Chuck La Tournous's (Last Minute) Macworld Predictions

TMO Contributor Chuck La Tournous took a few years off to bask in the glow of his stellar record of 2004 prognostications (although some might merely call it "quitting while he was ahead.") Nevertheless, heis back and ready to throw a couple copper coins into the prediction pool for 2007. Speculation? Nope, just a little market analysis, some close Apple-watching and a healthy dose of wishful thinking.

When we last met on the subject of reading Appleis tea leaves, I was prognosticating about the brave new world of 2004. Back then, I was calling for iPod minis, where I was a little off on the name and really wrong about the price (although a lot of my reasoning eventually saw its way into the iPod shuffle.) I predicted major upgrades to iTunes and iPhoto (which back then was not the no-brainer it may seem now in hindsight.) I was also looking for a sound-editing app that materialized as GarageBand; more non-computer products (a prediction that was more premature than wrong); resounding success for the Apple Stores (while retail analysts and Leo Laporte were still calling the venture a boondoggle doomed to failure); and gains in marketshare.

Where was I completely off the mark? I predicted subscription-based services for dot-Mac, including iSync and iChat video as paid-for services; major wins in the enterprise; and music services offering downloads using Appleis FairPlay DRM, which would have happened if Apple had not (smartly, it turns out) refused to license it.

On, then, to 2007 and a new home here at The Mac Observer. To keep this from becoming more of a wishlist than an analysis, Iill follow the tried-and-true method of sticking to three major topics: hardware, software and Apple itself.

Hardware: Weill get lots of new hardware from Apple in i07. You donit need a crystal ball to see that -- the company itself has made that clear. The iTV; new iPods and new, more powerful Macs (maybe even in a new form factor) are a given. The "iPhone" is a pretty sure thing at this point, too. But itis got to be more than a phone that plays media (or an iPod that makes phone calls.) Those already exist. And yes, Apple can certainly improve on the industrial design and user interface, but unless it does something radically different that whatis on the market, it will wind up being another "me, too" device, and not worthy of Apple, or the hype. Overall, though, I think itis going to be the "iTV" that emerges as the most significant piece of hardware, at least early in the year. I also think itis capabilities are going to go far beyond what Steve showed last fall; and it will be those new features -- tied to Leopard, Iim betting -- that make it a transcendent, culture-changing device, like the iPod was five years ago.

Software: Leopard. Itis going to be what drives all the other new hardware and links it all together. And itis that interoperability -- that "hub-ness," if you will -- that makes all of this work in a "big picture" way. I see Leopard working as a sort of server for the digital life that the new hardware will enhance. Pushing your iMovies and other stored media wirelessly from your Mac (or your iTV) to your iPod from anywhere you can connect to a network; doing the same sort of thing with your phone, along with a connection to dot-Mac, perhaps, for all your contact and calendar information. I think these devices become a way to remotely hook in to all the things the Mac in your home can do -- itis really about extending the reach of your Mac as a tool.

Apple: The big news for Apple as a company is pushing forth the thread that runs through all of this: interoperability and expanding the limits of how you connect with your digital life. Pushing the power of your computer to the device you carry with you. It will be the continued blurriness surrounding what kind of company Apple is: a computer-maker, software developer, consumer electronics company, entertainment provider? The answer will be all-of-the-above, more than ever.

The nice thing about looking at the year ahead as a whole and not just Jobsi Macworld Keynote is that Iive got until next December before you can hold me accountable for all this. Nevertheless, Iill step -- albeit gingerly -- out on a ledge about when I expect to see my predictions come true:

  • Leopard: April
  • iTV: May (I think its features are tightly tied to Leopard, so it has to be concurrent with or shortly after the release of Leopard.)
  • An eight-core Mac: January
  • Widescreen iPod: January (I know most people are calling for this late in the year, but I think it has a good chance of being a surprise announcement at Macworld Expo.)