So right on the heels of published reports that Apple planned a special media event for September 7th comes confirmation that it will indeed occur — on September 1st.
No, gentle reader, I do not think Apple abruptly changed the date out of piqué with the media for prematurely disclosing when it might occur. It is pretty well known that Apple introduces new iPods in September, the better to fill the stores with new product for the holiday season.
However, two products are getting the lion’s share of attention this year, beyond the expected iPod refresh. The first is the iPod touch, which is widely expected to inherit some of the spiffier features of the iPhone 4, including the high-resolution Retina Display and front and rear cameras. The case design would also likely be slimmed as well to better match its corporate cousin.
The rest of the iPods will likely not change much, according to current speculation, though you never know. I suppose the biggest question is whether there will still be an iPod classic in the lineup. That may depend on whether Apple can deliver an affordable 128GB Flash-based iPod touch. If not, maybe there will be a continuing need for a hard drive version.
Unless, of course, Apple will soon introduce a cloud-based storage service that is meant to partly replace the need for local storage of your digital media. For that to work, however, you’d likely want to continue to use your local Mac or PC for backing up your data. I join lots of people who don’t want to rely on the cloud for everything.
That takes us to the reinvigorated rumors that Apple’s favorite hobby, Apple TV, will be replaced with a $99 iTV that runs the iOS rather than a slimmed down Mac OS X. If such a product does appear, it might be a set-top box that will also let you run App Store programs on your TV.
That may not count for much until you consider the possibilities.
Now there are also rumors that Apple is busy negotiating with the entertainment companies to offer 99 cent rentals to accompany the iTV’s introduction. But even then, the strategy doesn’t vindicate the concept of yet another box to hook into your TV. Steve Jobs has already expressed his concerns, the fact that free or cheap set-top box rentals from your cable or satellite provider make it pretty much impossible for any competing product to succeed. Certainly what few gains have come to TiVo are largely built on software licensing or successful lawsuits.
Even the highly-anticipated Google TV has, weeks ahead of its expected release, still fails to demonstrate a reason to exist. If it’s meant to replace your existing cable or satellite device, it is destined to fail, because Google would have to virtually give their product away to get traction. Of course, since Google depends on ads to earn their keep, I suppose an interface flooded with clickable banners would be the order of the day.
More to the point, why should the media take the Google TV concept seriously, since they have yet to deliver a credible business plan? No, having support from the likes of DirecTV and Sony won’t help encourage people to use Google TV instead of their vanilla cable or satellite DVR.
Apple’s problem is that the iTV, on the surface, would likely represent little more than an additional delivery service for movies and TV shows; it wouldn’t replace the standard cable or satellite package of up to hundreds of channels.
There is an “X” factor, however, which is only now getting serious consideration, and that’s games.
I expect that even Apple was caught by surprise when they realized that the iOS has become such a credible portable gaming platform. Many of the major software companies in the business have produced versions of some of their most popular titles for the iOS, and loads of iPod touches are sold to folks who play games ahead of music or movies.
Certainly, the existing game console makers are taking notice, because they may be losing sales to Apple. But these are all in the portable game space.
What about a gaming console?
What if the iTV, running iOS apps, could become a significant competitor against such products as an Xbox 360? A rich selection of third-party add-on input devices might seal the deal and turn the gaming industry around big time.
So, rather than replacing your traditional TV set-top box, Apple is setting itself up as a replacement for full-fledged game systems. It’s not as if they don’t already have the software to make a good start, and a straight-on contender for traditional gaming consoles, at an incredibly cheap price, would suddenly place Apple in a significant position in a market they’d never previously taken seriously.
Then again, that recent Snow Leopard Graphics Update is responsible for major improvements in gaming performance on regular Macs. Apple is also reported to be working with their graphics chip suppliers and such companies as Valve — whose Steam platform is now compatible with the Mac —to make even further improvements.
Regardless of how next week plays out, it seems certain that Apple will be making yet another effort to conquer the living room.