The keynote of your dreams

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I had a recurring dream this past weekend. I was sitting in Moscone Center, waiting for Steve Jobs to deliver his Macworld Expo keynote. The Apple CEO took the stage to a thunderous ovation and began a recitation of Apple’s past year—the success of the iPod, the release of Tiger, the forthcoming transition to Intel chips. And just as we’re getting to the point in the speech where Jobs traditionally starts rattling off the new products Apple plans on introducing, he looked right at me and said, “Well, that’s all I got for today…see you folks later.” He strode off the stage, again to a thunderous ovation, as my boss here at Macworld turns to me and says,  Well, how do you plan on filling all the pages in the magazine with that ?”

Which is about when I bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat, reminding myself that it’s all a horrible, horrible dream.

Yes, I have dreams about Macworld Expo keynotes. And if that strikes you as terribly sad, consider that my Macworld Expo nightmare has actually been one of the more pleasant night terrors to visit me recently, as the majority of my REM sleep has been dominated by visions of the bathroom pipe that broke while I was on Christmas vacation. So, in that sense, a vision of Steve Jobs leaving us Mac users empty-handed after Expo keynote is a relatively pleasant respite.

Still, I’m fairly confident my nightmare of a product-free Expo keynote won’t come to pass when the Apple CEO steps on stage for real Tuesday morning. For starters, when you’re down to one Expo a year, you’ve really got to make your public pronouncements at trade shows count. And secondly, Steve Jobs isn’t the sort of guy to agree to speak at these things, only to fill the time with idle chit-chat. That’s the sort thing you leave to the underlings so you can concentrate on The Big Picture.

So what can we expect from Steve Jobs at Tuesday’s keynote? I’m sure I have no idea. But, just for the sake of continuing the hallowed tradition of being laughably wrong in public so that others might feel good about their prognosticative skills, here’s what we’ll be talking about 24 hours from now.

• New versions of iLife and iWork. OK, that prediction is a little tepid—when you put the actual release year in the name of the product, you’re pretty much announcing to the world a commitment to an annual upgrade cycle (unless, of course, you work for a Redmond, Wash.-based concern ). So, just to jazz up this pedestrian prediction a little bit, let’s say that iWork will add a new number-crunching program (AppleWorks had a spreadsheet tool, after all), while iLife will add that Front Row multimedia management program that all the kids are talking about these days.

• Everyone else seems to think Apple is ready to unveil a laptop with an Intel-built chip inside, so who am I to argue different? Apple will off both Intel-based iBooks and PowerBooks—the former will be ready to ship now, the latter, not for a few months.

• At some point in the keynote, Jobs will make a very pointed joke at the expense of Adobe and its new Lightroom application, without ever mentioning Adobe by name. People will laugh.

• At some point in the keynote, Jobs will also make a very pointed joke at the expense of Bill Gates and his Vista presentation at CES last week. (Maybe he can use a clip from this video ). Here, Jobs will have no problem mentioning anyone by name. People will still laugh.

• I think we’ll see a couple different executives from assorted media companies walk on stage to pledge their allegiance to the iTunes Music Store by offering their content for sale. I’ve already made it perfectly clear who I hope will be among that group.

As for the capper, the “One More Thing…” announcement that Jobs typically uses to end these affairs on a high note…I have no earthly clue. An iPod so small you can balance it on your thumb? A display so wide, you can watch movies in their original theatrical aspect ratio…from across the yard? A home entertainment device that merges the Mac and digital media while periodically emitting a pleasant citrus scent? One of the drawbacks to Apple’s parade of product events this past fall is that the most obvious innovations have already been taken care of. So where do you go from here?

I’m sure someone at Apple has figured out the answer to that question and will clue the rest of us in on Tuesday. If not, well, then maybe that dream about my broken bathroom pipes isn’t the most unpleasant one I’ve had lately, after all.

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