Kicking Off The Macworld San Francisco Wish List

December. Itis the most wonderful time of the year. Snow has laid a white blanket over the American North East. Shoppers pack the stores in a frenzy of unadulterated consumption. Itis a sure bet Patrick Stewart is doing a live reading of "A Christmas Carol" somewhere. Even the ringing in my head starts to sound like sleigh bells. iTis truly the season.

I am of course referring to none other than the Macworld Expo prediction season, that festive occasion when all good Mac girls and boys get together and try and guess what Steve Jobs and Apple are hiding under the black duvateen covering their booth at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Letis just blow iem out now, and get it over with, shall we?

  • iMovie 3.5
  • 30" Aluminum Cinema Display
  • PC-Card for AT&Tis broadband wireless EDGE network
  • AppleWorks 7 including/or Document
  • an Apple tablet computing device
  • speed/feature bumped (insert Mac product line here)
  • iLife for Windows

This meager list is really a triumph of Apple over the rumor-industrial complex. Apple staggers its announcements so effectively that no one really knows whatis due for a refresh anymore. Last year around this time, Apple updated the Titanium PowerBook G4 to its final and most powerful config, then came back at Expo to reveal the entirely-new Aluminum 12" and 17" models. It is, in fact, far easier lately to point out what you wonit see at the show.

  • iLife for Windows
  • G5 PowerBooks
  • a mouse with more than one button.
  • Mac OS X on Intel hardware
  • a sub-$500 headless iMac
  • an Apple PDA
  • an Apple PDA
  • or an Apple PDA

Consider yourself free to enjoy Januaryis keynote for the "Ahh" inspiring spectacle that is surely will be. You will be surprised. Something cool will be announced. Steve Jobs will orchestrate both masterfully. Letis now move on to something far more fun and in the spirit of the holidays. The wish list.

Hmm...

You know I keep looking up at that "no way on earth" list and I keep staring at that one there... an Apple PDA. Boy, I sure liked those Newtons, didnit you? People who thought they were too big didnit get it. They werenit PDAs, they were handheld computers with capabilities the latest smartphones and handhelds still havenit fully matched. I understand Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller when they tell us that it just doesnit make sense for Apple to go into the PDA business. I agree wholeheartedly. I donit want an Apple PDA.

I want a handheld Macintosh. Period.

Sound crazy? You have no idea. Okay hereis my whole point, and I appreciate you coming along this far. Not only is some of it doable, it should be done. Work with me here. Iim no John Rubenstein, but I donit think this is much of a stretch. I present to you, the PowerPod.

Take a 12" PowerBook. Lose the optical drive. Use the same tiny hard drives that ship in iPods. The display is the same size as the keyboard yielding a 1024 x 384 landscape display that flips and closes over the keyboard. Use a G3 and a smaller battery perhaps. Suddenly, weire imagining Mac OS X in the palm of our hand. One FireWire port acts as data and/or the power plug, just like an iPod. One USB 2.0 port. One Ethernet/Modem port (one of my favorite features of my long gone PowerBook 3400). Borrow the iBookis mini VGA. Add Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme. One memory slot. Maybe add a PCMCIA or Compact Flash slot.

Point and click? Letis take a moment here. An Inkwell enabled touch screen would be ideal, but mousing could be done with a bluetooth mouse. Perhaps a retractable trackpad could be engineered to slide out from under where the space bar lives. What about a Bluetooth trackpad? How hard it would be to make the H key a little bigger and make its surface a mini trackpad? Getting it to know the difference between "Type a double H," and "click twice" would be a challenge. Perhaps it switches from "H key" to trackpad when you hold down another key. A less slick solution might just be having a detachable trackpad that plugs into the USB port right where you want it.

Software touches could include display technology that rotates the on-screen contents when the display is closed (in hand-held mode), or a special version of iTunes that yields iPod-like functionality with an Audio-Out port that supports the iPodis remote. This is not a machine designed to run Final Cut Pro, but it would definitely come bundled with Keynote. Plug it into your full-size Macis FireWire port and iSync launches and asks if youid like to sync entire hard drives or just your home folder. How about a DVD player (software) that securely rips video from your big Macis DVD drive to your PowerPodis hard drive for later viewing?

Needless to say, this is not for students or consumers but do you at least see where Iim going with this? Thereis lots to debate including how technically feasible it all is. I grant you all that, but if you connect some of the dots Apple has already put down, you can start drawing a picture of a very strange new kind of device.

Maybe the marketis too small for it. Maybe a million things. Itis the holidays darn it, and everyone gets to make a wish.

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