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Analysts talk up Apple's MacWorld product intros

Expect 'great things' or something good but not 'compelling'...

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Expect "great things" from Apple at next month's MacWorld Expo show in New York. At least, that's what UBS Warburg analyst Charles Wolf reckons.

Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Fortuna has said Apple will not only make some new product announcements at the show, but unveil some new retail partnerships.

The poor fellow is clearly under NDA, so he can't say too much. Likely product introductions include a much-needed upgrade to the iMac line, possibly based on 17in screens and/or a move to the PowerPC 7400 CPU (aka the G4) from the current G3 line.

Faster Power Mac G4s wouldn't go amiss, either. That's dependent on Motorola's production schedule, of course, but we're about due a clock-speed jump on the G4. That would certainly silence the critics (including this one) who believe the chip company is having a real tough time getting the CPU above 500MHz.

Then there's Apple's rumoured set-top box project, which has been mentioned by Fortuna before (another Apple analyst tip-off) but for which the time isn't quite right yet - a launch in time for the Christmas buying season would make more sense.

Finally, we're expecting some clarification of Apple's MacOS X public beta release timetable. This version of the next-generation Mac operating system is due, according to CEO Steve Jobs, in "the summer", but since it's almost done (according to product marketing chief Phil Schiller), MacWorld would be a good opportunity to start handing out all those beta release CDs.

Fortuna's "retail partnerships" could mean the signing of one or more big-name stores, or the long-awaited announcement of Apple's high street store plan, originally intended to allow the company to emulate the success Gateway 2000 has had with its chain of showrooms.

It's worth noting, though, that Fortuna also said: "Unless [Apple] can deliver some real compelling vision going forward, we have concerns for the sustainability of the stock."

That pretty much confirms that whatever Apple has told him about upcoming launches, it sure as heck isn't "compelling". That suggests we're looking at nothing more than speed-bumped iMacs and possible G4s with faster CPUs - good, solid stuff, in other words, but not much to really ignite the market's enthusiasm.

Still Wolf's "great things" may mean something more exciting. We shall see. ®

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