With another Steve Jobs keynote looming Monday, rumors are flying about a preview of Mac OS X 10.6, a retooled and renamed .Mac service, and the possibility of a totally new multi-touch product, perhaps the long-anticipated iTablet.
Although the alleged purpose of Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference is to engage professional software makers who write programs for Mac OS X, WWDC gradually has evolved into more of a Macworld-type event -- particularly since the demise of the summer East Coast Macworld show a few years ago.
Let's have a look at the rumors and expectations for the keynote, which Jobs is scheduled to deliver at San Francisco's Moscone West 10 a.m. Monday:
The iPhone: The one thing everyone agrees will appear Monday, from the Wall Street analysts to the most obscure Mac blogger, is a new iPhone. So Jobs better have one in his pocket when he steps onstage.
Apart from 3G network capabilities, few agree on what other features the new iPhone will have. Some possibilities: built-in GPS and a slimmer case available in several colors.
Most also expect Apple to keep selling the current 2.5G iPhone models at much lower prices, since many of the 70-odd countries where Apple plans to launch the iPhone this year still use the older technology. (Personally I would love to see one iPhone that incorporates all three technologies -- EDGE, 3G and Wi-Fi – and unlocked to boot, but that's just a fantasy.).
I suspect we'll also see a high-end version with at least 32 gigabytes of flash memory (up from the current 16 GB), possibly even 64 GB. The top iPod Touch model has had 32 GB since February, so a 32 GB iPhone would seem inevitable.
Since this is WWDC after all, Jobs definitely will speak of the joys of the iPhone 2.0 software that enable developers to write apps for the iPhone, as well as the App Store where Apple will sell them (while taking a 30 percent cut for itself). Many of the five-day conference's developer sessions focus on the iPhone.
Mac OS 10.6: A few days ago The Unofficial Apple Weblog claimed Apple would distribute a developer release of the next version of the Mac operating system at WWDC. The site further claimed this version would be a "minor" release focused on stability and speed improvements with no significant new features.
Well-respected tech site Ars Technica said it had a source that confirmed most of this while adding the moniker "Snow Leopard."
Both sites claimed this new version of OS X, purportedly due in January 2009 (way too soon in my opinion), would drop support for Power PC Macs, running only on Intel-based machines. Many Mac users commenced griping immediately.
True enough, Jobs often has made significant Mac OS announcements at WWDC (remember the funeral for Mac OS 9?), so I figure a preview of Mac OS X 10.6 is a strong possibility.
But as for the rumors – that's all they are, rumors. I'm reluctant to comment further on any aspects of OS X 10.6 until Apple gives us some concrete details.
.Mac makeover: Apple's often-criticized .Mac $99-per-year Web service could be reborn as MobileMe with enhanced features such as the ability to sync with Windows, Exchange-like over-the-air syncing and push e-mail.
Many of these features would be most useful to iPhone owners, which would dovetail nicely with this year's iPhone-dominated conference. This rumor feels right. If it pans out, cheers will fill the auditorium when Steve announces it.
iTablet: Like the iPhone rumor before it, the iTablet rumor has been around for a years. This device would be about twice the size of the iPhone but would feature the same multi-touch screen and wireless connectivity.
I do not foresee an iTablet in the keynote. Even if Apple has such a gizmo in the works, as a totally new product it would probably get its own separate special event later this year.
For that matter, I'm not even sure what niche an iTablet would fill. But then Apple does have a way of re-inventing product categories to add those "gotta-have-it" qualities.
New MacBooks: If they're coming, we won't see them until after WWDC. Jobs won't want any competition for the iPhone stuff. And Jobs generally goes light on hardware announcements at WWDC anyway.