Alex headshot

AlBlue’s Blog

Macs, Modularity and More

Mac Expo this week...

2006, mac

As most people in the Mac community probably know, Mac Expo is running this week in San Francisco. There's usually some hot new products announced and a bit of fan-fare, mostly to drive up sales in an otherwise quiet period of the year. But Steve Jobs usually puts on a good show, and you can probably see the webcast afterwards (there's a link at Apple.com already under the Quicktime logo, but so far it doesn't point to a QuickTime broadcast yet.

Of course, with the big switch to Intel, it's quite likely that we'll see some Intel-powered machines being announced. It's fairly likely that the first crop of the intel switchers will be the non-power machines; an intel iBook is possible, as is a Mac Minitel.

As the intel line progresses, I'd expect that the iBook to become a single-core family of notebooks (along with missing power-features like FireWire, mirroring display and so forth) and the PowerBooks to become a dual-core family. Although the single-core machines are likely to be available at the start of the Mac Expo, it would be a (pleasant) surprise to have a dual-processor PowerBook announced as well. Having said that, there have been a few dual-core Windows notebooks released, so it's not entirely implausible that we might get one.

I also think we'll see an update to Final Cut Pro to take advantage of the new Intel processors. I'd be surprised if it runs as well on an Intel as it does on a PowerPC; especially something like the Quad-G5 PowerMac. I suspect that the PowerMac will be the last one to switch over to Intel, given that it's only been recently that the PowerMac has gone to quad-core on one box.

There's also a bit of egg on Apple's face about the 3GHz goal; even switching to Intel, they're still unlikely to be able to meet that target. Granted, IBM wasn't exactly making sure that the PowerPC got that fast, but looking at the dual-core Intel processors (Core Duo, formerly Yonah) they aren't exactly overflowing with speed, either.

The good news is that we're likely to see meatier machines in the future, one way or another. Most likely, the PowerXxx series will go dual core across the board, and PowerMacs will be available in dual or quad configurations only. The consumer-oriented devices will stay single core, and possibly with a price drop (though not by more than about 100$) to bring them more into line with competing high-end manufacturers.

One interesting thing for the future; Apple's made a whole heap of money from the iPod; not just the initial hardware, but subsequent sales and the iPod industry that's grown up about it. I suspect this is the first of several dips into the consumer marketplace from now on. It wouldn't surprise me if in about 5 years time, we start to see Apple branded music equipment and televisions (like Dell are getting into). If the markup on consumer devices is anything to go by, and the brand name as popular as it is now, it wouldn't be unknown for Apple to ship a 50" Apple Plasma/LCD as a TV that just happens to have Mac software built in.

Although I don't think this year's Mac Expo is giong to bring a media center, I suspect with their new relationship with Intel, we're going to see some media center (Front Row+) occur within a year from now. One thing that might just drive the rush is the adoption of HDTV throughout the world; as people upgrade their old analogue TV sets before the switch-off in 2010 (give or take a few years), Apple's in a prime position to sell both HDTV screens and media boxes to be able to play and share music, photos, and now TV. I expect that they won't get into the movie-on-demand for another few years yet, mainly due to bandwith and redistribution rights. But as the iPod video shows, they can deny the existence of a product for some time before announcing it with a fanfare later on. I think the question is when, not if, we'll see Apple move out more into the consumer marketplace.

This week is going to be interesting!