Apple will set the stage for the technology industry in 2006, an analyst opined last night.

On the eve of Macworld Expo San Francisco, American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu repeated his buy rating on the stock, saying that his concerns about high investor expectations, increased competition and the Intel transition have lessened.

"We believe Apple is well-positioned to continue above market growth rates with arguably the industry's most powerful and complete stack of hardware, software, and service," he said, repeating statements he made last week.

Intel Macs predicted

"We believe the big news could be Intel Macs six months ahead of schedule and new iPod shuffles," he explained. He admitted to hearing some rumours that these would be smaller and available in multiple colours.

He expects new hardware, software and service announcements that could strengthen the iPod, iTunes and Mac platform.

"We believe all new Macs (desktop and mobile) over time will include FrontRow software and a remote control, both currently only available on iMacs. We believe Apple could start an industry trend with remote controls as a standard input device for PCs just like it did as the first vendor to include a mouse. We believe this is further evidence that computers and consumer electronics are converging," he said.

'One more thing'

Echoing consensus opinion, he added: "We believe there is a high likelihood that Apple CEO Steve Jobs will have some surprise that no one anticipated. We view this keynote as a milestone and catalyst as it could set the tone for Apple and technology in 2006."

Such a surprise could be in the form of a Mac TV, according to the analyst. "Our sources indicate to us that Apple has been working on screen technology," he said, predicting 42-inch or 50-inch plasma displays, possibly with HDTV inside. He noted uncertainty as to when such products would be revealed.

Other predictions included the release of an Intel/PowerPC version of Tiger, Mac OS X 10.4.4; a preview of Mac OS X Leopard 10.5, and enhancements to iLife and iWork, adding a spreadsheet to the latter product.

New video content will also be made available through iTunes from NBC Universal, ABC and "potentially" from Fox and CBS, he said.

"While we are not certain on the timing, we anticipate full-length feature films on iTunes in 2006," he concluded.