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September 9th Predictions


With the September 9th "Let's Rock" event confirmed at Yerba Buena, TUAW readers seem confident that we're about to see a new iPod debut. 70% of you agreed on that point.

Rumors point to a revamped nano, with a longer silhouette. This new shape makes the nano easier to hold onto without dropping, especially when running.

An updated Nike kit appears likely. Nike support is long overdue for the iPod touch and, especially, the iPhone 3G with its built-in GPS system. Rumors suggest that the update will include more biometric logging and feedback for the stats-obsessed athlete in you.

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Since Nike makes their money from the shoe sales, I doubt that the kit will rely entirely on iPod-based sensors though. Any update needs to retain Nike's sales interests. Maybe we'll see heart rate monitoring as well as pace feedback.

If rumors hold true, Apple may also respond to Nokia's "Come With Music" promotion by introducing iTunes Unlimited.

"Comes with Music" offers unlimited access to a large library of music -- plus you get to keep any music you download after the year is done. I suspect that you're limited to the music that fits onto the device at any one time, otherwise -- woo! -- people will be downloading music for 365 days straight.

The iTunes Unlimited rumor refers to a standard subscription model, like the Microsoft/Zune deal. Full access to the iTunes library (except for stuff that you *really* want like Album-only extras) plus you can buy tracks to keep.

We were tipped about this possibility several weeks back. The thought still appeals to me and others who prefer to sample lots of music rather than to commit to specific albums.

The September event seems like the perfect time and place to add a new revenue-generated opportunity to iTunes. What says "Merry Christmas" better than a brand new iPod nano that comes pre-loaded with, pretty much, every song in the iTunes library?

By offering a 15-month initial trial subscription (yes, I'm pulling this out of nowhere, buy a year, get 3 months free), Apple could get customers hooked on re-loading subscriptions around Christmas each year, a time when people are feeling especially generous towards their families.

Of course, they could also push: "Send your kids to school with iPods so they don't have to call home from jail when the RIAA gets them for pirating." iPod as "get out of jail free card" could appeal strongly to parents.

A music subscription package could be that mystery "low-profit" feature that Apple hinted at at the last quarter financial projections. Apple might not make a lot of profit off each subscription but it could really sell a lot more new iPods.

The iPod touch has been out for a year and could use refreshing. July 11th came and went without any touch updates. This event may bring some nice features like enhanced onboard memory and maybe built-in speakers and microphones. I'd certainly love to see the touch pick up more iPhone premium features as it deserves respect in and of itself as a great platform. (ilounge just posted some specs).

Rumor has it that we're about to see at least part of the next stage of the iPhone firmware story. Firmware 2.1 should drop (current firmware is 2.0.2) offering greater stability but without some of the features that Apple discussed this summer, namely push notification.

Push notification is Apple's way of providing a work-around for its no-background-processes policy. Developers put any continuous processes on their own servers. This provides a way to create live data feeds, rather than taxing the iPhone's limited resources. This works great for Mail, less great for IM, and pretty badly for any data that originates on the iPhone (such as your current location). It's reminiscent of that "sweet solution" of the iPhone's original webapp-only policy: well intended but misses the point.

Along with any updated firmware, iTunes 7.8 8.0 (thanks readers) may appear as well, possibly to support any new rental/subscription features.

Of course, I'd really love to see (but have near zero expectations of actually getting) the iPod Air. I've never quite given up hope that Apple would recognize how brilliant its touch platform could be when enlarged and transformed into a tablet device.

Lecturers shouldn't have to stare into an audience of Apple logos on the backs of computer screens instead of meeting student's eyes. An iPod Air could merge the wins of the MacBook Air and iPod touch into a really portable yet seriously usable platform that puts computing back onto the table and away from erecting barriers between people.

So what are your predictions? What do you think that Let's Rock will introduce on Tuesday? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks, Øivind Kjellnø

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