Whenever Apple announces an upcoming event, one of favorite pastimes of tech bloggers is to "Zapruder" the invitation -- in other words, analyze the heck out of the design and wording of the invitation. This often means that we read things into the invitation that never happen, but sometimes we just happen to make some lucky guesses that match reality. Let's take a look at the latest invitation (image above) and consider some possible meanings...
A new Mac mini?
The words "It's been way too long" can be interpreted any number of ways. My first guess is that they're referring to the 715 days since the Mac mini was last updated. Apple's least expensive Mac (well, at least if you already have a monitor, keyboard, and pointing device on hand) has been ignored far too long, and it's still one of the more popular server devices for small business.
The current MD388LL/A (and MD389LL/A server) Mac mini model features up to a 2.6 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 as a configure-to-order option, allows for up to 16 GB of RAM, has a built-in Intel HD Graphics 4000 processor, and has one Thunderbolt and four USB 3.0 ports.
Let's say that Apple decides to follow the design cues of the Mac Pro and turn the Mac mini into a squat cylinder, bumps the CPU to a quad-core 3.7 GHz Intel Xeon ("Ivy Bridge-EP"), adds RAM expandibility to 32 GB, and sports an AMD FirePro D300 graphics coprocessor. Throw in 802.11ac capability and Thunderbolt 2, and you've got quite the nice little machine.
That "It's been way too long" tag line could also be referring to the second oldest member of the Mac family, the iMac. The current iMacs were released on November 30, 2012 (677 days ago) for the 21.5-inch model and sometime in January of 2013 (approximately 631 days ago) for the 27-inch.
While the slimline design of the iMac probably won't change, I could see the display getting some attention. The 21.5-inch model has a 1920 x 1080 display, the 27-inch a 2560 x 1440 display - both of those are 16:9 aspect ratio. It wouldn't be out of the question to see the 27-inch model gain a 4K display resolution (3840 x 2160), although this would put the pixel per inch count down to around 163 PPI - much less than Retina quality but better than the existing 109 PPI display. Apple could consider a UHD+ display (5120 x 2880) for 217 PPI, which would still give it the lowest PPI of any Retina display. Any higher resolution would probably put the iMac out of the price range of its target market.
Of course, this is pure speculation, but wouldn't it be nice? Although the early 2013 27-inch iMac is still amazingly fast, I could easily see a late 2014 iMac adding Thunderbolt 2, greater storage, and more RAM as well as a faster CPU.
iPad and iPad mini
It's a stretch, but the long, colorful line in the invitation could refer to a new iPad Air that's even more slender than the existing. Rumor sites are saying that a new Air will not only lose thickness and weight, but also gain Touch ID. Both current iPad lines have been around since late 2013, so that's not really "way too long".
Mac OS X Yosemite
With a second Gold Master release of Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite sent out this morning, it looks like the latest Mac operating system is a cinch to be shipping soon. Expect the announcement of its release at the event; I'd even venture that it could go live on October 16.
Perhaps the "It's been way too long" is referring to the gap between releases of the Apple TV. The last major revision (third-generation) was on March 7, 2012, although the company has been shipping a slightly revised version of the little black box since January of 2013.
Apple TV has a lot of competition these days: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast to name just a few. Chromecast is currently much less expensive at $35, and there at Google's I/O 2014 it was announced that 6,000 developers were woerking on 10,000 Chromecast apps. Maybe it's about time for Apple to market a much more powerful Apple TV that runs apps...
Or maybe it's a colorful HDTV (I seriously doubt it), and "it's been way too long" since the company started enticing Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster with dreams of a big screen Apple device.
That long colorful line that's the top of the "apple" in the Apple logo? Maybe that's representing a cable, and Apple's going to announce a way to "cut the cable" and finally get a la carte television. It's been way too long since someone gave us an alternative to cable and satellite TV.
I think it's totally unlikely that Apple would do anything to the iPod nano, since sales of portable media players in general have been plummeting since the advent of the iPhone and iPad. It has been two years since the device - which comes in a rainbow of colors that are reflected in the invitation graphic - has been updated.
Likewise, it's been a while since the iPod Shuffle was last updated (September 1, 2010), but does the world really need another media player, even a tiny one?
The iPod touch could be getting a refresh, perhaps with better battery life and an A6 CPU.
Maybe the iPod Shuffle will be replaced by a pair of Beats headphones with the music player built into it? Who knows. But for some reason I just don't think that the iPod is going to be the big focus of the announcement.
Wait until October 16
Whatever is announced on October 16, there are sure to be some surprises that we never even dreamed of. Comments from Apple executives earlier in the year reporting that they were thrilled with the company's product pipeline have been partially fulfilled with the introduction of the iPhone 6 family and a peek at the Apple Watch. Now it may be time for the other shoe to drop, with even more exciting new products coming down the road.
I've probably completely struck out on what will be announced, but this has been a fun exercise in looking at Apple's current product lineup and trying to figure out what could be coming from Cupertino. What are your ideas as to what the invitation's cryptic "It's been way too long" means? What would you want to see from Apple at the even? Leave your ideas in the comments below.