Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

What's Macworld without its "living legend"?

December 30, 2008: 12:08 PM ET

Macworld twitter promoIf it was Steve Jobs' intention to take the wind out of Macworld's sails, he's done a pretty good job.

"Expectations are low," wrote Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster in a note to clients early Tuesday, one week before the first Macworld Expo keynote since 1997 that won't be delivered by Apple's charismatic CEO.  "No significant new products are expected."

"Fairly modest" is how Kaufmann Bros.' Shaw Wu described investor expectations for the Expo, which runs from Jan. 5 - 9 in San Francisco and which Apple (AAPL) has already announced will be its last. "Frankly, we would be a little surprised if there is a major announcement, as we believe it would make better sense for Steve Jobs to do so himself at an AAPL event."

Behind Steve Jobs' Macworld exit

Both Wu and Munster are looking for Jobs' keynote stand-in -- senior vice-president Phil Schiller -- to introduce updated iMacs and redesigned Mac minis -- hardly surprises given that both machines are overdue for a refresh.

Munster has not given up on the "new form factor iPhone" -- a.k.a. iPhone nano -- that he once thought would be announced at the January event. Now he doesn't expect it to arrive before the end of Apple's second fiscal quarter, which closes in March.

And he is sticking with his famous prediction -- the most optimistic of any mainstream analyst -- that Apple will sell 45 million iPhones in calendar 2009. But he reminds clients that that figure is predicated on his belief that Apple will enlarge its iPhone offerings, vastly expand its retail outlets and significantly lower its prices. So far it's only done one of the three.

Wal-Mart to sell iPhone starting Sunday

Shaw Wu also sees "strong indications" of a lower-cost iPhone and other "larger form factor touchscreen devices" -- a.k.a. iPod tablet -- later in the year. His sources hint that Apple may introduce a new "consumer device" next week -- possibly a jazzed up Apple TV or a superconnected Time Capsule -- a.k.a. home server -- that would let you grab your files or do backups from anywhere on the Internet.

And Wu hasn't ruled out the possibility that Phil Schiller will surprise everyone next week with a breakthrough product that nobody is expecting, if only to send the message that Apple is a "much broader and deeper company than one person, even if he/she is a living legend."

For our part, we haven't given up on the possibility that Steve Jobs will make a surprise cameo appearance during Schiller's keynote, if only to show that he's still kicking -- Gizmodo's latest rumor to the contrary -- and still very much in charge.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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