2007: The year in preview

Not even Steve Jobs knows everything that will occur in the world of Macs in 2007. But that needn’t stop anyone from making predictions of their own. In that spirit, we brought together a panel of Mac watchers—senior editor Christopher Breen, contributing editor Adam C. Engst, John Gruber of the Daring Fireball blog, MacUser contributor and Chicago Sun-Times technology and computer columnist Andy Ihnatko, and John Moltz of the Crazy Apple Rumors Site —to tell us what they think 2007 will bring.

What will be the most significant new hardware to appear in 2007?

Breen: Other—as in hardware other than computers. This could include an iPhone, a widescreen iPod, or the iTV.

Engst: I’d like to say iTV, but it’s as yet unclear how large of an impact it will have, given that many people are clearly happy with watching video on their Macs or iPods already, and making a better connection between a Mac and a TV may simply not be sufficiently compelling. AirPort Express is cool, but it didn’t change the world. Were I to venture further out on the limb, I’d predict new hardware designs for at least the iMac and the MacBook Pro, with the Mac mini and the Mac Pro potentially in line as well.

Gruber: An Apple-branded mobile phone. I’m torn between whether such a device will be its own new brand, or whether it’ll be branded as an iPod with phone capabilities. But I think 2007 is the year this will happen, and I think it’s going to be big news.

Ihnatko: Apple’s wireless iPods. The iPod is the tail that wags the dog; any change that Apple makes to the iPod winds up in the pockets, belts, and purses of the entire world, and unlike Zune and its “why even bother?” WiFi features, Apple will make the iPod’s wireless features compelling, relevant, and instantly transformative.

Moltz: The Apple iPhone, as it will have only one button.

What will be the most significant new software to appear in 2007?

Breen: The software that manages Other—a new version of iTunes.

Engst: Leopard, without question. Just the features that have been previewed so far would be sufficient to give it the nod, and Steve Jobs implied there were more features coming as well. That said, Leopard faces the same challenge that Tiger faced and, for many people, failed to meet. If, like me, you find Spotlight useless, can’t figure out anything useful to run in Dashboard, don’t use Mail, and have little use for Automator, Tiger doesn’t offer much more than Panther did. Boot Camp, Time Machine, Spaces, and Dashboard’s Web Clip certainly sound useful, but whether they will prove to be so in real-world use remains to be seen.

Gruber: Can I just say Leopard? If so, that’s my answer. If I need to be more specific, I’d say Safari 3.0.

Ihnatko: The most significant software has to be the Universal editions of Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite. They’re the last pieces of the Intel transition, and I’m sick an tired of living in a world where the fastest Photoshop machines are Windows boxes.

Moltz: iTunes 8, which will be able to find a song for you if you just say “You know that song, the one that goes ‘Baaaah, dah-dah-dah-dah! Bah-dah-duh-dun!’ What song is that?”

What will be the biggest Mac news in 2007?

Breen: Apple and the Other. See—I’m sticking to a theme. 2007 is the year Apple makes a bigger plunge into the media business and, through iTunes integration with the iPhone, begins to have an impact in the telecommunications business as well.

Engst: My money is on it being an overall story of Apple’s resurgence in the computer market, driven by the combination of great native hardware and software, full Windows compatibility, and the iPod’s continuing halo effect. We’ve seen record profits from Apple this year, but once Windows compatibility isn’t something that needs to be added on, I think even more people will be buying Macs. The real question is, what will Apple do with all that money?

Gruber: The release of OS X 10.5. What’s going to make Leopard such a big deal is that there are so many different new things in it. It’s packaged and presented as a single new product, but it’s really a collection of dozens of new and updated components. Everything from Safari to iChat to iCal is getting a significant overhaul. It’s a horrible cliché, but there really is something for everyone.

Ihnatko: Apple carefully and cannily licenses some of its technology to consumer-electronics makers. Not to transplant iTunes and Mac experiences onto third-party electronics, but to extend Apple’s influence into a broader range of devices.

Moltz: The biggest news will be Steve Jobs leaving Apple. After several hours of garment-rending and wailing from the Mac community, the event will end anticlimactically as Jobs will return, having apparently just gone out for a soy latte.

When will it happen?

There are many items we all know (or, at least, we think we know) are coming down the pike. The big question is, when are they coming? So we asked our experts to guess the timing for four forthcoming hardware and software products.

Leopard

  • Breen: April
  • Engst: June
  • Gruber: June
  • Ihnatko: May, so it can help boost sales to the education market.
  • Moltz: After screen shots of all the super-cool features have already been leaked on the Internet, ruining a good time for everyone.
  • iTV

  • Breen: March
  • Engst: February
  • Gruber: February. They’ll start taking orders after the Expo keynote, though.
  • Ihnatko: It’s just waiting for the 802.11n WiFi standard to settle down. I’m going to guess May.
  • Moltz: When you kids finish your homework and not a minute before! I don’t care when your show starts!
  • An eight-core Mac

  • Breen: January
  • Engst: If a Mac Pro does come out with eight cores, I’d expect it in October, presumably after Leopard and some applications that provide support for all those cores in a real way come out.
  • Gruber: January
  • Ihnatko: It’s a toss-up but I think WWDC is a safe bet.
  • Moltz: Never! Four cores should be enough for anyone. In my day, we only had one core and we had to crank-start... Hey, where are you going? Come back here!
  • Widescreen iPod

  • Breen: Spring
  • Engst: September, in time for the holiday buying season.
  • Gruber: September
  • Ihnatko: Late in the year (October, say) if at all. I still haven’t seen evidence that Apple’s actually buying parts or readying manufacturing. And iTV has taken a lot of the steam out of the “any day now” widescreen iPod rumors. Without iTV, one has to wonder why Apple has moved into movies so aggressively if not to support an iPod that makes video a more sumptuous and indulgent experience. With iTV, online movies and TV shows have someplace to go; maybe Apple will just steer iPod users to those paperback-sized screens that you slide your iPod into for longer battery life and a bigger display.
  • Moltz: Five minutes after the next time Steve Jobs says “Oh, there’s just one more thing...”
  • Last year’s scorecard

    Anyone can predict what will happen in the year ahead. But it takes a truly courageous person to dredge up last year’s predictions to see whether those came to pass—or, more likely, fell spectacularly short. In the February 2006 issue of Macworld , we asked Christopher Breen, Adam Engst, and senior editor Dan Frakes to give us their best guesses on what 2006 held in store. Here’s how their predictive powers panned out.

    Christopher Breen

  • Intel-based PowerBook: Right processor, wrong product name. But we figure the Intel-based MacBook Pro is close enough. Correct.
  • Running Windows on a Mac without Apple’s help: Well, Apple did provide some help in the form of Boot Camp, though our preference at this point for cross-platform computing is Parallels Desktop for Mac. Correct.
  • First Intel Mac in the first quarter of 2006: With Macworld Expo in January, it didn’t take too long for this prediction to come true. Correct.
  • Final tally: 3 out of 3

    Adam C. Engst

  • Tablet Mac: As slick as the MacBook is, it’s still a laptop and not a tablet computer. Incorrect.
  • Replacement for iTunes: With iTunes 7 released in September, Apple’s jukebox software is still going strong. Incorrect.
  • New Finder that relies on Spotlight: Mac OS X remained unchanged in ’06. Incorrect.
  • Final tally: 0 out of 3

    Dan Frakes

  • Apple media center: It didn’t ship in 2006, but the product code-named iTV promises to let you control movies, music, and other multimedia from your Mac on your TV. Correct.
  • Office suite from Apple: True, iWork got an update, but refurbished versions of Keynote and Pages do not a Microsoft Office competitor make. Incorrect.
  • Intel processor debuts in a laptop or Mac mini first: It was the laptop. (And the iMac, to be completely accurate.) But we’ll give it to him. Correct.
  • Final tally: 2 out of 3

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