2007: The year in preview

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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.

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