Apple: 'first 30 years just the beginning'

Will this year's MacWorld show see some exciting hardware releases?

Apple may be no stranger to hyperbole, but its latest website banner is daring by even its own fantastical standards. The banner reads: "The first 30 years were just the beginning. Welcome to 2007."

Naturally the news has put Mac fans into an even more hypomanic state than usual, as the graphic change comes just days before the MacWorld expo kicks off in San Francisco - an event renowned for major product launches by the company.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has allocated two hours for this year's keynote, instead of his usual 1.5, suggesting that he'll have even more products to launch than usual. His keynote kicks off at 9am on Tuesday 9 January - which is the same time that arch-rival Michael Dell starts his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show ( CES ) in Las Vegas.

A substantial part of Steve Jobs keynote is likely to centre around Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard , the next version of Apple's computer operating system. Jobs is evidently hoping to steal some of the thunder from Microsoft Windows Vista , which launches to consumers on Tuesday 30th January. Jobs was certainly coy about revealing too many of Leopard's new features when he first showed off the OS at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference last August, so anticipation is high.

Jobs may also unveil two new mobile phones that will have iPod features at their heart, as well as a new widescreen version of the iPod for viewing movies. Apple is also expected to extend the reach of its iTunes Store , so that iPod users outside the US will be able to download TV shows and movies like their American cousins.

The Apple CEO is also likely to announce the final spec and a launch date for the iTV media streamer which he previewed last November. The device finally gives Mac users an Apple-branded means to view content stored on their computers through their TVs. Until now Mac users have always had to rely on third-party solutions.

HIstorically Apple has given iPods and other consumer electronic-oriented devices their own launch events rather than dilute their impact at a major exhibition. MacWorld has tended to focus on software and new Mac products in recent years, suggesting that new versions of the iMac and MacBook maybe on the cards instead.

Work and play

Some Mac rumour sites are also speculating that Apple will launch some kind of home games console or a handheld along the lines of Nintendo's DS Lite , following last year's hiring of game developers by the company. Such a scenario looks unlikely - most of the developments on that front are likely to focus on bolstering the iPod's fledgling gameplay capabilities that were announced last September.

Apple is also likely to announce new versions of its iLife and iWork productivity suites. iLife comprises six different applications to help you create, edit and share music, movies and photos. iWork comprises word processing and presentation applications.