I always look forward to Macworld Expo, but this year my expectations are especially high. It may be the bracing San Francisco weather that's got my blood moving, but it's my anticipation of the keynote and the exhibit floor that have me blogging in the shower.
Apple has scheduled two briefings with me this week. One is a keynote follow-up on Wednesday, and the other is a sit-down on Mac Pro and Xserve on Thursday. I've already got the skinny on Mac Pro and Xserve, both quite impressive, but both falling under the category of pre-show announcements that make room for something else. So will the Wednesday briefing be all about iPhone?
I am braced for that possibility. With 3G, a lower price, streaming media and an upcoming software development kit (SDK), I'm prepared to treat iPhone '08 as a new device. I have speculation related to the SDK that I'll relate under separate cover. Suffice it to say that I don't expect to be able to wipe iPhone's system software clean and replace it with Darwin. That would subvert the primary purpose of Apple's mobile platform: To be an iTunes terminal that fits in your pocket and sticks to your dashboard. The only need that I can see for an iPhone SDK is to allow Apple to market signed commercial software on iTunes Music Store. The only justification that I can see for native code is to support games, and to allow commercial code to enforce licenses.
Apple could surprise me. After all, there is no obvious revenue justification for publishing those portions of Darwin that are not covered by GPL, the GNU Public Licenses that require vendors to publish their adaptation of software covered by the license. I can imagine, and I'm sure that others can, too, iPhone and iPod touch being the world's most sought-after robotics controllers and de facto platforms for university courses in embedded systems. I don't expect iPhone/iPod touch to be opened to kernel hackers, but I think that in the long run, Darwin has good potential as an embedded OS.
I hear from my editors that there is still speculation about a Mac tablet. I'm bearish on that; PC tablets aren't hot commodities. With so much low-hanging fruit yet to harvest from the seasonal evolution of Mac, iPod, iPhone, iTunes, Leopard, Pro Apps and .Mac, I can't foresee any bold new lines of business for Apple right now. My attention this year is largely focused on third-party vendors. I am always hopeful for products that I didn't see coming, and I'd be delighted to hear Steve say something that nobody expects.
In any case, this'll be fun. I hope you'll come along.