The days of rampant rumour, speculation, and leaks leading up to Apple announcements are, it seems, behind us – there’s precious little information out there on which to draw. We’re pretty confident of new Mac mini and 17″ MacBook Pro models; there are likely to be new i7-based quad-core iMacs; we’ve heard nothing, so far, about i7-based Mac Pros, but the Pro hasn’t been touched for a year so I’d be surprised if we don’t get something new there.

But that’s it.

In fact, most of the speculation has been fueled by just one fact: the presentation isn’t being given by Steve Jobs. The various suggested reasons:

  1. He’s ill. Really ill. (Calamity!, etc). I hope this isn’t the case, and suspect we can take Apple PR’s flat denial at face value.

  2. He’s stepping down/back from Apple. Possibly, but I think he’d make this announcement himself, once it’s already happened for a good few months. So, his not giving the MacWorld keynote would be an early stage in that process, but not the end-point.

  3. He’s leaving Apple entirely, to join the Obama administration as Chief Technology Officer. This one, bizarrely, has legs. It could actually be true, except that if you were Obama, would you really want Jobs as the nation’s first CTO? Surely you’d be drawing on the social networking & participatory media phenomenon that helped get you elected, and looking for people who understand that, not the core computer technology that makes it possible? Jobs is a product design guy, not a population dynamics/group communication guru, surely?

  4. The prosaic option: iLife’09 includes a(nother) huge update to iChat – call it ‘iChat HD,’ you know you want to – which they’ll showcase by having him deliver parts of the keynote remotely.

I haven’t seen the last of these mooted anywhere, it just makes sense. Personally, I think (3) would be a giggle, but there you go.

Oh, and as for the oddball rumour doing the rounds, about iMovie moving into the cloud and becoming a web service: not ruddy likely. Microsoft are heading that way with Windows Movie Maker – it’s now abandonware, with Windows Live! Movies set to replace it later in the year alongside Windows 7 – but it sounds like a disastrously bad idea. Video editing needs to be quick, interactive, and not involve transcoding or uploading gigabyte-scale files.

A quiet MacWorld, then? I think so. No tablets, no netbooks, just an early Snow Leopard giving kick-arse performance on updated hardware running new versions of the iLife suite.

I’m just hoping against hope for new Pro desktops, too.