Apple developers' conference may see gaps filled in PowerMac, Ipod product lines

San Francisco (CA) - An entire industry has been formed around managing the guessing game of what Apple will announce next. But as with any industry that constitutes a good part of the American economy, when speculation becomes part of the business, meeting the expectations of the best speculators can be interpreted by the market at large as a disappointment. So the question starts to form in the mind of Apple enthusiasts, in advance of Monday's Worldwide Developers' Conference: If CEO Steve Jobs unveils just a new line of PowerMacs featuring, say, Core 2 Duo processors replacing Power G5s, and just a new line of iPod nanos with 8 GB of NAND flash at the top of the line, and just a first peak at the "Leopard" version of Mac OS X...will that be enough?

What many in the Apple community would like to see is something they're calling an "iPhone," which would essentially boil down to an iPod with communications capabilities. Statements made by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer during a recent quarterly conference call with analysts, essentially saying his company isn't "sitting back and doing nothing" while the communications industry passes it by, were interpreted by financial analysts including Bank of America on Monday as a clear indication that Apple is working on some sort of portable communications device.

Some users are apparently so anxious for such a device that they've actually created mock-up advertisements in the classic Apple style (a derivative of the classic Volkswagen style), and circulated them across the Web along with messages on the order of, "Wouldn't this be neat?"

It might, believes American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu, but WWDC might not be the proper place for Jobs to unveil such a thing, he said in a recent financial report. Most likely, the "D" will still stand for "developers," Wu implies, most of whom may be more interested in dual-core PowerMacs and Leopard than something cool and new to wear around their necks. Look for the next iPod to be unveiled in a separate gala event early this fall, he says.

But perhaps another possibility - a hybrid concept that could open the door for "iPod developers," if you will - concerns a relatively huge expansion of the display size for a theoretically new, top-of-the-line iPod. Probably larger than pocket-size, gauging from drawings Apple submitted with patent application filings, such a device would probably enable not only adequate video display but also electronic book browsing. Some Apple enthusiast blogs today, aware that Apple gave away the news of its video-capable iPod last year when it hung banners clearly showing the larger screen size, have noted that WWDC banners being hung are now shrouded with black drapes.

Of course, those drapes could be obscuring a cool, new case to go along with the speculative Core 2 Duo-based PowerMacs that comprise the "safe bet" for next week.

For Apple's own part, the company hasn't said much today, except that it will be working more closely with Ford Motor Company, Ford's Mazda division, and with General Motors to make it possible for them to make iPod integration an option in 2007 model vehicles, which should be arriving in showrooms in just a few months. The fact that Apple made this iPod-related announcement today rather than next week, may be an indication that Apple won't disclose any iPod or "iPhone"-related news during WWDC. If that's the case, expect a subset of analysts whose names are not "Shaw Wu" to be disappointed - a state of mind which recently translates directly to stock trading value.

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