had unless you count the eMate, but the P1 will likely be far removed in terms of power from the stillborn Newton spin-off.

The only thing that gives me pause about my amazing prescience on the P1 is Mr. Jobs' planned Keynote at Seybold at the end of August. I have more on what I think will happen at Seybold further down, but that event could have been planned when Apple realized that the P1 was NOT going to be ready for MacWorld. I don't really think so, but I have to cover my bets by mentioning the possibility. It is really too important for Apple to deliver this introduction for it not to happen.

So will we see this at MacWorld?

You betchya. By all accounts, shipments of the P1 will probably be delayed at least somewhat after it is announced, but it will make its debut at MacWorld. People we respect, like Jason O'Grady and Richard Gardner, think so, but more importantly we have our own excellent source that can confirm it. It is also in Apple's best interest to at least introduce the device as Wall Street has put a lot of stock, literally, in the device's appearance in two weeks. Should Apple fail to deliver this announcement, Wall Street will have an apoplectic fit that will send Apple into the quivering bowels of a high double-digit percentage loss of stock price.

There is more even than getting the product to market at stake here, Wall Street would see this as a return to the bad old days of Apple's decline and begin to think that the iMac was a fluke. That would be a bad thing. For this reason, Apple will demo this product come hell or high water.

What will it be called?

Our money is that it will be called the iBook. Another source writing in as I am completing this piece thinks so too. It's a logical name which balances Apple's other product names nicely. We have the PowerMac and the iMac, and the PowerBook and (now) the iBook. Cute, eh?

What's in it?

We have other information on this, but I will point you to the excellent O'Grady's PowerPage for their thoughts on the issue. Mr. O'Grady has some excellent sources and has done some fine work on this so there is no need to repeat it here.

Faster iMacs

I think we will in fact see some form of new revision to the iMac. It will almost definitely NOT be the rumored models with 15" viewable monitors, FireWire, drive bays, expansion slots and who knows what else currently circulating the Internet. Apple wants to concentrate attention on the P1 and not dilute that with some fancy-schmancy new iMac. Fret not, that type of iMac, or a reasonably close cousin, will appear later this year or early next. Instead we will see an incremental increase in speed to a 366 MHz processor and 64 MB of RAM standard.

The biggest piece of evidence for a revision to the iMac is that Apple has run out of iMacs for the Apple Store though they do have build-to-order systems. To me this indicates that Apple went through its current inventory sooner than expected and being so close to a new product rollout decided not to sweat it. Also, it is time for a new version. Apple has been updating the iMac every 3 to 6 months, and it has been 6 months since the last one.

We are still waiting for those Banana and Cherry iMacs to appear, though we are not counting on it like we did in April. We had some excellent information at that time, but it was either bogus or Apple's plans were changed. Sigh, such is the life of the prognosticator.

Apple: Internet Service Provider Extraordinaire

This is a new rumor spinning its way around the Web. The story goes that Apple is going to launch its own Internet portal and a Mac-centric ISP to boot. Hmmmm… Maybe. The Portal I can see. In fact, it is surprising that Apple has not already done so. It makes sense, especially if it can outsource the effort. With every new shipping Mac pre-set to this Portal, they can steer all kinds of traffic to a revenue center, at least for a while. But Portals are no easy matter to develop, let alone maintain. For this reason, I don't think there will be any announcement of such a portal at this MacWorld. Too much going on and too many of Apple's resources have been focused on getting the P1 out. Besides, it's another thing that can take consumer focus away from the P1 and we can't have that.

Now for that ISP: I am more doubtful about this. Once again, if Apple can outsource such a concept to another national provider (my hopes would be MindSpring, though Earthlink is a strong candidate), then I can see Apple going down this road. It seems like an unnecessary tangent to Apple's core business, something that Mr. Jobs has tried so hard to shape at Apple -- that is unless we tie in rumors of the MacMate, WebMate, and whatever other wireless devices you may have heard about.

If Apple is going to provide wireless service for a handheld or other portable, even the P1, then why not go a step further and offer full Apple branded ISP access to Apple's other customers. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the hallowed halls of Apple. In any event, while this development is at least a far-fetched possibility, it is certainly not going to be rolled out at this MacWorld. There are simply too many other things happening.

What we won't see

Faster Blue & Whites

Nope. Nada. Not going to happen. Apple just released faster Blue & Whites last month, but even more importantly, Steve Jobs is delivering the Keynote at Seybold in late August. At that time he will introduce a faster Blue & White or whatever Apple calls it at that time. It will probably have a nifty G4 in it, but that's a thought for another column.

MacOS X

Apple could show us another demo of MacOS X Client, -- possibly with a fancy Netbooting demonstration of some sort. I am not too big on this because, once again, Apple wants to keep people focused on the P1.

I also think that Seybold is a better candidate for MacOS X Server and Client information than MacWorld is. Still, Mr. Jobs could surprise us in this area.

Apple4Sale

Recently a reporter for a major newspaper contacted me for my thoughts on, among other things, whether or not Apple would be sold and whether such an announcement will or could happen at MacWorld. As I said in an Op-ed piece, I don't think Apple is being prepped for sale. Even if it were, Mr. Jobs will not be making any such announcement at MacWorld. For one thing he probably would not make it out alive. For another, with Apple having announced that Mr. Jobs is making the Keynote address at Seybold at the end of next month, we can assume that Mr. Jobs will still be at the helm. If you bought Apple, would you want to try and run the company with Mr. Jobs still around? I suppose there is the off chance that a mega-corp could buy a significant percentage of Apple, but I just don't think so. Like I said, Mr. Jobs is not finished yet and MacWorld just is not a good venue for this.

That said, if Mr. Jobs has the end-all-be-all alliance in the works, that too could be whipped out as a surprise.

Post Ramble

There was a lot of good news at WWDC. So much so that it left many of us at The Mac Observer wondering what was left for MacWorld? The P1 is part of that answer, but there may be more. It could be that Apple announced so many new products and other cool stuff because there is even more coming at MacWorld. While it seems that the P1 has seen the biggest leaks since the return of Mr. Jobs and his clampdown on the information sieve that was Apple's payroll, perhaps it's all misinformation. Perhaps Apple has a couple of announcements that none of us have gotten wind of. Until the event, I will stick by my thoughts however.

I will also revisit these results after the Keynote to see how I did.

Your comments and hate letters can be sent to backpage@macobserver.com.


began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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