Mac May Have a Hard Time Following iPad's Act
Although Apple's Mac computer line and OS X will be the stars of its next gala event, they may have difficulty shining in the glare of the iPad's light. Whatever the company has in store for Mac hardware and software is likely to be influenced by the popularity of the tablet. "There won't be a ton of new features introduced," predicted Yankee analyst Carl Howe -- but it will seem like a lot, because it's Apple.
Apple has invited media and analysts to an Oct. 20 event focusing on its upcoming plans for the Mac platform. The invitation mentions a "sneak peek" at the next version of the Mac OS, but offers no other information about what will be revealed.
Because Apple is following its usual pattern of keeping a lid on the details of any possible new product releases, the rumor mill has been abuzz with possibilities -- also a common occurrence when it comes to pending Apple announcements.
Regardless of what's announced, this event appears to be perfectly timed for Apple, giving it a chance to capitalize on the momentum it has gained with the success of iPhone 4 and the iPad.
iPad's Shadow Looms
It's also possible those highly successful mobile devices could overshadow whatever announcements Apple makes next week.
There has been widespread speculation that Apple will unveil a new version of its MacBook Air laptop.
"That would make sense, since the MacBook Air hasn't been updated in sometime," Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told MacNewsWorld. "Given that Apple now has the iPad on the market, which is very thin and very light with a long battery life, it will be interesting to see what it can do with the MacBook Air to more appropriately segment it within the product line."
There has been talk of a new MacBook Air with an 11.6-inch screen, making it lighter and thinner than the current version, which comes with a 13-inch screen.
"An 11-inch screen would be a pretty small machine -- more like a mini notebook or something closer to the iPad than a regular laptop," said Bob O'Donnell, a vice president with IDC.
Hooks for Syncing Devices
"It wouldn't surprise me to see some additional hooks that allow for using the Mac OS to synchronize data across the devices, including the iPhone and iPad," O'Donnell told MacNewsWorld. "Right now, most of the synchronization across mobile devices takes place through iTunes. I also would expect at some point to see Apple add support for touchscreens -- a standard feature in the iPhone and iPad -- to the Mac OS."
It also would make sense for Apple to introduce a lower-priced version of its MacBook Pro laptop, which currently sells for US$1,199, he suggested. "It's taken years for the MacBook Pro to hit $999. If Apple's serious about gaining market share in the PC market, it's not inconceivable that they would make that move at this time."
The most significant announcements at next week's event are likely to be around the new OS, and specifically the user interface, opined Carl Howe, a Yankee Group analyst.
"They're going to make some improvements to enhance the user experience," he told MacNewsWorld. "They will announce something related to the MacBook, since it would be in line with the usual schedule of refreshing the product line every year.
When all is said and done, "there won't be a ton of new features introduced -- either on the hardware or software side," Howe surmised, "but it will seem like there's a lot of new stuff, simply because of the buzz surrounding Apple."