Slow Times in the Apple Universe

Here in the Apple universe, we are in the midst of a slow news cycle. Very slow. So slow that I fear we may actually be moving in reverse. That could explain why some folk are still mining months-old rumors as they try to guess the specs for Apple’s as yet unannounced “iSlate.”

As for the other locations in the Apple universe, things are as quiet as 2:00 AM in a one traffic light town at the far end of nowhere.

Both Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) and iPhone OS 3 have been out for months. It’s even been some time since either one has had a minor update. The latest update to Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6.2) came out in early November. The most recent iPhone OS update (3.1.2) was released in early October. Both of these OS versions have been pretty much exhaustively mined for news; there’s little if anything new left to report. Apple hasn’t released any major upgrade to any of its remaining flagship software (iLife, iWork, Aperture, Final Cut, Logic) in many many moons. 

Apple’s newest iPod, the nano, has been available since early September. Apple’s latest Macs, the 2009 iMacs, shipped in early October. Aside from the supposed iSlate, there aren’t even rumors about new products in the near-future pipeline. The entire Apple corporation seems to be in some prolonged holding pattern.

Things got so bad that bloggers were forced to dissect the meaning of the word “set” — when Phil Schiller said the “holiday lineup is set” last October. Did that really mean no new products until 2010 (gasp!)? Or maybe he just meant that Apple’s decisions as to what would still be released in 2009 had been set (nope; he really meant no new products).

Maybe this is all linked to the fact that Apple has pulled out of Macworld Expo and that the Expo itself has been delayed until February. Otherwise, we’d be just days away from the biggest Apple keynote event of the year. Instead, we find ourselves sipping virtual margaritas on a tropical island that has yet to discover the Internet. I’ve seen numerous quotes (from Steve Jobs on down) praising how these changes have given Apple and Macworld Expo people their first relaxed Christmas break since the 1980s. That’s great for them. But what about news junkies? We’re going through withdrawal here.

Not to fear. Just around the corner is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It begins January 7 in Las Vegas. Yours truly will be attending CES for the very first time (thanks to Macworld Expo’s move to February). With apologies to “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” I will be posting blog entries here — as well as tweeting about my adventures — starting next Thursday.

My colleagues who have experienced CES in previous years all offer the same warning: “Running a marathon is less exhausting than trying to cover CES. It redefines the word ‘huge’.” Given that I have already received over 200 emails from vendors requesting press interviews, I have a glimpse of what waits in store. Still, CES holds the opportunity to see all the latest technological innovations, from flat-screen televisions to speaker systems to computers to iPod/iPhone peripherals, often months before they appear in stores. I’m expecting to enjoy this. Virtually every consumer electronics vendor will be there. Or almost everyone; Apple will still be basking in the joy of its holiday break.

In what I am sure is more of a calculated move than a coincidence, Las Vegas is also hosting the Adult Entertainment Expo during the exact same time as CES. Yes, I know. It sounds dull and boring. Still, feeling compelled to meet my journalistic responsibilities, I will also check out this Expo during my stay.

Las Vegas is just the beginning. Apple is expected to make a “big announcement” (read: iSlate) on January 26. This is followed by Macworld Expo starting on February 9. As President Bartlet said (on The West Wing): “Break’s over.”