I have to admit that I was not surprised but rather pleased that Apple scheduled their special press event for September 9th. But it has nothing to do with the agenda, or the impact of the new products. Instead, it’s the simple fact that I was born on September 9th, and, no, I won’t mention the year.
But I’d be foolish to assume that this is anything more than the luck of the draw. That date is simply highly appropriate for Apple’s marketing plans, and the agenda is, on the surface, fairly obvious. The musical artwork on Apple’s invitation makes it quite clear that we’ll be seeing new iPods, no doubt with more memory and perhaps some new features. There are even suggestions that cameras may appear on some models, notably the iPod touch and the iPod nano.
Consider that the iPod is a mature market, and the main reason that sales are not dropping by larger margins may well be that teens have embraced the touch and all those great apps. It’s also true that millions of other potential customers have already moved to the iPhone or plan to shortly — and that may indeed be the best iPod of all.
One huge question mark is the fate of the Classic lineup. My son got the last 160GB model; it’s now down to 120GB and you have to wonder when Flash memory will be cheap enough to offer an affordable alternative with a similar capacity. However it’s not as simple as that. Most iPod and iPhone users can comfortably fit their media libraries within a 32GB space. For those who can’t, neither 120GB or even 160GB may be sufficient.
My feeling is that Apple is likely proceeding with the assumption that the iPod will be the repository for most but not all music and video libraries. This means that iTunes will be used to funnel files between these devices as needed. This will particularly become important when more and more people acquire HD movies.
As for iTunes, there are rampant rumors of a version 9, one that’ll supposedly offer better integration with social networks. Somehow, however, Blu-ray is entering the picture. Apple doesn’t build Macs with the Blu-ray option — at least not yet. However, Blu-ray has become one of the retail heroes during the current economic crisis. Millions this summer chose “stay-cations,” which is taking a vacation but staying home, rather than spend money on long trips. Instead, they are buying HD televisions in droves, and more and more Blu-ray players to play back those gorgeous high definition DVDs.
As Blu-ray decks hit the $100 price point, and you can get closeouts at that level now on occasion, sales will soar way beyond expectations. Thus it will make more and more sense for Apple to seriously consider updating their optical drives accordingly. It doesn’t even require new models; just additional options if you choose to customize a new Mac. If lots of people buy Blu-ray, Apple could easily make it standard issue on the higher-end models.
There are also reports that Apple is closing down the production lines for the Apple TV, perhaps in anticipation of a model refresh. If this is true, the question would be whether it’ll just be a modest upgrade, with a faster processor, more memory and more storage, or whether there will be a huge change in the software. Will there be a full-fledged DVR, TiVO-style support? Is Apple finally going to come up with a way to make this “hobby” pay off?
Or are the current rumblings from the Mac rumor sites that no such product is immediately forthcoming more correct?
The other speculation can best be summed up with the phrase “Fab Four.” The Beatles are essentially the last major holdouts of the digital music revolution. Digitally remastered and remixed versions of their song catalog, one that’s decades old, are going to be released on September 9th. So wouldn’t it make sense to also offer them on iTunes at the same time?
Is there any hint in Apple’s announcement about The Beatles? Actually there is, in sort of a perverse way. In the glory days, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were regarded as rivals. Apple’s invitation quotes a phrase from a Rolling Stones song lyric, and perhaps Apple was just poking fun at the prospects of adding The Beatles to iTunes.
So the “one more thing” event may well be that announcement, perhaps with appearances, in person or via satellite, of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. But spare us Yoko Ono, please.
The real question for me is whether I’d be willing to buy all those albums again. My current collection pretty much dates back to the 1980s, when they first came to CD. I suppose if the digital engineers were able to recapture more of the original audio, perhaps the answer would be yes, and that may be what the surviving Beatles and the music industry are counting on.
There is one more piece of rampant speculation about Apple’s media event, and that’s whether Steve Jobs will host the session or at least put in a cameo appearance to prove that he has recovered nicely from his recent liver transplant. As much as I hope that he’s OK, is his presence really essential? Probably not.