Macworld: 17" Flat-Panel iMac but No G4 Towers

Its Macworld Expo time, and like past shows, we feel we have a responsibility to be totally honest and prepare you fully for what is about to come. So, without any further delay, all we have to say is ... dont set your hopes too high.

Its often tough to live up to the high expectations of Mac users who are so used to Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs pulling a rabbit out of his hat and surprising us with something new, different, and totally unexpected every six months.

Unfortunately, Jobs cant be David Copperfield at every Expo, and he wont be this time around either. Our sources have filled in the many holes in the bits and pieces of news weve gotten over the last few months, and were now ready to lock in our answers to the question, "What will Jobs announce in his keynote address?" Based on a percentage scale, heres what you will and will not see. (Representatives from Apple did not respond to requests for comment.)

100%--No Power Mac G4 speed bumps

This is a "Stone Cold Lock" and one we know the majority of you will be surprised and disappointed to hear. Instead, our sources confirm Apple will probably announce new G4 towers in three different speeds in excess of 1.2GHz in a special product announcement next month, and not at Seybold in San Francisco, which is scheduled for September 9-12. Look for a new design and new motherboard, together with re-designed flat panel displays at this announcement. G5 models? Not until next year.

How are we so certain that Macworld wont bring new towers? Use common sense! Just look at the Apple promotion announced earlier this week offering $300-$500 back when a Power Mac G4 is purchased along with a 17-inch Studio Display, 22-inch Cinema Display, or 23-inch Cinema HD Display. This is a clear sign that Apple is sitting on a huge inventory of G4 towers. In the past, Apple has postponed the rollout of new CPUs (the G3 PowerBook three years ago is one example) until inventory of older models was depleated. Were sure this is the reason for the G4 tower rollout delay this time. As one dealer put it, "Professional system sales have slowed to a trickle. Theyve got to clear stock before they rollout new models. Thats how bad it is."

100%--17-inch flat-panel iMac

This is also the closest thing to a "Stone Cold Lock" that it gets and one that will surprise most. We all heard rumors earlier this year coming out of Asia about a 17-inch flat-panel model in production. Those rumors were quickly dismissed by most, but we never blew them off that fast. Simply know this...if you could hear our sources talk of their confidence in this products rollout, youd be predicting this 17-inch model as well.

100%--A long Jaguar demo

With no G4 speed bump announcement, Jobs has to fill his keynote time, somehow. Look for another long segment of at least 20 minutes with Jobs recapping all the great features of the next major Mac OS X update, Jaguar.

100%--Official Jaguar release date

Recent reports are right on the money. Apple has moved up the release of the newest OS X to early/mid-August. Jobs will announce an exact date after hes finished with his demonstration.

(By the way: Do any of you find it interesting that Apple hasnt objected to the screenshots of Jaguar all over the Web? Were told by our sources that this is deliberate and that Apple wants pre-announcement hype. They got what they wanted.)

100%--iTools to become .Mac

Earlier in the week, Think Secret reported that Apples iTools web services would be rebranded as ".Mac." Sources have since confirmed the news, and that the name change will be made public at Macworld.

100%--Third-party software demos

Big surprise here! Jobs loves to show off third-party products and make it look like everyone is one, big happy family. Hell do it again in New York. Look for lots of demos, including the Mac version of RealOne Player.

80%--iMovie, iDVD, iTunes updates

Maybe not updates to all, but defintely a few, sources confirm. We know of one particular product that will get a definite update, but to protect a source, weve been asked not to give details. Whatever is updated will be available immediately.

60%--Current flat-panel iMac speed-bumps

This is a possibility, if a 17-inch model is announced.

40%--QuickTime 6 release date

We doubt that a final release date will be announced. Negotiations over MPEG-4 licensing fees are still in progress. Look for another demo repeat for the masses who were not as WWDC and QuickTime Live!.

0%--RAID storage products

No way, not now. This Expo is clearly a consumer products-based show.

0%--Mac PDA or tablet

Our sources tell us Steve Jobs constantly complains about how bad the user experience is for Mac users using PDAs. From one source: "Why is it so complicated?, Jobs has often said." Apple is working on something, thats for sure. Just dont look for it at this Expo.

So, there you have it. Whether or not Apples announcements will be "big news" is in the eye of the beholder. Looking at it historically from our perspective, it is not great news. While a one-month wait for end users will not be a huge issue, the delay in announcing faster, re-designed G4 professional systems is disappointing for the company. It will be interesting to see how it all comes out, but were very confident of these findings.

Nick dePlume is the editor in chief of Think Secret, an online publication that provides Apple and Mac insider news.