Ok it's my turn to put on the Crackly tin foil hat and make some random Apple predictions for the upcoming 12 months.
In today's Apple town hall they responded to a question about multi-touch macs with "...we're not sure it makes sense in the Mac. We'll categorize it as a research project for now". Yeah right. One thing I've learned from Steve is that when he says 'no' what he really means is no, not right now. Remember that whole thing about Intel processors or maybe that they wouldn't do a pocketpc (umm, the iPhone is basically a pocket pc phone edition, a very slick and cool version of, but still a pocket pc - get over it). So here we go ...
Prediction #1, Apple will release a tablet mac sometime in the next year. Apple is never content to simply copy, it must improve and dazzle. So that being said, it won't use a dumb stylus, it will be patented, multi-touch, finger input all the way baby. Let's face it, the actually multi touch functionality is pretty under-utilized in the iPhone currently, but I can imagine some cool possibilities open up with a much larger screen. I'd even stretch this prediction to say that it will fill the current sub-notebook hole in theMacbook lineup (small screen, no optical drive etc). It will have some crazy patented detachable keyboard so it will both a slate and a convertible form factor. I can hear Steve now... "Today we are releasing a spectacular sub-compactMacbook AND a revolutionary touch based tablet computing device. And BOOM, they are the same product! Isn't that amazing?"... Cue wild applause.
Prediction #2 - Apple buys the New Zealand company Ambient Design. My inside source tells me this deal has been in the works for some time. (Ok, I admit it, I am my own inside source, you caught me). Why would they do this you ask? Well, to aquire Art Rage, the sweet tablet based painting program that simulates real oils, canvas, chalk etc. They will promptly drop the Windows version of course (just like with Garageband) and rename it iPaint, iArtist or some other catchy thing, and bundle it with the new multi-touch tablet Mac. Every new shiny needs a killer app!
Prediction #3 - Apple releases Bluetooth audio - finally! I have not been able to understand why the iPhone or even the Macbooks don't support Bluetooth stereo audio (A2DP). There are plenty of headphone devices on the market, yet Apple seems to just pretend like they don't exist. My prediction is this - yes they will support bluetooth audio, but not until they release their own iPod branded, rechargeable, headphones (that also serve as a headset for phone calls). Then they will drop an update across the board to enable support in all Macs and the iPhone. I'll stretch this prediction to say that another reason for the delay is that the lossy A2DP profile is not good enough for Apple. They are probably holding out for something like this loss-less bluetooth audio codec from Open Interface North America. It makes sense, they already have license agreements with them and they have been rolling out 'enhanced data rate' bluetooth in all of their products. Lets stretch this even further and speculate that they obtain an exclusive license to this technology, this way it's 'no soup for you' unless you buy Apple licensed headphones. This brings me to..
Prediction #4. Multi-touch, bluetooth iPod video. Ok I'm not the only one predicting that they iPhone technology will be used in the next gen, hard drive based, video Ipod, but I will go on record with some specifics anyway though, just so I can be heckled later. The new iPod will be completely touch based and support everything in the iPhone except the phone part. That includes wifi, browser, music, video, photos and camera. Oh and of course the new Apple Bluetooth Headphones. Apple will also release a new dock to charge the iPod and the new headphones at the same time.
Prediction #5. iTunes direct download support. We all know it is coming. I predict it will be announced at the same time as the new iPod. It will support direct purchase and download of iTunes content (including higher than DVD resolution movies) to devices. This includes the iPhone, new iPod and AppleTV.
Prediction #6. Apple holds off on Blueray support. I don't see any reason for them to jump on this yet. I think Steve wants to sell you the same movies from iTunes, so why allow Blueray to cannibalize sells? This is one area where Steve and Bill agree - the future of physical media distribution is dead. I don't see them jumping to 'true' HD iTunes movies for another year however. We'll be stuck with this new 'higher than DVD' quality - what ever that is.
Additional Fuzzy Speculations:
I'm not going to stand by these as solid predictions yet, as they are still on the hazy side in my crystal ball...
Something is still bothering me about the whole iPhone / iPod relationship. If you want a phone AND you want 80gs of portable media are you going to buy BOTH an iPhone and Touch iPod? Seems a lot of duplication of features and hardware. Also why the heck didn't they put GPS support in the iPhone? That whole Google maps integration is pretty stupid if you have to tell the iPhone where YOU are before it can tell you how to get to where you want to go. And finally what about the case where you have some stuff to do on your Macbook, but you are away from a Wifi connection? So how are they going to solve these issues? I can see a couple of possibilities. Apple could choose to implement one, all or none of them:
Option 1: Apple rounds out the line with a mini iPhone sans touch screen that tethers data to the iPod (and Macbook) to give full iPhone functionality. The new Apple bluetooth headphones pair with both so that you can seamlessly switch between music on the iPod and taking a call on the iPhone mini. Apple also offers a mini rechargeable bluetooth GPS that works with everything across the product line. Oh and the full iPhone gets tethering to Macbook / iPod capability also.
Option 2: And this one is a bit crazier, but avoids ANY overlap of product functionality. Apple SKIPs the touch screen video iPod altogether (prediction #4) and instead offers a small rechargeable bluetooth hard drive with GPS in the form factor of a traditional iPod. This hard drive will pair directly to the iPhone (and Macbook) to expand its capacity by 80G+ and also provide the missing GPS location. Apple will release a new cradle that holds and charges the iPhone, the new HD / GPS module and the bluetooth headphones. And of course the iPhone gets tethering to Macbook capability.
Ok that's it. How close do you think I am? I'll wager I get more right than Mr. Cringley does. In fact if he beats me in percentage accuracy for the year I'll purchase an actual Apple branded product for my own personal use. Now that's putting my money (and my pride) where my mouth is.
How much are those trendy white ear buds anyway?