So…you want to be an Apple prognosticator. You want to be able to predict where Apple will be headed in the next 12 months. You want to impress your friends with the accuracy of your predictions.
You can do it. You can even foretell the exact month when most of your predictions will come true. And you can do it all with almost no effort. You don’t have to check the rumor blogs. Or any website at all. All you need to do is follow the pattern Apple has established over the past few years, take Apple’s latest trends and announcements into consideration, and throw in a couple of reasonable guesses. Voilà! Your crystal ball will be the envy of everyone you know.
I don’t just sell this idea, I use it. Taking this easy-as-pie can’t-fail approach, I now reveal what’s in Apple’s future for 2011:
• iPad 2. Apple announced the original iPad late last January. Expect a new one to be announced this January. As with last year, it likely won’t ship until March or so.
What will be in the new iPad? You can make a good starting guess by looking at what’s in the current iPhone and iPod touch that is not yet in the iPad. By this gauge, it’s a sure bet that the new iPad will have a front facing camera and support FaceTime. There will also be improvements in screen quality, akin to the Retina Display.
• Verizon iPhone. You can’t go wrong predicting a Verizon iPhone. It’s bound to happen someday. Probably soon. So you might as well go with January. If it happens anytime later in the year, you can claim your prediction was correct; you just missed the precise timing. Sort of like a stopped watch; it still shows the correct time twice a day. Bonus prediction: There will be a CDMA- version of the iPad, sold by Verizon.
• Apple’s Cloud service. Back in June 2009, Apple confirmed that it is building a server farm facility in North Carolina. So far, Apple has not announced its intended use of this facility. The consensus is that Apple will use it as part of some major move into cloud computing, perhaps allowing you to store your iTunes Library in the cloud. You might as well toss this in for January, even though it may happen a bit later.
• Mac App Store success. The Mac App Store goes live January 6. By February, you can expect an Apple press release describing how insanely successful the Store has been in its first month.
• iOS 5. Apple has typically announced a new version of iOS in a special event in March. Expect this pattern to repeat this year. At the event, Apple will announce a beta version of the new OS SDK, available immediately. A beta version of the OS itself will soon follow.
• Apple stock rises then falls. Apple’s stock had a great run in 2010. With a Verizon iPhone and a new iPad, you can expect the stock stock to continue its ascent in 2011. Still, after these new products are on the shelves, and especially after Apple posts its first quarterly earnings for 2011, you can expect the stock to take a small tumble — as investors realize (yet again) that Apple’s products are not really magical.
• New iMacs. Apple has at least a minor refresh to the iMac lineup every year. The spring is often when they do it. I don’t expect major changes to iMacs this year. I can’t imagine that Apple will increase the iMac’s maximum display size to 30 inches. A reasonable bet is that solid-state drives (currently a BTO option) will become standard across the entire iMac lineup (except for the cheapest model). You’ll also have a choice between a Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad as the in-the-box input device.
• iPhone 5. Apple has released a new iPhone every June/July since 2007. There’s no reason to expect this year to be different. New iPhone features are likely to expand on the current ones. For starters, thanks to faster processors, expect to see increased support for AirPlay (and video streaming in general) and better multitasking.
• WWDC shows off iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion. As the main attraction of WWDC, developers will get their hands on a beta copy of Lion. There will also be numerous sessions on iOS 5, officially released with the iPhone 5.
• New iTunes. A new version of iTunes will likely get released as part of the cloud announcement in January. If not (and maybe even if so), you can count on a new version by July, designed to accommodate whatever new features come with the iPhone 5.
• The “death” of jailbreaking. With each new iOS update and hardware release, Apple has made it more and more difficult to jailbreak iOS devices. Worse, even if jailbreak developers figure out a hack that is simple and reliable enough to attract users beyond their inner circle, the next iOS update will negate their efforts and move the hackers back to square one. It’s an ongoing fight, and jailbreakers are on the wrong end. With iOS 5 and iPhone 5, the fight will be effectively over. Jailbreakers will be declared the loser by a technical knock-out.
• New Mac Pro. The Mac Pro should get a beef-up sometime this year. Timing it close to the WWDC is as good a time as any. As with the iMac, expect the trend towards making SSD drives standard to be extended to these models.
• New iPods. This is the time of year when new iPods are released. This year should be no exception. Expect an updated iPod nano as the main attraction. Who knows what crazy new design or retro-re-redesign the nano will feature. But expect Steve Jobs to explain why it’s much better than whatever was touted as the best thing ever last year. The next generation iPod touch will also be released, adding whatever new features from the iPhone 5 that are transferrable to the touch.
• Mac OS X Lion ships. This is an easy call. Apple has already stated that Lion will ship this summer. Previous trends suggest September as the exact month. Expect it to have a boatload of new features — well beyond what we’ve seen already. There will also be refinements to the Mac App Store, based on the several months of use now under its belt.
• MacBooks. If Apple’s laptops haven’t already been updated by this point in the year, now is when it will happen. New features in the MacBook and MacBook Pro models will follow the lead set by the MacBook Air last year. Expect little or no change to the Air itself.
• Apple TV 2+. The Apple TV is an iOS device. At some point, Apple will allow third-party iOS apps on the Apple TV. If so, Apple will have to add user-accessible storage space to the Apple TV, so you have a place to store downloaded apps (unless Apple expects you to store all your apps in the cloud). This will require a update to the Apple TV. For what it’s worth, I consider this to be the riskiest call on my list.
• New version of iLife and iWork software. An upgrade to iLife and iWork happens almost every year. It will happen this year again, as Apple updates their popular software suites to accommodate the changes introduced in Lion. Chances are good the software will be sold exclusively through the Mac App Store. New versions of the iOS-based iWork apps will be released as well.
• Apple’s stock ends up for the year. They say what goes up, must come down. This may be true (except for the weight I gain over the holidays). Regardless, 2011 is not the year that Apple’s stock will begin a downward trajectory.
Beyond all of this, you can count on a few curve balls. I haven’t mentioned Apple’s Pro apps (e.g., Final Cut, Logic), the Mac mini, or AirPort devices. Updates here remain up for grabs. There are already predictions of new versions of the Pro apps coming soon. Finally, there are the unexpected surprises. Although signs suggest that 2011 will see no major new products released (just updates to existing lines), we won’t know for sure until Steve Jobs’ final “one more thing” of the year. Just as well. You wouldn’t want to know everything in advance. Would you?
[P.S. After completing a draft of this column, Mac Observer’s John Martellaro pointed me to a similarly themed article by John Evans, posted late last month. Whoa! And I thought I was on to something no one else had done yet. Anyway, I recommend checking out the article. It’s further proof that my fool-proof formula for Apple predictions works as advertised.]