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January 09, 2006

Uncle Steve's medicine show

weblogs.oreilly.com | One possible future for the PowerBook line

Not long to wait for the latest Apple keynote, and I'm as interested in what's coming down the pike as I've been since the 12" PowerBook intro.

(By the way, my PowerBook is off for repair with what appears to be a bad hard drive, so I'm going to be at least even on my AppleCare investment.)

The consensus rumor seems to be that the Mac mini and the iBook will be the first machines to get Intel chips, and that both will be introduced tomorrow. I can see an upgrade to the mini: they're not really sold primarily on their performance, and other rumors suggest the update will include new TV and streaming media features to justify more processing power.

The iBook, on the other hand, confuses me. Based on what we're hearing from developers, it seems like any current-model Centrino will offer battery life and performance meeting or exceeding the current PowerBooks. The favorite rumor seems to be a pairing of a dual-core Yonah processor and a 13.3" wide-screen LCD. Why not just put that chip in the PowerBook? O'Grady and others suggest Apple won't migrate that quickly because some of their professional applications, but I really liked a comment someone made in reply to one of the rumors. Remembering how the iPod rumors had suggested a "color iPod mini" which turned out to be the iPod nano, the commenter suggested that perhaps the 13.3" iBook might actually be the first new Intel-driven PowerBook, a “PowerBook nano.”

Creating a 13.3" PowerBook serves a number of purposes: miniature laptops are extremely popular among road warriors today, and the 12" PowerBook, world-beating when it was introduced, is now comparatively portly for a micro-laptop. Users of this sort of machine are less likely to use it for high-end pro applications; it's more like a messaging center and portable data archive. Also, they're less price-sensitive, which would let Apple maintain its margins a little more. And it maintains the natural order of things, with the PowerBook outperforming the iBook.

As a shareholder, I hope the rumors of an iBook at a significantly lower price ($599?) come true.

And Jason O'Grady's Apple plasma screen rumors? They seem way out there to me. If they come true, I think it's time to consider a future where Apple no longer sells computers, refocusing on consumer electronics, media, and software.

January 9, 2006 in Apple - PowerBooks | Permalink

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