With all the rumors surrounding Macworld, it's difficult to sift through those possibilities that could actually come true and those that are pure rubbish. And while I don't think I have all the answers, it seems more and more likely that some of the expectations some of us have for Steve next week may not come true.
As it stands, most people are saying that iTunes movie rentals will become a reality next week and an ultraportable Mac is in the works. Still others believe Jobs will revamp the Apple TV and some people believe he'll refresh the entire MacBook line. As for me? I'll tell you what he should (and shouldn't) do when he takes the stage next week.
Possibility 1: iTunes Movie Rentals
Gee, you think? Of course Steve is going to announce iTunes movie rentals next week. Whether you want to believe it or not, iTunes is in the midst of a major battle with Amazon on the music front and it's losing right now. Sure, Amazon may not generate as much revenue, but which service has all the DRM-free tunes that you can put on any device you want? It certainly isn't Apple's.
Because of that, Jobs can differentiate iTunes with video and movie rentals. Not only will rentals generate even more revenue for the company's service, it could become a hub for those who are unwilling to leave their homes to rent a movie. That said, this won't take off unless the company has a solid infrastructure in place and we won't need to sit there for hours waiting for the feature-length film to download.
If Apple can't address those issues, look for a flop. If it can, Netflix and Amazon better start to worry.
Possibility 2: The Ultraportable Mac
Apple should not release an ultraportable. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that it won't announce such a device at Macworld either. Could I be wrong? Sure. But can someone give me a good reason why Apple should add another computer to its product line even though this group is doing just fine?
Think about it: the company has the high-end level down with the MacBook Pro and if you think the MacBook isn't portable enough, you may want to hit the gym.
As I've said here before, Apple is not run by a group of idiots and I think they know that an ultraportable will be nothing more than an also-ran. As it stands, the company doesn't need another computer in its notebook line and for the rumored price of around $1,500, I just don't see anyone buying it.
If Apple does announce the notebook, I think it'll have a shelf life of about a year before it's discontinued.
Possibility 3: A new Apple TV
Aside from iTunes movie rentals, I think a revamped Apple TV is a guarantee. Let's face it: Steve Jobs called the device "a hobby" and said that it would be an experimental product to see what sort of traction it gains. And while it hasn't even come close to that one million unit sales mark, it's still a viable product for the company.
Why you ask? Simple: iTunes movie rentals.
What good is iTunes movie rentals unless you have a working device to stream content onto an HDTV? Sure, Apple could always update the firmware and add this functionality to the Apple TV, but it's still such an underpowered product that I think it would be easier for the company to start anew.
Some of the features I expect to see in the new device: iTunes Movie Rental support, Internet browsing, direct-to-iTunes downloading and streaming and full-fledged syncing capabilities so you don't necessarily need to plug your iPod or iPhone into your computer.
Needless to say, I'm looking forward to it.
Possibility 4: A refresh of the MacBook line
It just makes sense that Apple would refresh the Macbook line. After all, if there won't be an ultraportable announced, don't you think the company would want to offer something worthwhile with its notebooks?
I suspect Apple will upgrade the components in the MacBook and probably even reduce its size a bit on the low-end model to almost get us to the ultraportable level. On the MacBook Pro side, look for a slight redesign and drastically upgraded components so it can better compete with some of Dell's and HP's high-end offerings.
Beyond that, it's difficult to say what could transpire with the notebook refresh. I honestly don't think we'll see much of a change with the iMacs because of their relatively new design and because the Mac Pros were already updated, there isn't much more to say.
Possibility 5: Steve Jobs Gloating and Delusions of Grandeur