There have been more anticipated shows in terms of new products from Apple, but no Macworld Expo to date will rival the splendor of '07. This will be a party, a celebration of Apple's swift transition from PowerPC to Intel and its successful campaign to get platform buy-in from customers, developers and users of other x86 platforms. Apple's client systems will begin their voyage from boutique tech and business couture to a brick-and-mortar merchandising phenomenon and a share stealer. iPod's success is the model for Mac's crossover to the mainstream.
Apple is shamelessly evangelizing the daylights out of Intel Mac to third parties, reaching around the small and loyal base of Mac developers, resellers and peripheral makers to roll out the red carpet for bigger vendors from the PC side of the world. Apple's message to software and hardware players is that a vendor that manages to associate itself with the Mac brand and image scores automatic differentiation: "Good enough for Mac users." That triggers a reflexive cynicism even in me, but Mac buyers traditionally eschew the generic stuff that's merely accidentally Mac-compatible. Also, there's margin in the Mac. Every Mac and everything you plug into it has one price, the list price, and buyers are okay with that. I expect to see repackaging of PC peripherals in Mac silver, with minimal font panel controls and software front-ends that have the Mac GUI style.
I had declared as a certainty that Leopard, the next major release of OS X, will ship at the conference. I'm less sanguine about that now. I haven't been contacted for an executive briefing, which suggests to me that Apple new product announcements at the show will be of the non-bombshell variety. Or perhaps it's my cologne.
Macworld Expo exhibitors will have Vista idling in windows on their booth Macs just to attract attention. But if anyone showed up selling copies of Vista, nobody would buy. Vista on a Mac is like a bear on a unicycle: It's embarrassing, and yet you can't look away. Windows XP on a Mac is more rational, and for those who need it, there are now three ways to teach a Mac to do Windows: VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop and Apple's own Boot Camp. There are latest, greatest versions of all three are in public beta.
To clear your palate of Windows, a prevailing theme in Steve Jobs' keynote and in the exhibition halls will be the clean sweep of Universal Binary (Intel and PowerPC-native) releases of commercial and open source software. Microsoft, one of the last hold-outs, will show up with its Universal port of Office for Mac, which draw applause when it's shown on stage.
My great hope is that Xserve RAID with support for SATA and serially-attached SCSI (SAS) will make its premiere. A 14-bay Xserve RAID would have a maximum capacity of 10.5 terabytes, and Steve loves to put big numbers in his keynote slides. Being able to move drive cartridges between Xserve and Xserve RAID is a capability that Mac server users haven't had since Xserve G4; it'll be nice to be able to buy one stack of drives and divvy them up amongst servers and arrays according to need.
Apple is going to amp up its .Mac service. Users willingly pay $99 per year for the kinds of capabilities that one gets for free with the Yahoo services bundled with AT&T DSL. Apple's secret sauce will be the hooking of .Mac services into rich (non-browser) applications.