Sunday, November 13, 2005

What will 2006 bring for Apple?

Over at Macworld, they recently asked what readers thought 2006 would bring for Apple. Well, that got me to thinking.

Anyone who follows Apple news is well aware that THE development for 2006 will be the beginnings of the transition to Intel chips. Apple has stated that the first models with the new chip will be out by mid-2006, but many Apple rumour sites are saying that they will be out by January. What the rumour sites can't seem to figure out is which models will be the first to be Intelized. Some, such as the Apple Insider, are saying that the iMac and PowerBook will be first. Others are saying it will be the Mini and the iBook. I think the Mini is a prime candiate. It's the switcher's model par excellence. We'll see how clear my crystal ball is come January (or June).

So much for the known quantities. But Apple is all about innovation. So what new goodies will they come up with next year?

With the recent release of the new iPod with video capabilities and the availability of videos (albeit small format) for download from the iTunes Music Store, I see the logical next step as some sort of wireless hub with video streaming capablities, akin to the AirTunes capabilities of Apple's Airport Express. Coupled with an online video store where users could purchase a movie on-line and download it to their computer, this would allow people to stream a movie from computer to TV. The only real limitations here are file sizes and broadband download speeds, but I think these can be overcome. Of course, the content has to be there too, and this means Apple making distribution deals with all the big Hollywood studios--not a done deal for sure. But this is a market just waiting to be exploited. Would you be willing to wait, say, a half-hour for a 400-Mb file to download instead of driving over the the video store and waiting in line? I sure would.

On the software side of things, I think Apple will add a spreadsheet application to iWork to go with Pages and Keynote. People have been predicting this ever since iWork first came out, so I'm not going out on a very thin limb here, and the smart money has it called Numbers. I would really welcome an Apple-ized spreadsheet program. If ever an application needed simplification, it's the spreadsheet (Photoshop being a close second, and Apple just entered that realm with Aperture). What would be neat, however, is if Apple simply bundled this completed office suite with new Macs rather than selling it separately. Admittedly, iWork is a pretty good deal now at C$99, but it would be a pretty sweet accompaniment to the iLife apps and make a new Intelized Mac even more irresistable.

One of Apple's great strengths, however, is its ability to agreeably surprise. A prime example of this is the iPod Nano, which nobody predicted. This time last year, the Mac Mini and the iPod Shuffle did not exist. Only Steve Jobs really knows what 2006 will bring. I, for one, can't wait to find out.

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