Is it too early to start thinking about what sort of technical goodness will be available during this year’s gift buying season? Maybe, but during a recent conversation with my friend, Rich, I couldn’t help but get a little excited about what may be in store for us as the year winds down.
It’s hard not to get caught up if speculation where Apple is concerned. The company tends to deliver some interesting products, and every so often one of them is a game changer. As Rich and I threw theories, hypotheses, and conjectures at each other like kids in a snowball fight, we couldn’t help but think that some of the stuff we flung about has a good chance of becoming reality.
I compiled a short list of technological wonderment I believe are bound for store shelves, and possibly under your tree this coming Christmas morning.
Rumors abound, and to date, that’s all they are, but Apple hasn’t done much with its “hobby” in quite a while. If rumors are to be believed the new version of Apple’s entertainment box will undergo drastic changes. Physically, the device is suppose to lose its hard drives and shrink in size. Digitally (as oppose to mentally) the device is expected to run iOS4 and not the modified Mac OS X current models use. But the really big expectation is that Apple TV (possibly called iTV) will be able to run apps, interface with other iDevices, and pull content directly from the Web.
This is a big deal for couch potatoes looking for a way to spend more meaningful sofa-time watching the stuff they want to watch instead of being force-fed a gazillion channels of mind numbing pablum. Movies, TV shows, podcasts, YouTube and other videos, along with personally generated content (photos, music, Web content) are all funneled through a set-top box that won’t cost a lot and can run inexpensive apps downloaded from the App Store.
This is also a big deal for gamers looking to play top notch games cheaply. While I believe that Apple TV games will cost more than iPad and iPhone versions, they will remain substantially cheaper than their console counterparts, primarily because of the iDevice ecosystem. Developers only need to create the game once, then modify it slightly to accommodate larger screens and different controls. If they choose to create an Apple TV-only version they may be able to take advantage of exclusive features, but the big draw will be the integration of iDevices. We’ve seen the beginnings of this with games like Scrabble, where iPhones and iPod touches act as virtual tile holders. This sort of integration will only accelerate and increase sales of iDevices in general.
To my way of thinking, Apple TV will be this year’s 800 pound gotta-have gorilla. The family room is ripe for a big change and Apple is in the best position to take advantage of it.
What would a new Apple TV be like? Think of an iPad on steroids and plugged into your HD TV. Rumors have it that the new Apple TV will only support video in 720p, just like the current model, instead of the 1080p. I don’t care. Apps to get you content such as Netflicks and Hulu+ already exist in iDevice app space, and they likely won’t handle the higher resolution because they take longer to download and take up more space. Other apps, like ABC Player but from other studios, might appear to deliver exclusive content and the best user experience. Meanwhile, iTunes will be around to offer the highest resolution and audio fidelity for those who want it. It’s a win-win for everyone, except maybe the cable folks. But the thing that I believe will let this gotta-have gorilla go toe to toe with King Kong is FaceTime.
Apple (if not Apple then some enterprising developer) could offer a USB camera/mic and app that will let you make and receive FaceTime calls. Anyone using Apple’s FaceTime standard (which Apple says will be open for anyone to use) will be able to video-call you at home or on your iPhone. It would be the first useable video-calling system ever, and even if it becomes a passing fad, it would be so very cool to use.
Think of gaming while talking smack and watching your opponent cringe in fear. Think of checking in on the kids or your elderly relatives to make sure all is OK. Think of being there virtually when fate dictates that you can’t be there physically. The current FaceTime ads help tell the story of why you want it. Making it available in the familyroom is a logical next step.
Again, Apple is in the right place and if they come out with Apple TV, it will definitely be the right time for FaceTime.
OK, I’m fudging this one a bit because the device I’m thinking about is really a slightly enlarged iPod touch. After all, what is an iPad if not a large iPod touch?
The iPod touch is a nice device, but there’s really no need to keep it so small. If Apple gave it a bigger and better display - make it 5” diagonal and double the resolution - and left everything else the same they would have an iPad that many people could afford.
While they’re at it, why not create a 7” iPad as well. Then they would have a iPad to suit every budget and need. Offer optional 3G/4G as they currently do, and Apple will have pretty much sewn up the tablet market, and will have made even bigger inroads into the eReader market as well.
That’s my list. I said it was short, but there’s a lot of meat. This is nothing but speculation, but is there a possibility that any of this could happen?
In the case of Apple TV, I’d say it’s likely we’ll see one by Christmas. Perhaps not all of the features I mentioned would appear at first, maybe not at all, but as I said, few other than Apple can pull it off.
FaceTime for Apple TV is less likely to happen; I’d give it fifty-fifty odds. I think it is something easy for Apple to do, but it may not be high or their list of features to deliver.
A $200 iPad? That’s likely. A smaller iPad would be in excellent position to compete with e-paper eReaders like Kindle and Nook. The prices of those devices are falling fast, and many predict there will be a $100 Kindle or Nook by Christmas, making them hot sellers. Apple can’t compete with those devices with a $500 iPad, but a $200 iPad is a different story. It would pretty much kill any other iPad wannabe that may appear in the near future. I’d say there’s a 70 percentchance of us seeing a smaller, cheaper iPad by Christmas.
Of the three I’m most excited about Apple TV. It has sat in limbo for so long that even Apple fans can’t understand why Apple keeps selling it. If it’s done right, it could be Apple’s next iMac and iPhone rolled into one. I, for one, can’t wait to see it.