What's next for Apple?

Could the MacBook be joined by a new ultra-portable?

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs walks on stage at Macworld Expo on Tuesday 15th January, he's going to have the weight of expectation bearing heavily down on his shoulders.

2007 was undoubtedly a monster year for Apple - it sold record numbers of Macs, millions more iPods and launched a brand new version of its

Mac OS X

operating system with Leopard. And then, of course, there was the


- now widely seen as the gadget of the year, thanks to its unique multi-touch interface and combination of killer features. Anyone would be hard pressed to top that little lot, let alone a company that prizes itself on innovation. So what's next? We gaze into a crystal ball and try to make a few predictions


There's no way that Jobs can appear at Macworld and not announce a new iPhone. An analyst at Goldman Sachs has suggested to investors that a new model is in the final design phase, says Apple Insider. It's expected to have a different design from the current iPhone and may include 3G integration.

Other rumours have pointed to a launch as early as May, which would make sense for the US, where the current iPhone will have been on sale for almost a year. We may wait longer for the European version - possibly as late as October or November next year.

We could also see a second iPhone launch around then, according to Goldman Sachs. That would make sense - Apple needs to keep the iPhone's momentum going if it's to hit its target of 10 million sales by the end of 2008.

If it's at all serious about staying in the mobile phone game, it'll also need to offer a more diverse range of models and at lower prices - just as it has done with the iPod.

Apple's obviously not in the game of "piling 'em high and selling 'em cheap", but it often demotes its flagship models to mid-range or entry-level status. That would enable it to put a new flagship iPhone with larger capacity (32GB), 3G and better Bluetooth integration at the top, a 16GB 3G iPhone in the middle; and the current 8GB 2.5G iPhone at entry level.

One of Macworld's highlights will undoubtedly be the official unveiling of the iPhone Software Developers Kit, alongside which we'll see a slew of announcements from partner developers who have already been working on iPhone apps. 'And they're shipping today," Jobs will undoubtedly say to much whooping from the Mac faithful. Gaming is also likely to arrive on the iPhone with this update - Apple is already said to be working very closely with Electronic Arts to bring its titles to the iPhone.


While Jobs may crow about the latest sales figures for the iPod at Macworld (particularly for the iPod touch) the current range of iPods is too new to get a revamp now. Tradition dictates that we'll have to wait until September to see new models, although that would be a shame - the iPod classic needs to seriously up its game if its to compete against Microsoft's fast rising Zune. Even the iPod touch needs a boost - 16GB of flash memory is already starting to look poor on a device that specialises in video.

MacBook / MacBook Pro

Apple last revamped its MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops in July - ahead of the back to school buying frenzy in the US. That and the arrival of new 45-nanometre Penryn chips from Intel suggests that both will at least get a speed boost in January. However have also been some other tantalising suggestions.

The first of these is that Apple will launch a new ultra-thin sub-notebook with a solid-state flash memory drive, chiefly as a replacement for the late, lamented 12-inch PowerBook. Apple is already said to have placed orders for 13.3-inch LED displays - although these could be just being used to replace the displays in existing MacBooks.

Some are suggesting that Apple will even dispense with DVD drive in the new models, much as it did with the floppy in the original 1998 iMac. We certainly wouldn't put it past Jobs to do this - he was pretty dismissive of DVD burning at the launch of iLife '08 creativity suite last August, where he showcased a new version of iMovie that is much more tailored to YouTube and other movie uploading sites.