Monday, January 14, 2008

Last minute Macworld speculation

Something in the air?

Something no-one seems to have considered is the possibility that Apple will announce full support for Adobe's AIR on the iPhone (and possibly Mac OS X in general). This would make the Flash/ActionScript ecology an intrinsic part of Mac OS X, further cement Apple's disdain for Java, and (partially) solve the iPhone SDK issue. It would also dovetail nicely with Cringely's idea that Apple plans to buy Adobe.

Note: AIR is, in essence, Webkit + Flash.

What's wrong with this possibility? Well, Flash is still a terrible processor hog, and it will suck the iPhone's battery dry ... unless it gets a bunch of tweaking. Another option would be to support a battery-friendly subset of ActionScript 3 (if there is such a thing) and go to an event model which doesn't redraw the entire screen at (typically) 30 frames per second.

MacBook Air?

There are a lot of people suggesting that (a) the announcements this year will be relatively ho-hum (who can compete with the iPhone, after all?) and that (b) Apple will release an ultraportable.

It seems to me that if Apple releases an ultraportable with the obvious feature set (given its recent releases) it will be bigger than the iPhone (although people won't immediately realize it). Imagine the following:

8-10" ultrathin laptop running a modest but still decent cpu. Maybe multitouch, maybe funky dual screen with one touchscreen/keyboard. Whatever. (Frankly, most folks would prefer a fullish sized hard keyboard to some kind of funky DS-style exercise.) Given bluetooth support, the keyboard could be a cable-less clipon, and the unit could have a "giant iPhone" form factor.

3G cellular network support, compatible with Sprint, Verizon, AT&T.

Bluetooth, 802.11B/G/N.

32 GB of flash memory, 1GB of RAM (upgradeable to 3GB).

Battery Life: 4+h "active", 24+h "standby"

Prices (Good, Better, Best): $1499, $1799, $2099.

OK, it's not an iPhone. On the plus side it's a Mac OS X notebook, it can run standard OS X software (including Skype and Vonage) and can be used as a cellphone when closed. Oh and it does video conferencing.

Maybe for bonus points it has Newton-like functionality (e.g. you can draw or take notes on it with a stylus).

iWork, iLife, etc.

There's an assumption running that because there are already iWork and iLife "08s" out there's nothing much to expect on the software front. We know that Apple plans an announcement at a Final Cut Pro user group meeting during the expo (possibly the successor to Shake, possibly something else like ... Apple has bought a high end 3d company -- Newtek or Softimage, say -- and is making all their stuff Maclike).

It's always possible that iLife/iWork will get serious revisions which don't require existing owners to buy an update.