I have no affiliations with Apple or any insider knowledge of any kind to back any of my predictions up, but what I do have is a fresh view of Apple. I have been a PC user for over half of my life and didn't really get into Apple until I convinced my boss to buy me a TiBook last Christmas. I have no desire of going back to the PC world let me tell you. But I do still have a bit of an outsider view of things, so here goes.
I am reading a lot of predictions that are expecting Apple to release either a Tablet PC type product or an "iPod II" that supports video. I think both of these predictions are completely absurd. Let me tell you why.
* Tablet PC: There is really no market for the tablet PC. For one thing, myself, as well as most people can type a hell of a lot faster than they can write. So given that plus the potential for mistakes in handwriting recognition that are bound to pop up occasionally, from a productivity stand point the tablet will NEVER replace a bona fide laptop. The only place a tablet pc would be more useful than a laptop, is if you are standing and have no table to rest your laptop on. It's not very easy to hold a TiBook in one hand and type very effectively with the other. I could see a Tablet PC being more practical in this situation. But on the other hand is it really going to be better than a PDA? NO! PDA's are great and can fit in your pocket. True they won't play video like a Table PC could, but come on...do you really need it? For the people that a Tablet PC might actually be useful to (read: corporate users), they don't need it to play video or any other gee-wiz-bang novelty feature like that. They've already got a PDA that does everything that would use the Table PC for and at a quarter of the size and price. Who else might the Tablet PC be useful too? Your UPS or Fedex guy and guess what. They've already got a tablet shaped piece of equipment that fills their needs. They don't need a big expensive color LCD screen to do what they do. The Tablet PC == big loser.
* Video iPod: This would be even worse of an idea than the Tablet PC. Who is going to watch video on their iPod. NO ONE!! Sure it sounds cool and if you bought one you would run around and show it to all your friends, but after that...is it really useful? No not at all. If Apple wants to use a new video feature to justify keeping the price of the iPod at $500 then I guess that is their prerogative, but I can tell you I'm not going to be replacing my 20GB iPod I have now for one that plays video. Dumb! The iPod has dinky little 2in screen. It's not big enough to watch video practically. So this means they would have to make the iPod bigger which if you ask me takes away a lot of the appeal of the iPod. The iPod has a nice small form-factor compared to other mp3 players. The other reason that adding video to it doesn't make any sense is how it combines with iTunes. The iPod (on the mac side anyway) is a portable hardware extension of iTunes. It is a very elegant solution. I add or remove music to iTunes, plug in my iPod and in minutes they are synced. I don't even have to think about it, it's just plug and play. So what is Apple going to add Video to iTunes now? It doesn't make any sense. That means you are going to have to now sync with some other utility that handles your video library and playlist. Where do you get this video? Are regular ordinary people going to be downloading gigs and gigs of video off the Internet to put on the iPod so they can watch on it's little tiny 160x128 screen? No way! So unless Apple also releases a new iApp that rips video as easily from DVDs as iTunes does from CDs, there is no elegant solution for video like there is for music. It just is not practical.
Here's an easy way to figure out if a product idea makes sense for Apple. Can you fit it into a Switch commercial? Keep in mind that at least 10 seconds of the commercial is spent with the person saying who they are and what they do. So you have 20 seconds to describe a product in simple ordinary words. This works for iPhoto, iPod, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, etc. Try and sell me a Tablet PC or explain to me why a Video iPod will make my life better in 20 seconds. YOU CAN'T DO IT!
So now that I've shot down everyone's two favorite predictions, what are mine?
* Rendezvous enabled iTunes: This is I want and we know they have been working on it. They really need to start leveraging the new Rendezvous technology in Jaguar, so far iChat and printing are the only things. Not to many people have bought Rendezvous enabled printers yet, so no one really notices it. It's something that is very cool and you don't have to think about to use. Win Win for everyone.
* Rendezvous Home Stereo Component: This should be the new DLD everyone is clamoring for. I seem to remember Philips or maybe it was Panasonic or Pioneer who said they were working on a Stereo component that would play music using Rendezvous to access your iTunes play list. This could be the new DLD that they announce and I know I would go out and buy it. Right now I hook up my iPod to my stereo. If I no longer had to go through the process of syncing my iPod with my TiBook to get my latest mp3's on my stereo or charging it, that is worth $200-$300 to me. Just make it wireless please so I don't have to run CAT5 to my stereo.
* Ogg/Vorbis support in iPod: This is more of a pipe-dream than a prediction. I would really love for Apple to add support for Ogg/Vorbis to the iPod via a software update, but I doubt it will happen. I don't want it bad enough to spend another $500 for a new iPod. But I would love it and it would certainly bring the final bit of geeks eyeing shiny TiBooks from a far over to our side.
* New iChat: Everyone seems to think they will be announcing a new version of iChat that has audio and/or video support. I could see this. It's something I think most of the other chat clients already have. I personally won't be making use of it. I use chat mostly for business purposes and I need the logging that chat enables. Audio/Video can not be practically logged so if something important happens I can no longer search back and reference past conversations if they happened over audio/video instead of text chat. Now what would be really kickass though would be if the new iChat included voice recognition that transcribed the audio so you later could go back and search past conversations. That would be a killer app for Apple to bring to the market first. The corporate world would go nuts for something like that. Another nice feature to add to iChat might be to integrate a bit of Apple Remote Desktop into it, so you could display your desktop to people to compete with NetMeeting. Does anyone even use NetMeeting any more though?
* All new systems are Firewire2 enabled: I think Apple will update all new shipping macs to have Firewire2. We can thank SmartDisk for jumping the gun on that.
* All new systems are Bluetooth enabled: Apple being the first to ship bluetooth standard on systems would be very cool. Sorta takes the wind out of Microsoft's syncing sails. This also lends nicely to the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse that a lot of people are predicting for the iMac.
* All new systems are USB2 enabled: Why not? If they do Firewire2 and Bluetooth, there is no reason not to upgrade USB2 at the same time.
* Airport supports 802.11b and g: I don't know if that is technically possible, but I sure hope it is. It would be really cool if it was software update and you didn't have to go out and buy new hardware to get the faster speeds. There is a lot of 802.11b Apple product out there in the market place. To stop supporting them would be a bad move. But that shouldn't stop them from also shipping the latest and greatest. I think this is probably a stretch though. I could be wrong, but I'm not sure 802.11g is actually a finalized spec yet. I think it may still be a draft spec at the moment. It probably won't change, but do you really want to base products on standard that might change?
* General spec improvements: Other than that, just you standard harddrive space, processor speed, memory improvements that happen. Nothing special here.
* Xserve RAID: It would be nice for this to actually ship, or at least have an ETA.
So that about sums it up. People are predicting the announcements that some iApps you will have to start paying for upgrades for. I'm not really leaning either way on whether or not this is true. I hope it's not, but if it does, so what. If I have to spend $50 to have titles in iMovie stop sucking, I'll spend it. There could also be the iBrowser that everyone thinks Apple is making based off of Chimera. Maybe...but why bother? Why not just pay the Chimera developers to make Chimera do what it is that Apple wants. Do they really need to re-brand it? What would they gain? Nothing really. There are also predictions of major changes in the display line up. I guess maybe? Don't have any strong feelings about that.