So, what will 2010 bring? I dislike predicting what Apple may or may not do, because Apple is either very good at misleading me (among others) or I'm particularly bad at reading tech tea leaves. But some things are pretty much surefire – it's just a question of when.
Apple used to release things at the IDC Macworld conference in San Francisco every January, but Apple has pulled out of them. Somehow I don't think it will have affected Apple's product cycle all that much.
I imagine Apple will still like to release new things not too long after Christmas, just to keep the name and associated expectations going.
Other than that, the World Wide Developers Conference mid-year is the traditional release agent for Apple's professional hardware and apps. Apple tends to release new hardware in September also.
So I will point out what's pretty certain, and what's just dodgy tea leaves.
Will Apple continue to prosper even though the economy is bad, the sea levels are rising while Copenhagen is being warmed more than the rest of the planet by the heated vocal expulsions of politicians more concerned with their economies than with Earth?
Who knows. A logical reading would say no, but Apple has already defied logic all year. Spectacularly. And Apple's stock continues to trade strongly.
Last weekend it was reported that Apple has agreed to purchase Lala. The Palo Alto, Californian start-up was an online store at which users purchased music, but the tracks were 'stored on the cloud' and can be listened to by the purchaser with any internet accessible device.
It's kinda like subscriber radio. Users of Lala also had the option of downloading tracks, but then paid about seven times more than the 10 US cents for internet streaming rights.
Why did Apple buy Lala? In a rare comment to The New York Times, Apple spokesman Steve Downling said that "[Apple] buys smaller technology companies all the time …"
Helpful? Not really. As he continued, …"and we generally do not comment on our purpose or plans." Exactly. Back to the tea leaves, then, except that a "person with knowledge of the deal, but who was not authorized to discuss it" thought Apple would primarily be interested in Lala's engineers, including co-founder Bill Nguyen, for their experience with cloud-based music services.
Hmm. Apple seeks to rule the airwaves, too. Which shouldn't really surprise anyone.
Whatever the plans are, Apple will get a fiscal boost from Christmas sales of iTunes vouchers, iPods (mostly touches and nanos) and, perhaps, accessories like in-ear headphones with remote and mic.
These are superb, by the way, with a bass response down to 5Hz while most standard earbuds only go down to 18Hz. I suggest you look for at least 12Hz if you value the bass end of your music, as you should, whatever your preferred genre.
Apple has been experimenting with new chips being developed by Intel.
People like to say Apple has no special relationship with the CPU builder, but Intel and Apple were both clear that they were supporting each others 'road maps' when Apple switched.
But with new mobile chips coming, and more powerful desktop CPUs coming too, Apple seems to be grappling with teething problems with iMacs using i5 and i7 chips.
Apple has had to apologise to customers after reports of shipping delays of its recently introduced 27-inch iMac with these chips.
"The new iMac has been a huge hit and we are working hard to fulfil orders as quickly as possible," an Apple spokesperson told CNET. "We apologise for any inconvenience or delay this may cause our customers."
That's as may be, but it's also suspected Apple is working to solve display problems, as an Apple support thread would indicate.
Despite all that, Apple recaptured the top US ranking for computer reliability.
As far as MacBooks go, new chips will soon be available for them, too. But Apple may be insisting on custom versions of Intel's mobile Core i5 and i7 processors before it updates MacBooks and the Mac mini. A rumour on BSN claims Apple wants Intel to remove the integrated graphics on the processor so Apple can deploy something better.
Sitting right between the Mac and the iPhone is the possible Tablet. Apple has definitely been working on the concept for years and years, and the iPhone certainly pointed the way to a lean yet powerful OS that could go into a smaller-than-a-Mac device.
Apple has been romancing content and media publishers, so it really does look like somethin's cooking, because if you introduce a new device, you need to ensure there's lots to do with it.
But the stock market types like speculating on a possible tablet, as you can read on The Street.
An update to OS 3 is due soon, while OS 4 looks like it's well into development. Records publicised by Boy Genius Report show devices with both v3.1.3 and v4.0 firmware are out there.
The OS 3 v3.1.3 release could be imminent, as it would be a relatively minor update in time to support a flood of new Christmas iPhone and iPod touch owners.
But iPhone 4.0 firmware is not expected for some time. Apple normally reserves a major update for the debut of new hardware. But hey, maybe it's for the tablet as well...
Meanwhile, a whole new model of iPhone with possibly a whole new CPU could be in the offing, going by the rumours. And that could happen early in the new year. Or mid-year, as has been the case with new iPhones.
Everyone expects the iTunes App Store, clearly leading the mobile app wars with more than 100,000 apps, to grow more. But what really got US retailers in a fizz was Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey's new app/dongle combination.
It could do away with the expensive merchant card processing systems that bedevil businesses. It just needs enough businesses to like it.
Think about it – a card transaction system that connects to your iPhone – that would be awesome for small businesses, travelling tradespeople etc.
I could certainly use one for my on-site training – who carries cash these days?
In general iPhone app development, people expect Google Maps to get turn-by-turn navigation, which could be a blow to the expensive nav apps on the market. Also, augmented reality apps are set to grow – if you want a taste, I suggest you get the free Layar which works around Auckland, anyway, or the decidedly naughty-but-I-like-it Assassin FPS ($1.29).
It's a hit with bored car passengers on long trips. But don't expect it to get the sanction of everybody.
Meanwhile, Apple's Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook reckons the competitors to the iPhone are still being behind the original iPhone, the 3G. And as Cook stated, "We've moved beyond that." So there, I guess.
I expect (and hope) Microsoft to get back on track in 2010. It's done too much, retained too much engineering talent and, frankly, made too much money to throw it all away, and there are plenty of Mac users who couldn't get by without Office:Mac, created by the indefatigable and talented Mac Business Unit.
A new version for 2010 will even have a Mac version of Outlook instead of the confusingly named 'Entourage' email client that's currently part of the package for Mac users. Good.
Sometimes I think if Microsoft just sorted out its naming and version proliferation, a lot of the company's other problems would also evaporate.
Source: NZ Herald