When writing about things I'm passionate about, such as Apple products, I tend to be long-winded in a misguided attempt to demonstrate just how much I know about the subject at hand. This usually results in me spending days crafting a perfect post, which I either publish (and come off looking like a crazy know-it-all) or don't (because it's just not perfect enough).
So, knowing this, I'm going to try to keep this predictions post short.
I've been watching Apple for a long time, and feel like I have a handle on what kind of company they are and what they will and won't do. I also have been following Apple rumors for a long time, and while most of what people write about the company is bullshit, there are sometimes patterns of bullshit that, parsed correctly, can point towards the truth.
This should be obvious, but even so it bears repeating: when the Wall Street Journal acts like a rumored upcoming Apple product is real, then it's real. Papers like the Journal don't run stories without confirmation, and the timing of their article stinks of a planned leak by Apple itself.
In other words, the Apple Tablet exists, and it will be demoed on Wednesday.
When you hear scuttlebutt that Steve Jobs considers the Tablet "will be the most important thing [he's] ever done," you really should stop to think about what that means.
In particular, think about the products Jobs has had a hand in creating: the original Mac, the iMac, the iPhone. They all have one thing in common: they're basically all screens with computers attached. For 25 years, Jobs has been trying to make a computer that is pure software, something a user can just interact with without the mediating presence of a keyboard and mouse.
I think he's finally nailed it: the Tablet will be Apple's first step toward user experiences that are entirely software-driven — that are just a screen, nothing else. It won't be perfect; it'll be 1.0. But eventually, the Tablet and its successors will change how we think about computers (not to mention media) forever.
With an intro like that, it seems almost ridiculous to think about specs. But before this thing can be a watershed moment in the evolution of technology, they've gotta make it, and we've gotta buy it. And so:
The One Screen to Rule Them All will be a 10-11” LED-backlit LCD (not OLED), framed in a gorgeously minimalist case made of Jobs and Jonathan Ive's favorite materials, aluminum and glass.
There won't be cellular networking of any kind. Amazon's offering "free" 3G with their tablet-like device is quickly turning into a clusterfuck for content producers and developers, and Apple's relationship with AT&T has been a clusterfuck for users. The Tablet will have Wi-Fi only, for now.
There'll be an App Store, which will be the only way to get third party software onto the device. But there will be apps on day one, and I expect the Tablet to use a substantially less crippled version of the iPhone OS and SDK.
I have no idea how text input will be handled on the Tablet, and neither do you. But I remember how no one had any idea how copy and paste would work on the iPhone, and Apple nailed that one. I have faith.
It's reasonable to expect Wednesday's announcement to be primarily about the Tablet (just as the 2007 Macworld keynote, where the iPhone was announced, was mostly about the iPhone). But the Tablet's hardly the only rumor out there. So here's a quick rundown, with predictions:
iPhone OS 4.0: The Tablet's gotta have software, and there are dubious reports that the fourth-gen iPhone OS is already being field-tested. This year I think the big iPhone stories will be multitasking (in some form; I doubt we'll ever get full background processes, but Apple may have come up with a reasonable compromise) and resolution independence (since the Droid and Nexus One have such gorgeous high-res screens).
It doesn't make sense for Apple to devote precious keynote time to announcing a new developer SDK, so either it'll be announced separately later in the first quarter, or they'll give a quick summary during the event and post the rest of the details online.
If they do announce a new OS, I hope it supports multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts. Google's CalDAV implementation is really starting to piss me off.
iLife and iWork: I think new versions will be announced soon (though perhaps not Wednesday), and I'm very curious to see how Apple updates the products to help people organize and share the kinds of videos they're shooting on their iPhones and iPod nanos.
I also hope they improve the social networking features in both iMovie and iPhoto. The "album syncing" feature in iPhoto is almost useless, and more and more people I know are using web photo albums as their primary place of keeping their snapshots. (Want to send someone that picture you took last year? Just send them a link to your Flickr profile!)
iPhoto is one of my favorite Apple apps, but I haven't used it in months. It's just not as powerful as Lightroom, even though it's much better at organizing my shots. I want Apple to make it great again, though I'm not holding my breath. It's possible that iLife's time has passed.
New MacBook Pros: New, quad-core MacBook Pros are coming soon; they may not be announced at the keynote, but if not they'll be on apple.com that same day. As much as your narrator would love a 13-inch quad core laptop he could carry around in his backpack, the new processors will probably only be in the 15- and 17-inch models for now.
MobileMe: Don't hold your breath for changes. They might start offering more storage space, or add some new syncing services designed to work with The Tablet. But for the most part it'll still suck, will still be overpriced, and will still be the best/only way to sync your personal info with an iPhone so I'll still renew the fucking thing.
The coming Apple/Google war. Um, no. Both companies are still making tons of money together, and Google launching their own smartphone has not changed that. Plus, users prefer Google. I would expect Bing to replace Yahoo! as the number two search option in Safari, but nothing more (yet).
New iPhone/iPod hardware: Absolutely not.
New versions of Aperture, Final Cut Express, or any of the other software products Apple seems to have forgotten they sell: Absolutely not.
Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO, and naming my fellow steely-haired Alabama native Tim Cook his successor: Absolutely not (yet).