January 07, 2005

Future Apple II

Evan Kirchhoff ups the ante on his previous Apple speculation, claiming the new, headless Mac at $499 is now at 75% speculation and provides supporting evidence. Unfortunately for Kirchhoff's predictive batting record, there are two long-known Apple corporate traits that militate against the rumor being true. First, Apple has a highly aggressive (many say viciously vindictive) legal department. Apple has always liked suing people, especially over IP violations. They've also had a long-running feud with rumors websites, especially those who won't take down inside info stories that were illegally disseminated. The problem could be as simple as the following quote from the original Think Secret story "The new Mac, code-named Q88, will be part of the iMac family and is expected to sport a PowerPC G4 processor at a speed around 1.25GHz."

If there is a Q88 hardware project that even vaguely resembles that, the above quote is probably the fruit of an inside leak. Apple security could even have discovered the leakers and those might be most of the rest of the John Doe defendants.

Now Q88 might, or might not, be destined for release. You have to remember that Apple has publicly released Darwin for x86, a complete OS, and is widely expected that they have an internal development project with a completely running Mac OS X operating system based on x86 maintained in parallel with their PPC version. That version will never see the light of day unless the PPC consortium dies, something that is highly unlikely with the birth of the new Power initiative. Q88 could be a similar internal project. Q88 could be a project that's exactly as described but to be released at a $599 price point. Both would seriously peeve Apple for good reason.

The major negative effect for Apple is that expectations of a Q88 release will be built into Apple's stock price and non-release or release at a higher price or with lower capability configurations will all mean a hit to Apple's shareholders in the next two weeks. Every time that happens, the desperate anti-mac people (John Dvorak, please call your office) get revved up and the Apple brand takes an outsized hit that they have to work very hard to recover from.

The further rumor of a new Office software suite can also be coming out in many different ways (and it's been widely anticipated for some time). Apple has already struck a major blow by providing .doc file support as a system service. I would expect that this would continue to be improved. I also would not be surprised to find (at this conference or some other) an announcement that replicates the Safari (KHTML) rollout where an open source office application like KOffice gets a major UI upgrade and a version rolled out that is heavily integrated with Mac OS X.

As for Apple stockholders in 2010, I would want Apple will be a more diversified company and to have improved positions in all its segments, including personal computers. I would expect that Apple's consumer outlook will put it far ahead in the race to create home servers, a high margin business that can get rolled into the mortgage for housing. A complete system would require a house LAN and room terminals that would be at least as capable as today's PCs.

You don't need any secret knowledge to predict such things, just some technical understanding of Apple's current offerings as they've unfolded and the logical continuation of current trends. Apple's Rendezvous, Airport, Xsan, Xraid, and Xserve products all have potential applications in a (wireless) wired home initiative and even some of the lesser knowns such as OpenDirectory are probably not just attempts by Apple to assault the corporate purchase gates. When Apple can find a good partner in the building trades to make that sort of deal, they will as it will be highly lucrative to get clumps of a hundred servers here, two hundred there for entire upscale subdivisions. That's the kind of thing that will not only build their brand but will also increase their ability to sell further service offerings into from hardware service to Internet watch filters.

Posted by TMLutas at January 7, 2005 11:11 AM