Next week Wednesday is when Apple will host its traditional iPod media event. At least, that's what everyone's assuming from the "It's Only Rock'N'Roll, But We Like It" tagline Apple chose. As usual there's a bunch of swirling rumors, which we've summarized for you.
iPod Refresh, This Time With Digital Cameras
Okay, assuming this is an iPod event, the iPod line-up is going to get a tweak. We can assume the traditional memory-size uptick, driven by falling flash memory prices and rising consumer expectations.
- Some had thought the iPod Classic was being abandoned, but that doesn't seem to be the case, and we can probably expect it to jump from a 120GB device to 240GB one
- Last September the iPod Nanos went up to 8GB and 16GB, so we may expect them to hop to 16GB and 32GB now
- The iPod Shuffle had a total redesign back in March, so maybe we won't see it jump from 4GB to 8GB--partly because managing 2,000 tracks on an MP3 player with no display sounds tricky
- The iPod Touch is likely to go from 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB up to 16, 32, and 64GB to stay one step ahead of the iPhone
But the biggest rumor, which has received lots of media attention and so many leaked protective case designs that it has to be true, is that iPods will come with cameras. It looks like every iPod except the Shuffle will be getting an in-built digital camera and the only details we'll be interested in learning next week is how many megapixels each will have, and whether they'll be auto-focus units like in the iPhone 3GS. If this is true, we're expecting the Touch to get 3-megapixels and AF (possibly the Classic too) and the Nano to get a cheaper 2-megapixel fixed-focus unit like the old iPhone 3G.
No-one's predicting any major stylistic make-overs for the iPods.
iTunes 9, Cocktail and Social Networking
We've heard lots about Apple's plan to rejuvenate the music album format with a new added-content digital wrapper model codenamed Cocktail, and we're pretty certain this will be a major part of Apple's news. Such a novel piece of code kind of implies a new iTunes version will be hitting, and everyone's pretty certain iTunes 9 will arrive immediately after Apple's keynote.
And there's one rumor about iTunes 9 that's just been given a little thrill of truthiness--it's supposed to be getting in-built social networking features (a first for Apple). That's pretty believable given the fact that everything is being hooked up to social nets, and it would be a neat way for Apple to continue the expansion of iTunes' powers. But is it just me, or does the "...but I like it" part of the event tagline really support this rumor pretty significantly? Imagine live crowd-sourced ratings for new tracks, Twitter-feeds for what you're listening too and Facebook status-updates for the iTunes tracks you've just rated 5-star.
This rumor came around before, and it's still alive--The Beatles: Rock Band is due out on the same day, and the band's complete digitally-remastered discography is due for launch then too. It's just too coincidental to not tally with Apple's music-related press event. Our only worry is that Apple chose a line from a Rolling Stones song for the event tagline, rather than a Beatles one.
Steve Jobs to Show Up
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, a recurring Apple commentator, is suggesting the highlight of the show will be Steve Job's triumphant return to the helm. It's about time, given Steve's medical leave and subsequent return to work are many months ago--and Munster suggests the market is pretty much expecting his return as it'll be the "first public confirmation of Jobs' health since his return to the company."
Steve Jobs to Not Show Up
Shaw Wu, an analyst with Kaufman Bros., has a totally different take on this, and he's expecting that Phil Schiller will remain in the driving seat, and it'll be Phil who introduces the refreshed iPods. The suggestion does make a little sense, when viewed from the larger perspective, since it would underline that Apple is a bigger entity than Steve Jobs himself, even though he's back at work. Wu's not totally ruling out an appearance by Steve--he simply says it's "not clear" he'll be there, "but most would welcome" an appearance. That's got to go down as the understatement of the event. But assuming Jobs does just make it in for the finale, there's a final intriguing suggestion:
Apple Tablet as Steve's "One More Thing..."
The famous "one more thing" phrase has been notably missing from many recent keynotes, despite it once being a big Steve habit. So, what about Apple surprising everybody at the end of the iPod event with a "one more thing" moment and a quick world media-grabbing showing of the iTablet? Nearly everyone is pooh-poohing this idea, but I wouldn't rule it out 100%. As Munster notes, Piper Jaffray expects investors will "view the new [iPod] products as a non-event, as iPod growth slows and the segment becomes less of an investable theme." That's a bit harsh, given that the inclusion of cameras could pretty much subvert the entire low-end digital camera market, but there's some solid reasoning in there. So how can Apple inject some pazazz? Flash the iTablet. Easy.