2008 Predictions: Macworld's annual forecast of the year ahead

With the calendar flipping from one year to the next this past week, it’s only natural to wonder what the next 365 days have in store. It’s even more understandable if you’re a Mac fan. After all, Macworld Expo looms just a week or so away, and with that annual trade show comes the promise of new and exciting developments from Apple and beyond.

So for the past eight Januarys, we’ve broken out the crystal ball and indulged in a little soothsaying. We gather up the brightest minds of the Mac universe and ask them to dig deep into their reservoir of knowledge and expertise to determine which way the Mac market is headed.

Usually, they wind up just making wild guesses.

So without further ado, here’s this year’s edition of our fearless forecasts from four Mac observers hoping to be able to say the sweetest words in the English language by this time next year: I told you so.

Dan Frakes, Macworld senior editor

A Mac subnotebook: Apple will (finally) reintroduce a smaller, lighter laptop made for road warriors. Like older entries in this market, such as the PowerBook 2400c, the new model will forgo an internal optical drive to achieve a smaller size, but it will also feature new technologies that let it slim down while providing better performance and improved battery life, such as a solid-state hard drive, an LED screen, and a low-power processor.

A new desktop: Apple will (finally) give us a midrange, screenless Mac—something in between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro—for people who don’t want an all-in-one desktop system. It will have a reasonably powerful processor, a decent (and upgradable) graphics card, and room for a PCI card and an additional hard drive. This machine will be great for “switchers” accustomed to such configurations on the Windows side, as well as for people who want upgradability but can’t afford—or just don’t need—a Mac Pro. It will also be an excellent second Mac for many in the Mac Pro market.

A new Mac market: The debut of Leopard, along with a general dissatisfaction with Windows Vista, will open doors for the Mac in the enterprise market. In fact, we’ll see a few major U.S. companies switch to the Mac platform—some gradually, but at least a couple in a major public migration. We’ll also see a resurgence of the Mac platform in higher education.

Andy Ihnatko, Chicago Sun-Times technology and computer columnist, and former Macworld columnist.

Apple’s new platform: Look at the puzzle pieces. A sophisticated, gesture-based user interface. OS X running on nontraditional devices. A new developer environment and API for iDevices that was so tricky that Apple couldn’t release it or even hint at it until three months after the iPhone was released… and even then, only under duress. Features embedded in Mac OS that help you invisibly tether two OS X devices’ resources together, whether they’re in the same room or merely on the same planet. A movement from Apple to put the bulk of its energy into consumer products and not computer products.

I’m fairly sure that 2008 will see an entire new platform. The iPhone is a phone, and the iPod touch is an iPhone without the phone stuff. The next i-Suffix will be a totally new thing. Not a Mac… not really. An iPhone, kind of, but sort of not. Take the screen off a MacBook and slice it in two vertically. That’s the device. It’ll play media—including Office documents, PDFs, and e-books—from its 16GB of flash storage. It’ll have Wi-Fi and the Safari browser… maybe even 3G or EDGE, as with an iPhone. It will secure-tunnel back to your home Mac or PC, and you’ll be able to use this thing to access any resources you might have left behind. It will put every digital resource you have at your fingertips, in one compact black slate.

It will run native software, too. Curious, isn’t it, that in October Steve Jobs announced that Apple wouldn’t be taking the wrapper off the iPhone developers’ kit until February? It’s almost as if the resources that are plainly available in the SDK would have spilled the beans on the device Steve intends to unveil during his Macworld Expo keynote in January.

Maybe I’m spot-on with this. Maybe not. But I’ll make one prediction about Apple’s hot new product of 2008 that I’ll stand behind without any waffling: whatever it is, people will complain that it costs way too much money, and they’ll happily stand in line for a minimum of 18 hours to get one.

Dan Moren, Macworld associate editor and MacUser co-editor

Why buy when you can rent?: People have become plenty comfortable with buying their music online, but sales of digital video have remained lukewarm. Despite its spats with content providers like NBC, I expect to see a strong push from Apple on the digital video front in 2008, probably involving a long-awaited update to the Apple TV and a video-rental download service. (Ed. Note: Mr. Moren submitted this prediction before reports surfaced of a possible Apple-Fox iTunes movie rental deal.) And perhaps even another open letter from Steve Jobs, containing a list of his all-time favorite romantic comedies.

Touching the Mac: We’ve seen an evolution in the Mac over the past couple of years, but it’s been a while since we’ve had a real revolution. With all the work Apple has put into the multitouch interface, which has jumped from the iPhone to the iPod line, the Mac seems a likely next stop. I’m guessing we’ll see it in a portable form factor rather than a desktop. Sorry Minority Report fans; you’ll just have to wait.

More iPhone developments: Even if the iPhone isn’t the best-selling product Apple has, it’s still the most iconic device of the past year, in any industry. Look for Apple to capitalize on that momentum with a second-generation iPhone, based (at last) on 3G wireless technology. But the real question remains “Will the iPhone 2.0 cook me dinner?”

John Moltz, Crazy Apple Rumors Site editor in chief

A thinner laptop: At Macworld Expo in January, Steve Jobs will unveil a wafer-thin, 13-inch Mac laptop based on flash memory, giving it 12 hours of battery life. The resulting nerdgasm will shatter the glass exterior of Moscone West.

NBC finds allies: More entertainment companies will attempt to strong-arm Apple into raising prices at the iTunes Store. Apple will then be forced to create its own content, and Jobs will form “Stevie and the Apple Execs,” a hip new boy band.

Look out, ModBook: Apple will release a tablet device with pen-based input capability. Strangely, the device will be called “The First Person To Call It a Newton Gets Socked in the Throat.”

iPhone: The sequel: The next-generation iPhone will be released in the second quarter of the year. AT&T will prompt customers to upgrade by sending them frequent text messages informing them that their original iPhones are no longer cool.

And one more thing…: Apple will introduce another line of consumer products, this time in the realm of dental care. The Apple Toothbrush will include the first user-friendly application of DRM—dental rights management. Using its patented FairBrush technology, each Apple Toothbrush will be locked to a single Apple ID. The device will be wildly popular because nobody likes it when someone else uses their toothbrush. Even John Dvorak will hail Apple’s move.

Subscribe to the Help Desk Newsletter

Comments