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Andy IhnatkoSo: It's A Video iPod. Sweet!

by - February 22nd, 2006



A special Apple Event? In one week?!? But I have no time to find a gown!

Yes, I got an invite to see the Fun New Products From Apple. And no, alas, I have no insider dope. If you think I'm lying, the fact that I'm publicly telling you that I know nothing is in itself proof that I know nothing. If I knew something, I'd be observing complete radio silence on the subject. I'd also be Walt Mossberg. Apple only releases info about future hardware under extraordinary circumstances.

But I'm in a bs-ey sort of mood, so let's speculate. The most significant piece of information in this invite is the venue: the hall is right on the Apple campus. To me, this says "last-minute addition to the calendar." Apple Town Hall is one venue that they can book on extremely short notice. All they have to do is bump the Newton Developer Support Playhouse's production of "The Pajama Game" and it's available. This in turn suggests that whatever it is that Apple's going to announce, it's something that they had planned to show off at Macworld Expo but couldn't, for whatever reason.

All-righty...but what? It has to be something fairly significant...if they were just tweaking an existing product, they'd do it as a press release followed by a couple days' worth of phone briefings.

I'd be fairly surprised if it were a new iPod. The latest model is still pretty fresh, and barring the iTunes store suddenly supporting a new form of media that existing players can't handle, there's no compelling commercial reason to toss out a new rev so quickly.

The long-rumored (bordering on mythological) AV Mac Mini, with an integrated iPod dock? Mmm...that fits in nicely with the "Fun New Products" tagline. But a new Mac would have to have an Intel chip in it. Given Apple's promise to rev the whole line by the end of the year, the PowerPC chip is deader than Dead Jack McDead, voted Deadest Man in Deadville for eight years running, who has just tripped over an untied shoelace and fallen thirty feet chest-first onto a scale steel model of the Eiffel Tower. Is Apple really going to commit so many of those precious Core processors to a product like the Mini?

Particularly when they're going to need 'em for their portable line. Which brings us to a MacBook !Pro, i.e., whatever they going to start start calling the Intel version of the iBook, now that Apple will want to put the word "Mac" in there somewhere.

I like this idea. Apple will need to get new iBook-like portables out the door in the next couple of months anyway, so that the education market can get their orders in for the fall semester.

Still, I go back to that "this was something that was supposed to be ready for Macworld Expo" thought. It seemed to me as though the MacBook Pro was a last-minute sub for something. In my experience, by the time a product makes it into a Steve Jobs keynote and onto a show floor, it's just a two-putt away from delivery, if not actually shipping. But the notebooks on the floor were emphatically works-in-progress (if you closed the lid, they wouldn't wake up again). And some rather obvious questions (like its projected battery life) were going unanswered.

"Aha!" you might speculate. "The MacBook !Pro wasn't ready to demonstrate, so Apple swapped in another portable!" Well, sure...but wouldn't it mean that the !Pro was even less ready to demo than the Pro? And if you really think that it'd be ready to announce so soon after the Pro shipped?

More to the point: with MacBook Pros finally rolling out the door, would Apple risk torpedoing its early sales momentum by introducing a cheaper model so soon afterward?

And I've used iBooks. An iBook certainly isn't the Frasier Crane of the Mac line, but it's not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think "Fun new products," either.

Which leaves us with: Something Else Entirely, which is what I'm throwing my support behind. It's an attractive choice, chiefly because I can score a Win here if it's anything but three specific items. The odds are therefore [infinity minus one]-to-3 and the wise money blindly trusts the numbers.

But make no mistake: unless you are indeed Walt Mossberg, only a fool claims to know what's going through Apple's collective head at any given moment. I've seen the confident claims of Industry Analysts come and go, as Mac tablets, PDAs, phones, or Apple-branded carbon nanotube space-elevators have each been declared as an Ironclad Lock at specific points in the past five years. I can't help but notice that my PDA is a Palm, my phone is a Sony, and if I want to visit space, I'll need to deposit $20,000,000 with Rosaviakosmos, undergo three months of abbreviated cosmonaut training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre and then travel to Baikonur for a rendezvous with a modified Soyuz spacecraft, like a normal person.

As I write this, I'm also assembling my annual Oscars package, composing page after page of predictions in every single category of nominees. You speculate about upcoming Apple releases for the same reasons that you try to predict the Oscar winners: a good argument burns as many calories as seven minutes of biking or twenty minutes of brisk walking, and it causes various disused chunks of your brain to get with the program and contribute for once.

It's fun. But it's meaningless. I'd like to be spot-on with my predictions, but somewhere in the back of my mind what I really want is that delightful surprise that came out of nowhere. Like every other Oscar nerd on the planet, I had predicted that Lauren Bacall would win Best Supporting Actress for "The Mirror Has Two Faces," figuring that she'd been nominated in the "she's famous and she'll be dead soon and she hasn't won one yet" category. But when she lost, and the camera broadcast her live reaction of "What the holy jumping #[email protected]% just happened?!?!" to the entire world...well, I was delighted to be blindsided.

I don't think Apple has an iPod up their sleeve and I've no reservations saying that publicly. But I'd like nothing more than to see a new foldable iPod that looks like an index-card version of the Knowledge Navigator. After all, shame lasts just a moment but "The Lord Of The Rings" lasts just over ten hours, and on my next cross-country flight I want to be able to watch it on an pocket-sized iPod with an 8" screen.

digs the Mac, and has been writing about the Mac for longer than most of us could tell the difference between a bite of Apple Sauce from a byte of Apple code. You can read his monthly column at Macworld magazine, and his blog at the Colossal Waste of Bandwidth.

Andy's latest book is The Mac OS X Tiger Book (US$16.49 - Amazon).

You can send your comments directly to Andy, or you can also post your comments below.

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