We're just over 48 hours away from the grand unveiling on Wednesday when Apple will show off to the world its "latest creation." Most people are expecting Apple to introduce a tablet computer with a 7- or 10-inch touchscreen. But that's not all. Along with the expected new device, signs point to possible MacBook refreshes, software updates, and more. With that in mind, here are ten things I'd like to see at Apple's event.
The New iSomething
The tech world is convinced that Apple is going to unveil a rumored tablet computer that is believed to be sporting a 10-inch touchscreen, although some pundits are now making late bets on a 7-inch screen. The new device will supposedly be designed to display new forms of magazine and newspaper content, video games, movies and television episodes, and iTunes music with a focus on the iTunes LP.
There is some debate over whether the new device will have a Webcam, and which operating system it will run. Some are still holding out hope the rumored tablet will run the standard version of Mac OS X, but iPhone analytics company Flurry recently said they had detected about 50 non-iPhone devices running iPhone OS 3.2. It's not clear what these devices are, but based on evidence the company says it cannot share, Flurry believes these devices are in fact tablets.
iPriced or LoPriced?
Whatever Apple is unveiling, one of the most pressing questions will be how much does this thing cost? Change Wave Research recently said in a survey recently that nearly one in five Americans were willing to purchase the device, but the numbers could go even higher if the price and terms were right. A survey by another market research firm, Retrevo, found that 70 percent of those surveyed would not be willing to spend $700 or more on the tablet. And 44 percent said they would not purchase the device if it required a mobile data plan.
The problem is most tech watchers are pegging the tablet's cost around $1000. A subsidized device from a mobile carrier would knock the purchase price down to something more manageable, but customers may not be willing to lock themselves into smartphone-style multiyear 3G data contract.
New Forms of Media Consumption
The tablet has long been considered the savior of just about everything including the ailing print magazine and newspaper industry. Supposedly launching alongside the tablet are new electronic forms of magazines and newspapers tailored for this device. But it's unlikely that one mobile device can save an entire industry, especially since tablet devices have never proven to be a popular form factor.
So what will Apple and its content partners do? Will these new types of content also be available to laptops, smartphones, and other devices? Or will expected partners like The New York Times and publisher Harper Collins be coming out with tablet-specific applications to display their content? If that's the plan, what makes these companies so confident that the tablet is a clear winner with consumers?
Games have been a big part of the iPod Touch's secret to success, and Apple hasn't been afraid to boast about it. If Apple's tablet is just a big iPod Touch, then what will set it apart from its counterpart other than a bigger screen? Will it be faster, have a better display or be able to handle more complex games? Will it still use a touch interface and an accelerometer as its primary controls, or something else? What will gaming on the rumored tablet look like?
iPhone OS 4.0
Around March of last year Apple gave us a sneak peek at iPhone OS 3.0. Some Apple-watchers expect the company to announce or at least hint at iPhone OS 4.0 on Wednesday.
There's very little noise about what new features the latest version of the iPhone operating system would have, but popular speculation points to a user interface tweak and the perennial hope the iPhone will finally run applications in the background.
iTunes in the Sky
Apple usually updates iTunes in September, but some rumblings are that Apple is getting set to launch a Web-based version of iTunes. Last month, the online music streaming service, and this acquisition makes sense if Apple's strategy is to bring iTunes to the cloud.
If Apple bought Lala for its technology, then the company might need more time than a month to build a Web-based iTunes around it. But maybe the company snapped up Lala to avoid potential lawsuits.
A Web-based iTunes would be nice to see, but this particular Apple event may be a little too early in the calendar year to warrant an iTunes refresh.
It may not be the right time for a new iTunes, but it is the season for iLife. Last January, Apple unveiled a new version of iPhoto with facial recognition features, as well as minor tweaks stability fixes for the rest of the iLife suite.
So what would new features could Apple introduce to iLife? Considering the paint splotches on the invite to Apple's Wednesday event, will Cupertino unveil a new drawing or painting application to the iLife suite?
Another persistent rumor is that Apple may be looking to slay the cable companies by creating some kind of television subscription service. If that's true, then a natural device to carry those subscriptions would be Cupertino's "hobby" the Apple TV. And while they're at it, Apple might want to think about finally dropping a DVR into the set-top box.
This one is a little bit out of left field, but there are some relatively fresh rumors that Apple is looking to introduce a 22-inch touchscreen iMac. Again, it might be a little early in the year for an iMac refresh.
MacBook Pro Upgrade
In December, a Spanish-language site uncovered an internal e-mail offering of its Retail Edge program the chance to win two MacBook Pros with new during the month of January. MacRumors says the same e-mail was sent out in the United States and the United Kingdom. But Intel reportedly retracted the e-mail and said it offer HP laptops for the contest instead of MacBooks. Wired is betting this wasn't a misprint, but an accidental information leak, and that we'll be seeing refreshed MacBooks on Wednesday.
Those are my ten points for Apple's event on Wednesday, what are yours?
Don't forget to join PC World on Wednesday, January 27 at 9 AM Pacific/12 PM Eastern for live blog coverage of Apple's product launch from Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco.
Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).