2001: The Year Ahead

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One thing you can say about covering the Mac universe--it's never boring. The last 12 months have given us everything from the Aqua interface to new iMac colors, from a cube-shaped Power Mac G4 to an Apple stock chart that looks like a Six Flags Over America thrill ride.

So what surprises does Apple have in store for us this year? Beats us--Steve Jobs screens our phone calls. But we tracked down a group of experts and asked them to predict what's in store for Mac users over the next 12 months. Their thoughts? It's going to be a bumpy--and entertaining--ride.

What will be the most significant hardware product to ship in 2001? What will be the most important Mac software product to ship in 2001? When will a finished version of OS X ship? What will be the most important news to come out of Apple this year?
Henry Bortman, Macworld contributing editor No idea, unless Apple does a handheld. Microsoft Office 2001 for OS X. OS X won't have much real meaning to most users until Office ships as a set of native apps. At the Worldwide Developers Conference, which usually happens in May. That OS X has shipped. It won't mean much without native OS X apps, but it will get more ink than anything else.
Christopher Breen, contributing editor and Mac 911 columnist, Macworld. Whether such a beast ships or not remains to be seen, but what had better be the most significant hardware product of 2001 is a desktop machine that seriously exceeds today's 500MHz G4 limit. The dual-processor smoke and mirrors won't cut it with consumers. Unless consumers see Macs branded with a GHz rating by 2001, I'm afraid Apple is going to lose more market share. OS X will be the most significant software product. Everything depends on the success of OS X, and if Apple doesn't do it right, there's going to be hell to pay. Next will be OS X native versions of Office 2001 and the major Adobe apps. The major vendors have to be behind OS X in a big way, or OS X is going to look like a flop. New York Expo this summer. OS X. Triumph and 'Apple rises again from the ashes' if it works, consumers 'get it,' and there's enough support from vendors. The death of Apple as we know it in the next two years if OS X is a flop.
Adam C. Engst, Macworld contributing editor, author of Macworld.com's "This Wired Life," and editor of the online newsletter, TidBits. A new sub-notebook. Perhaps it's just wishful think, but when I look at where I'm spending my money on new technologies, it's on things that fit in my pockets, like a cell phone, Palm V, and Canon S100 Digital Elph camera. The discrepancy between the things in my pockets and the current PowerBook line is far greater than it should be. Small is good. As much as I recognize that this is a truly wimp answer, Mac OS X. The problem is that even if the industry wasn't suffering from a dearth of new ideas (prompted in large part by the inherent conservatism of most users), this year will be one of retrenching, as everyone struggles to get Carbon versions of their applications out. I doubt we'll see much effort put into new features until the Carbonization process is finished. Macworld Expo New York in July. And if I'm wrong on the late side, I'll make like a PC journalist and claim that Apple rushed the first finished version out the door without fixing a variety of glaring problems (which I expect is likely anyway) so the version that ships at Macworld Expo in July is the first really finished version. Of course, if I were a PC journalist, I'd also have to note that this means that Apple is once again doomed. Aside from the revelations that will come forth about Steve Jobs, I'm going to guess that the biggest news will be striking forays into the world of consumer electronics and perhaps even household appliances, all based on a low-cost variant of AirPort wireless networking or Bluetooth. That's going out on a seriously thin limb, of course, and numerous things could prevent such an initiative from happening, even if such a thing were scheduled for this coming year.
Leo Laporte, the hardest working geek in show business, hosts Call for Help on TechTV. It's time to rev the venerable PowerBook line to include a G4. And if Apple wants to compete against the ever increasing AMD/Intel clock speeds, they'd better break the 500MHz barrier. Two words (well, one word and a letter): OS X. After that, a carbonized Corel Office. Why not Microsoft Office? See answer four... Later than Apple wants to admit. Probably September. But I'm ready to be surprised on this one. OS X on Intel. Don't think of me as a PC bigot. Think of me as a poor fool who has invested in a bunch of PC hardware and is still looking for a usable OS. There are a lot of mes out there, Apple. Microsoft won't like it, but who needs Microsoft?
John Markoff, senior writer, The New York Times A lighter, faster portable. And perhaps even a surprise in the sub-notebook or tablet area. OS X. May. Apple will add a second processor architecture--and it will be from an unexpected source.
Tom Negrino, Macworld contributing editor and author of Microsoft Office 2001 for Macs for Dummies I really have no idea. A faster G4 is just kind of a snore. I don't believe Apple is going to do a PDA. Mac OS X has to take the prize here, I think. It will change everything, and either vault Apple to new heights or crush the company. Or something. I'm thinking the March-April time frame. We might get a refresh beta at Macworld Expo in January, but probably not. I can't say what it will be, but I can suggest what it must be. Namely, it's becoming increasingly clear that Apple has to find its next act after the iMac, which seems to be losing steam. The iBook just rang the changes on the iMac bell. The Cube didn't seem to work, and in some ways, went back to the old Jobsian tenet of 'give them something that looks really cool and costs too much.' The next act will have to broaden the Apple brand and make some inroads into the business market.
Henry Norr, veteran Mac journalist and technology reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. His "Tech 21" column appears on Mondays. A major makeover of the iMac. I'm guessing it will be announced at the July Expo, but if sales don't pick up soon, it could come earlier. That's a softball--Mac OS X. March. The resignation of Steve Jobs.
Stephan Somogyi, Macworld contributing editor If Apple ships a well-designed sub-notebook (i.e. a credible, competitive 2400 successor), that'll be it for me. For better or worse, OS X. That said, from my perspective, the most significant software-related news isn't necessarily the OS itself, but whether Apple succeeds in launching it right or whether it fumbles. Just throwing it out there and hoping the mass market press will be overcome with the shiny roundness of it all will thud dully. Will they announce an MSCE equivalent, what's the enterprise story, what about server stuff, will OS X be credibly secure--that sort of thing. Not before the Worldwide Developers Conference. IA-64 support for OS X.
Franklin N. Tessler, Macworld contributing editor I'm going out on this one (or maybe this is wishful thinking at work), but I think that we may see the first Mac powered by a non-Motorola CPU next year, whether it's an Intel (or equivalent) or Transmeta's chip. We may never get to the point where you run the Mac OS on a stock Wintel box, but having an alternative choice of CPU would make Apple much less vulnerable to Motorola's inability to ship fast chips." Not counting OS X itself, when Microsoft ships a Carbonized version of Office (this) year, that will legitimize the new OS. May 2001. Same as question number one.
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