Analysts expect evolutionary products at Macworld Expo

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While Steve Jobs won’t be giving the keynote address during next week’s Macworld Conference & Expo, analysts still expect the company to introduce some products during the company's last scheduled attendance at the annual trade show.

“We won’t see revolutionary products, but we very well could see evolutionary products,” Michael Gartenberg, vice president of market research firm JupiterMedia and editor of the MobileDevicesToday blog, told Macworld. “Phil [Schiller] isn’t going to get up onstage, say hi, and walk off.”

Ross Rubin, director of analysis at NPD Group, agrees. “Given that Apple is participating, it will certainly serve its interests to maintain some excitement around the keynote and event,” he said. “Certainly they will have some substantive announcements at the keynote.”

A revolutionary product would be one like the iPhone, a completely new type of iPod, or even a netbook laptop. Even without those blockbuster announcements, Apple has room to release some significant updates for the Mac community.

Macworld is a consumer-based trade show, and usually focuses on the company's software and hardware products for that segment of the market. Analysts have already said Apple’s iMac is getting old and needs a refresh, so that is certainly a possibility for Expo.

Another likely topic of conversation for Apple next week is Snow Leopard, the next version of Apple’s OS X operating system. Apple already announced that the upcoming Snow Leopard release will focus heavily on performance improvements and bug fixes, rather than on new features.

Having some updated information on Snow Leopard would be helpful for the many developers attending Expo, as well as the thousands of attendees.

Andrew Welch, CEO of Ambrosia Software, said that even though Snow Leopard isn’t a “glamour style OS release, Users will definitely benefit from some of the performance tuning and technologies under the hood.”

Users don’t go to Macworld Expo just for Apple’s announcements -- it’s also a good opportunity to speak with the companies that exhibit. The opportunity to connect with users is a big draw for developers, as well.

“We love going to the expos to meet with our users first-hand,” said Welch. We try to design software that we think people will like, and of course we test our software with a number of beta testers who use our product for various reasons. However no piece of software is complete, and the feedback loop we receive from our customers is fantastically important to us.

Expectations for the keynote have gone down significantly since Apple announced in mid-December that Steve Jobs would not deliver the keynote. The company also said this would be its last Macworld Expo.

However, with the changes that Apple has undergone over the last several years, Analysts aren’t necessarily concerned about the move. Apple went from being a Mac company to one that makes Macs, iPods, iPhones, and some very good consumer and pro-level software.

“As Apple has gone from being a company with a loyal fan base to a more mainstream company, the average customer doesn’t care if Apple is at Macworld or not,” said Gartenberg. “They care whether Apple will keep putting out cool products or not.”

Update: Added information from Ambrosia Software’s Andrew Welch. 1/2/09 5:35 pm ET

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