The 7-Inch-ish iPad Mini
Apple's long been rumored to be looking at a smaller-format iPad, which would carry a lower price tag, to bolster its market dominance against the incursion of cheap generic Android tablets, and low-cost bespoke versions like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's upcoming own-brand unit. Now there's another jolt of power added to the rumors, courtesy of Chinese website NetEase. According to this site's sources it's due in the third quarter of this year (July to September) and about 6 million units will be available at launch. The price, according to this new whisper, is between $250 and $300—which means it would possibly start at about half the iPad "3"'s launch price.
For a July launch window, Apple would definitely have to have a final prototype in place and be moving toward a finalized production design, which makes sense. Chinese plants would need a warning well ahead of time. The price is definitely possible: We can imagine for a smaller iPad Apple would be able to use a cheaper smaller screen, with fewer LED lights and also a smaller battery inside the shell—it could even go for just 16GB of storage to minimize costs. Guesstimates about the iPad 3's bill of materials suggest a 16GB Wi-Fi version costs around $310 to make, and the potential savings definitely fit inside the suggested price bracket with a razor thin margin.
Does the whole idea make sense? Kinda—Apple could try to diversify the iPad line the way it did with the iPod line. It could polish its hyper-strict supply chain management, leveraging iPad 2 and 3 production expertise, to minimize the cost of production and suck up slightly lower profit margins in order to hook customers into its revenue-generating iTunes system. The iPad mini would be a "gateway" device, in effect.
We're still dubious about this recent rumor, but let's face it—this is the new post-Steve Apple, and almost anything is possible. Plus, this rumor just won't go away ... much as the long-held rumors about the first iPad wouldn't.
The MacBook Refreshed With Air
We've been expecting Apple's to make its bigger MacBook machines more "Air"-like since the arrival of the first MacBook Air. It would beat Intel at its own Ultrabook game, push the envelope of the current laptop design paradigm, act to end the era of the spinning storage disc (both DVD and hard drive), and target mobile professionals who like Apple gear but are looking for something lighter, more portable.
Intel's upcoming chip refresh would drive the new machines, and thus they're not expected for a few months.
Now there are rumors that MacBook resellers are experiencing shortages, which is usual fare for an imminent product line refresh. And last year Apple played it incredibly safe with this effort, which may imply a bigger, bolder move is due this year.
We're guessing the rumors are roughly on track this time. It is, actually, time for a refresh and the launch window doesn't conflict with other bigger Apple news. Our guess is for Air-inspired touches throughout the MacBook lineup, though the bigger devices could retain a spinning hard disk. We'll also stick our neck out—and say the "Pro" label will go from the name.
The Apple TV (Again), This Time As A Game Console
The Apple HDTV is, currently, as real as a unicorn. But we all still would love to see a unicorn trotting around, right? Apart from an enormous groundswell of rumors, there's absolutely no info to confirm this.
There is Foxconn's mysterious deal with Sharp, which gives the Chinese firm access to one of the world's bigger large-scale LCD unit manufacturers, and recent word Sharp has begun retooling to produce IGZO displays, which may be considered the cutting edge in LCD tech now due to their thinness, reduced need for backlighting, and lower power consumption.
Plus, there's the recent hint that Apple's Tim Cook recently met with game-maker Valve. Valve owns one of the most successful Net-based game-distribution networks that works a little like iTunes App Store, covering both Macs and PCs, a stable of highly successful games, and its execs are attuned to the idea of having someone else make gaming hardware for them. The iPad-esque guts of an erstwhile Apple HDTV would be a perfect match to these aspirations, and the idea of using a wireless controller (be it iPhones, or a unique touchpad hardware) is already being explored by Apple.
The iPhone "6"
Four inches of screen, a radical body shape, and generally just better. That's about the state of these rumors, as it's early days if Apple's due to debut the 4G-enabled iPhone "6" for 2012 (likely just called "iPhone") in October. Unless it's going to suprise us before the summer, that is. Which it's not.
The "Extra" Apple Designer
French designer Philippe Starck caused a bubble of excitement last week with suggestions he was working on a kinda "revolutionary" product with Apple, having worked for some time with Steve Jobs himself.
We're not sure what Apple design honcho Jony Ive thinks of this, but we do know Apple officially said "what revolutionary product?" Now it seems that Starck may have been working on a yacht for Jobs ... not for Apple per se.