With just days to go before Apple executives take the stage at the company's annual developer conference, the rumor mill has gone into its usual last-minute overdrive, with speculation about everything from $99 iPhones to an appearance by CEO Steve Jobs serving as grist for the Apple mill.
Only next Monday's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote will reveal what was only rumor, and what was spot on. But that didn't stop a pair of analysts -- Van Baker of Gartner and Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research -- from placing bets as to what will make the news June 8.
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By and large, they were much more conservative than the aggregate pre-WWDC gossip, and took the line that while there will be much Apple will talk up, there will be less than the company faithful want.
New iPhones: Almost everyone, including Baker and Gottheil, are in agreement on new iPhone hardware. While Apple won't put new iPhones on sale Monday, it will certainly preview them, as now-absent CEO Steve Jobs did at last year's WWDC, they both said.
"They'll have new [iPhone] hardware, probably with a faster processor, likely with video capabilities, maybe with a few other new features," said Baker.
Video, in fact, has been one of the ever-present rumors for the iPhone, with buzz about everything from video recording to video chat. Gottheil was on board for that one, too. "I won't be surprised if Apple adds a lot to the new iPhone, such as a compass, a microphone and speaker, a better [still] camera or a video camera," he said.
Lots of iPhones: While some bloggers have reported on clues that Apple may unveil as many as four new iPhone models next week, including a 4GB device priced at $99, both analysts remain skeptical.
"I think the one thing they need to do is have a line of iPhones," said Baker. "Apple needs more than a single point product to have a large installed base." But he wouldn't go so far as to claim that Apple would issue a quartet of iPhone models on Monday. "What makes sense is not one, but two models, a low and a high. They might do that."
Gottheil, though, countered. "I can't believe that they'd introduce a broad array of iPhones, or [introduce] a bottom-of-the-line one that has less functionality than the existing iPhone 3G," he said, referring to rumors of a low-end $99 iPhone. "They may lower the price [of the existing $199 model] and introduce new ones above that, that's something that Apple does."
Lower iPhone prices, lower-priced plans from AT&T: Talk of cheaper iPhones, cheaper data plans from AT&T -- perhaps a $10 cut or a pay-as-you-go metered plan -- has been bandied about by bloggers. Gottheil's not buying it.
"I think Apple and AT&T have reached the point where it's not the initial price of the iPhone that's a barrier," he said. "I think it's a joint decision by the two companies to keep prices where they are, because of AT&T's network capacity."