Apple in 2011: 10 things to expect

iPad 2, iPhone 5, Mac OS X Lion, the Mac App Store and more

Apple in 2011

There's every chance Steve Jobs will at some point pull the tech industry equivalent of a rabbit out of a hat in 2011, unleashing an amazing gadget no-one had thought of but that everyone will want (or, if they're a competitor, want to copy).

However, through existing Apple announcements, the company's previous form and some cunning and incisive guesswork, we can be pretty sure we'll see the following ten things from the Cupertino giant over the coming months.

1. Mac App Store

The Mac App Store is likely to be the first of Apple's major products to appear in 2011. Announced during Apple's unveiling of Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), but also compatible with 10.6 (Snow Leopard), it will bring a streamlined app-purchase, download and update model to the Mac, much like the one for iOS devices.

Mac app store

APPY DAYS: Apple's Mac App Store will simplify application purchase and installation in 2011

There will be restrictions, too, but standard Mac installation will still be permitted; therefore, we expect the Mac App Store to be a great system for kick-starting a thriving ecosystem of smaller apps and games on the Mac, with industry giants - initially, at least - sticking with traditional distribution methods.

2. iPad 2

Apple's tight-lipped about what iPad 2 will or won't include, but it's a safe bet it'll incorporate FaceTime, and Jobs's dismissal of the 7-inch form factor of rival tablets suggests iPad 2 will differ from the original little in that regard. Elsewhere, more RAM and storage are likely, and a USB port and a Retina display have been mooted as other new features. Whatever we end up with, expect iPad 2 to land a year after the original's debut, in April 2011.

3. iOS magazine rack

Rumoured to be imminent for months, along with the Rupert Murdoch-backed iPad-only newspaper The Daily, iOS 4.3 is said to include functionality that will enable Apple to provide a digital magazine rack, including subscriptions.

iOS magazine rack

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This is surely a cert for 2011, complementing iBooks nicely, and enabling publishers to free themselves from relying on apps with in-app purchases or services like Zinio for digital magazine distribution for iOS.

4. iPhone 5

Apple's iPhone release schedule is reassuringly regular, and you can expect the iPhone 5 to appear by early July. Unless Apple's been at the crazy juice, you can guarantee that the antennae will work flawlessly, regardless of how you jam the device into your hands, and you can also expect bumps to speed, storage and performance.

In terms of functionality, a few rumours have surfaced, and Apple's reportedly been experimenting with Near Field Communication, potentially enabling a device to be used for making payments. Elsewhere, it's possible US customers will finally be able to escape AT&T, with the iPhone 5 becoming available on Verizon.

5. Mac OS X 10.7

In October, Apple gave everyone a sneak peak of Mac OS X 10.7, also known as Lion. The eighth major version of Mac OS X was part of a 'back to the Mac' event, showcasing how iOS devices are now influencing Apple's desktop and laptop products. Lion includes the iOS homescreen-style Launchpad, full-screen apps, auto-save and auto-resume, auto-hiding scrollbars, and more fully utilises multitouch gestures.

OS x 10 7

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During his presentation, Steve Jobs noted that these features were just a taste of what the finished software (due 'summer' 2011) will contain; other rumoured features include a resolution-independent and/or unified interface and an upgraded QuickTime X.

6. Increased focus on iOS

With Lion's release, expect Apple to again switch its attention to iOS, perhaps starting to preview aspects of the next major revision to the mobile operating system. It's also fairly likely that a shift will take place in 2011, with Apple very obviously considering iOS the 'default' operating system for Apple products, with Mac OS X repositioned as something more for professionals and anyone else with demanding requirements. Don't be shocked if you hear nothing at all about Mac OS X 10.8 in 2011, but plenty about iOS 4.x and perhaps even iOS 5.

7. Opening up AirPlay

AirPlay is a potentially revolutionary technology for the media obsessed, but it's currently hugely constrained. At present, you can live-stream video and audio from an iOS device to an Apple TV, but only from a very limited number of Apple's own apps. Developers have shown this limitation has been imposed by Apple itself, for reasons unknown; happily, when responding to a MacRumors reader's query regarding AirPlay video working in Safari and third-party apps, Steve Jobs reportedly said: "Yep, hope to add these features to Airplay in 2011".

8. Improvements to MobileMe

MobileMe hasn't exactly set the world on fire. Many users cite that it's unstable and unreliable, often bettered by free solutions available from Apple's competitors. In iOS 4.2, Apple surprisingly freed Find My iPhone from the paid MobileMe (at least for owners of 2010 iOS devices- cynically, anyone with an older device was blocked from creating the required free account), and in response to another MacRumors reader's email about MobileMe products, Steve Jobs reportedly replied: "Yes, it will get a lot better in 2011".

Find my iphone

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Given that Apple's building a massive data centre, there's hope MobileMe might become an integrated part of its operating systems, becoming the backbone for enabling you access to your content from any Apple device or computer.

9. iTunes streaming

It's the rumour that never dies, but perhaps 2011 will finally be the year Apple augments its existing iTunes Store music purchase options with some kind of streaming service. This could come in the form of Spotify-like streaming, but that would potentially eat into Apple's iTunes Store sales; therefore, we could see an alternative service, such as enabling you to stream your own collection to a device, using the Lala technology Apple acquired, in combination with the in-progress giant data centre.

10. Doomsayers rebuffed

Despite all of these things and, perhaps, the odd surprise or two, doomsayers will continue to predict Apple's imminent death, ignoring the massive profits the company's generating, the boost in headcount and store outlets, and the innovative products it's producing.

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Unless Steve Jobs goes crazy and turns Macs into Windows boxes or has the iPhone 5 made out of puppies, this cycle will continue into 2011 and beyond, with Apple offering modest expectations, analysts providing bizarre predictions that bear little relation to what Apple stated, Apple revealing new and huge piles of cash every quarter, Wall Street going berserk at Apple having not revealed a pile of cash 50 times bigger than the moon, hacks saying Apple is doomed for some spurious reason, and Apple stockholders and board members happily watching Apple shares continue their upward trajectory.

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