The passing of Labor Day means many things to many people: Parents who ran out of ideas for activities in mid-July collapse in relief as kids finally head back to school, beach-dwellers emerge from their homes as the last RVs head out of town, and folks, like me, who get paid for peering into Apple’s doings anticipate the annual Special Event that signals cool Apple-branded gewgaws for the high holidays. With the announcement of that self-same
September 12th S.E. it’s time to sift through the hints and tea leaves.
What we know
The invitation reads, “It’s Showtime” and reveals the Apple logo bathed in the kind of spotlights hauled out for a Hollywood openings. The event is being held at the usual 10 AM (leaving plenty of time for news stories to hit the Web and the next day’s paper). And it’s being held in a big room — the
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts — signalling that this is a bigger deal than last spring’s unveiling of the iPod Hi-Fi.
What makes sense
Movies are obviously the point here. There have already been leaks about
Lion’s Gate films coming to the iTunes Music Store. With Steve Jobs now a major player at Disney it’s likely that a list of represented studios will include The Mouse and Pixar.
Given Jobs’ desire to keep pricing largely consistent for music downloads, I think we’ll see a “one price fits nearly all” model for most movies with some fetching a higher price — those that contain bonus features, for example.
And what about something to view those movies on?
A real Video iPod rather than an iPod with video — one with a wider screen — has surely been in the works. Given movies on the iTunes Music Store, what better time to release an iPod that will display them in their widescreen glory?
But let’s not forget that Jobs has said time and again that he doesn’t see a huge market for portable movies. Those iTunes movies need a screen larger than any conceivable iPod. While the large LCD monitors that accompany today’s computer are an option, the real goal is the television — one that doesn’t require you attach a computer or iPod to watch movies purchased from iTunes.
So that argues for an AirPort Express-like device that steams both audio and video between a computer and a television jacked into the device.
I’m interested in this possibility from a purely technical standpoint because I’ve seen the current state of the art — sharing videos via Front Row — and it’s not good. Currently Front Row in league with Bonjour can capably share videos that are under an hour only if you have a rock-solid network connection (ideally, gigabit Ethernet) and the videos are tightly compressed.
Any streaming device is going to require a connection stronger and faster than the current AirPort Express to provide full-length movies worth watching on a big screen TV. If the pipe from computer to device is wide enough, you needn’t smush the content to within an inch of its life to fit it through that pipe. If that pipe isn’t much more expansive, you’re looking at tweaking your compressor so it provides better looking video at lower bitrates. It will be interesting to see which way Apple goes (if not both ways) if such a device is revealed.
These events tend to be pretty tightly focused so I don’t see Jobs straying all over the product map. A wider-screen iMac would fit if Apple’s intending to play up the computer-as-media-center angle as it did when Jobs first showed off Front Row. A more expansive iPod nano would also work as an “oh, this too” item, unless the nano also becomes video-capable. Upgrades to the MacBook Pro or MacBook seem off-message so I don’t see big things happening there unless Jobs throws it in as a newsy aside.
What you think