With the event by Apple merely hours away, many people have asked me about iTV. If Apple does indeed release the device, which is rumored to be available for a price as low as $99, and will be enabled with the iOS that has been featured for sometime on iPhones, iPod Touches, and the iPad, the question seems to be, “If iTV is just another iteration of Apple TV, what is the big deal?”
Well, for one thing, if it is another iteration of Apple TV, you can bet that it will have more content available, or more precisely, you will have an easier time enjoying the content. For example, rumor is that you will be able to rent television shows from Fox, ABC, and Disney for $.99 per episode, rather than purchasing episodes to keep permanently, would have cost you $1.99 for episodes in standard definition, and $2.99 for episodes in high definition. Because this device is targeted at those who already own 1080p high definition television sets, I think we can safely assume that those $.99 rentals will be delivered in high definition.
The bigger question on the lips of tech fans, engineers, and the like, is how will Apple, who is very proud of their user interface decisions, going to handle user input, if the user is nowhere near the device. It is rumored that because the device will be iOS based. If that is true, you will likely be able to download an iTV remote control app that allows you to use your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad as the controller for the device. Apple has shown in the past that they like to tweak how we interact with each device, in order to maximize the experience and ability WITH each device. So, would we just see our menu on the iOS remote and make the choice without seeing the items echoed on the screen, or would we merely move our fingers over the device, in order to control some virtual cursor, fingertip, etc to make the selection. I am inclined to believe that Apple will go with the former, rather than the latter, simply because I cannot see Steve Jobs wanting to say with pride that we can use our iOS devices as essentially expensive mice. Never mind that Alex Lindsay, of Pixelcorps seems convinced that one of the options for controlling the iTV will be the recently released Magic Trackpad.
There are other important questions that beg answers. For example, another thing that has gone under the radar is whether Apple will continue the iPhone 4 case program. If you recall, during the Apple Press Conference held in the middle of July, when asked how long the case program would be made available, Steve Jobs said that Apple would revisit that decision in September. It is likely we will learn what Apple has decided to do today. Also, September has traditionally been a time when iPods are refreshed, and occasionally it has served as a time when Apple releases their new and significant iTunes revisions. It would not be surprising if we learned that iPods will receive the new retina display with the higher definition screen that the iPhone 4 received back in June of this year, as well as some other form factor changes. It would be logical to hypothesize that the iPod Touch will receive the front facing camera with the Facetime software as well, since it works only over Wifi(as when introduced on the iPhone 4), which is all the iPod Touches have been equipped with in the past. There are also rumors that the introduction of 3G service to the iPad was so successful that Apple and ATT may be looking at making it available to users who purchase the new iPod Touch hardware unveiled. It will be interesting to see if this is indeed true, and how the tech fans react to this.
Among the upgrades, I do not see Apple increasing storage from the current models at the 16gb, 32gb, and 64gb models. I do see them adding the above features while keeping the prices at the existing price structure. They have always been big about giving you more features with the new models while maintaining the old price structure. Rumor has it that case manufacturers have revealed that there will be a new square like device to be released. This device is expected to become the iPod Touch nano. It is unclear whether this would mean that current Nano would be phased out of the line, or whether they would keep it as well.
The owners of iPads are eagerly looking forward to the announcement that indicates when they can upgrade their iPads to the new iOS 4.0 which would enable them with the new features such as folders and multitasking that iPhone users have enjoyed for over three months. Beyond the remote control ability with iTV, and the iOS 4.0 upgrade, I don’t expect any other significant iPad announcements. With release of the iPad so recently, I would be surprised if they announced new iPad hardware as we head into the holiday season. I expect that they will hold off on announcing the next iPad lineup until January (when they used to do the big Macworld announcements), or, and this I think is more likely, they might wait until next spring or summer to announce them so that they have time to get them in the supply chain in every country before the holiday winter season begins.
I also would not be surprised if some of the earlier features of the iOS 4.0 upgrade were to be reinstated, such as the game network that had been planned for the iOS 4.0 upgrade in June to iPhones and iPod Touches, but was scrapped at the last minute. This social network feature would fit nicely with the rumors we’ve been hearing that the refreshed iTunes will feature more social network elements. I know some think that this means that Apple will announcement tighter integration with existing social network partners like Facebook and Twitter, but I expect that it will instead be something along the lines of users being able to connect easier with one another over existing Apple services, such as TV, Music, Movies, and Apps, and particularly for gamers who would like to be engaged in casual and multiplayer scenarios.
Here is also my brief wishlist of features that are unlikely to be announced today:
Wireless sync with your iOS devices from another room. (With the 20mb cap imposed by ATT over 3G, this would only be available over WiFi, which is why I don’t Apple is ready for it yet)
A cloud based, fully functional iTunes that mirrors your library wherever your are. No more having to be choosy about which items are synched up with your iPhone, and which others are instead put on the iPad due to space restrictions.
Unfettered ability to use your iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad to drive projected images, keynote lectures, and videos for broadcasting at meetings, etc. Currently you can do some of this, and jailbreaking can sort of get you the rest of the way, but I don’t expect that the content owners (particularly the MPAA) will allow.
What are your hopes for the Apple event?