While its chosen to ignore the mainstream press, Apple Legal has waded into the Mac Web with renewed ferocity, demanding that sites pull stories, images, forum postings and headlines directed at WWDC and the 64-Bit Question. (The company has even sent at least one letter insisting that a third-party site remove a link to a recent eWEEK story on the subject!) The result, of course, has been to intensify the echo effect even further, as Mac fans interpret Apples legal warnings as a stamp of authenticity about the content to which theyre directed and posters find creative new ways to present the disputed information and avoid Apples legal radar.Mark my words: As long as Apple continues to create products that inspire a loyal and engaged following, the company will never decrease by a micron the volume of speculation about those products. At best, it will only compel the tea-leaf readers to sift a weaker brewand add more murk to the inevitable churn of Mac prediction. So where does all this leave me vis-a-vis handicapping next weeks WWDC announcements? To minimize the echo effect, Im going to steer clear of any of the interesting topics the Mac Web has suggested may play a subordinate role at the show: Version 1.0 of Apples Safari browser, a replacement for the 15-inch PowerBook, a new videoconferencing camera or other wild-card digital device. (MacRumors.com has done a yeomans job of compiling the crazy-quilt of WWDC rumors.) As for the confluence of Mac OS X and the PowerPC 970, heres the scenario I believe is most likely based on a conservative reading of our own sources. (And as the guy who mused that Apple might use Januarys Macworld Expo/San Francisco to launch its multimedia tabletwrong!Ill be satisfied with an 80 percent hit rate.) While I have heard some rumblings that an entry-level model may be available in limited quantities next week, I believe that the new Power Macs wont ship until late July or early August. I think that Mac developers will spend next week getting acquainted with the new Apple hardware and software, and Apple will spend the next month ramping up production of the 970 Power Macs. Im betting that although Apple has dialed way back on its participation in Julys Macworld CreativePro (the show formerly known as Macworld Expo/New York), that expo will comprise the first public forum for shipping models across the new line. And as we reported in a recent eWEEK story, that first wave of new Power Macs apparently wont ship with Mac OS X "Panther" at all, but with Smeagol, a version of the current Mac OS X 10.2 (a k a Jaguar) that has been optimized for the new processor. Early adopters will be able to take advantage of many of the architectural advantages of the new hardware, and they should be at the head of the line for a free upgrade to the new cat when it reaches the retail channel in mid-September. Off to the root cellar; Ill check back after the WWDC tornado passes to discuss which Mac predictions weathered the storm. Discuss this in the eWeek forum. Mac veteran Matthew Rothenberg is managing editor of Ziff Davis Internet.
I still harbor suspicions that Apples chronic high dudgeon is at least 10 percent stagecraft (considering how much attention this tug-of-war inevitably garners for the Mac); Jobs desire to control every aspect of the companys public persona also plays a clear role. And while I believe Apple is justifiably concerned about the effect of forward-looking speculation on current sales, Im convinced that anyone interested enough in the product to read Mac sites already understands the basic rhythms of Mac updatesand plans his or her purchases accordingly.