Each January, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) CEO Steve Jobs takes the podium at the annual Mac lovefest to debut new products aimed at inspiring the faithful and converting the skeptics. And so far, he's done a brilliant job of it. Indeed, last year's Macworld alumni, including the Mac mini and iPod shuffle, may have helped convince one million Windows users to switch to the Mac during 2005 -- if, that is, you believe the forecasts of a pretty optimistic securities analyst.
Maybe you don't, which is fine. There's no doubting, however, that Apple's momentum is strong. This morning's Macworld kickoff marks the latest attempt to maintain it. What's on tap, you ask? That's anyone guess. Apple, you see, doesn't do the traditional PR dance at Macworld. Instead, it closely guards the content of the day's announcements, which leaves the rest of us to ponder reams of speculative reports.
So, in this somewhat offbeat edition of the Foolish Forecast, I offer you my picks for the most obvious, most surprising, and most silly predictions for Jobs' keynote:
The obvious pick: Hello, Mactel. Indeed, there's near-universal agreement that Apple will roll out a new, slimmer iBook powered by an Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) processor. The only debate seems to be when the new laptops will ship: either immediately, or within 90 days. I vote for the former. Call it intuition, but when the deal with Intel was first announced in June, Jobs said much work had already been done on the so-called Mactel platform. My guess is that it's actually been years in the making. There's no reason, therefore, to believe that Apple would need more time if the new laptops debuted today.
The sleeper: The iMovie video store. Rumor site ThinkSecret reported something like this in its own show preview, but I believe it's been in the works for much longer than anyone realizes. Think about it. For years, Apple has hosted movie previews at this QuickTime-powered site. Now that it has struck deals to bring TV and music videos to the new video iPod, can movies really be that far behind? All that would be needed is a more-roomy player. (100 gigabytes, anyone?) Don't be surprised if it, too, debuts this morning.
The announcement you won't see: A Mac TV. Yeah, I know, Apple is quickly becoming a consumer electronics company, and reports of a branded Apple TV are abundant. That's no reason for Jobs and Co. to stake a claim in the market. Sony (NYSE: SNE ) and Philips (NYSE: PHG ) already do as good a job as there is to be done in plasma displays. Which leaves little or, for that matter, zero profit for Apple. Call Jobs mercurial, obsessive, or even a little nuts if you like. Just don't call him stupid -- especially when it comes to profit margins.
Take another bite of Apple:
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Fool contributor Tim Beyers thinks all the arm-waving over the Mac is fun but that, in the end, there are bound to be surprises. Which is nice, isn't it? Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.