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  • The Shoot From the Hip Report: The Apple Media Event

    September 29th, 2011

    It seems that it is becoming more and more difficult for Apple to keep secrets these days. Days before the official invitations went out, we already knew that Apple planned a media event for October 4th, and that it would take place at Apple’s corporate campus in Cupertino, CA, rather than at some exhibit hall in San Francisco. Besides, the airport in San José, the nearest major city, is not nearly as crowded, and Apple is saving money not having to rent someone else’s facilities.

    Certainly, on the heels of the launch of the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, one expects that Apple might offer some response. In fairness to those who are checking pricing, remember that the Fire has a 7-inch screen, which Steve Jobs has already said is a bad choice for a tablet. Also, the Fire has only 8GB of storage, and these two factors will account for part of the price difference. At the same time, some have suggested Apple might be ready to drop $100 off the price of the iPad, since they’re making boatloads of money from it, enough to have more than compensated for their initial development expenses. Besides, it has already been reported that Amazon is selling their new gadget at a $50 loss per unit because they expect to make up the difference from the sale of books, movie rentals, and so on and so forth.

    Reminds me of a printer. Then again, Apple may not say anything about the iPad or the Fire next week.

    When it comes to the iPhone, the pundits are already attempting to parse Apple’s invitation. So the phone badge on the invitation displays the number one, which supposedly indicates that there will be only one new iPhone model, rather than adding a cheaper version for prepaid users and Asian distribution. On the other hand, maybe the badge signifies that this will be an all iPhone event, meaning that a single product line containing more than one model will be discussed, but nothing else, beyond, say, some general Apple updates about product sales and such.

    See, I can parse these announcements too, and my speculation is as good (or bad) as any.

    On the other hand, the invitation doesn’t specifically say that nothing else will be discussed, although the iPhone is the main topic on the agenda. Don’t forget about the iCloud launch and, perhaps, possible news about the next generation of iPods. Indeed, there’s already speculation that the Classic and Shuffle are gone, although I can’t see where Apple loses in selling the latter, a $49 device, which is a terrific casual purchase, particularly when times are tough.

    As to the presentation, everyone just assumes that newly-minted CEO Tim Cook will attempt to display his chops at hosting such an event, but that much of the presentation will be farmed out to the usual Apple executives to cover their specialties. That way, Cook doesn’t have to dominate the stage. Besides, that’s pretty much what Steve Jobs has done in recent years, in large part to show that Apple is not the one man band in any respect.

    But what about Jobs? Will he make a cameo appearance at the end of the session to provide a “one more thing” product introduction of some sort? Assuming the state of his health hasn’t deteriorated any, his presence for a brief time shouldn’t seriously upstage Cook, but would serve as reassurance that Apple’s co-founder is still on the job, even if he’s working fewer hours. If that happens, expect Apple’s stock price to go up another couple of percent as investors feel more and more reassured about Apple’s future.

    As to the new iPhone itself, a minor refresh, using the same glass-based casings as the current model, would seem a huge disappointment. Besides, the iPhone stands apart from most other Apple gear, where aluminum is prominent. Indeed, the most common speculation has it that the iPhone 5 will be closer in concept to a miniature iPad 2, with an aluminum backing, and a front face in either white or black. And this time, the audience will laugh appreciatively when it’s announced that both colors will be shipping on the very first day.

    As to actual availability, since both Apple and AT&T are blocking out vacations on the second week of October, you can’t miss by assuming the iPhone 5 will ship late that week. I still expect the iOS and iCloud updates to arrive, along with Mac OS 10.7.2, earlier that week. This way Apple can survive the worst of the server loads before initial iPhone sales and activations take over.

    Aside from a possible iPod announcement, I do not expect to hear about any iPad refresh, nor anything necessarily Mac related except, perhaps, to boast about the success of the Lion launch, and how many millions of Mac users have upgraded to 10.7.

    One thing is sure: You cannot take anything I say to the bank. As I said in the headline, I’m shooting from the hip here, but most tech pundits aren’t doing anything different.



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