A Look Inside the "Let's Rock" Crystal Ball

Today brings Let's Rock. You know, Apple's yearly pre-holiday event. The one that the entire tech-verse has been chomping at the bit for since roughly 0.001 seconds after Steve Jobs left the stage at WWDC 08. The one that will answer: "What's next?"

But that’s all we know: Let's Rock, September 9. We don’t know what, exactly, Apple will announce, or even if Steve Jobs himself will be announcing it (though we certainly think so!) -- or more importantly for the end user: whether or not "OMG new firmware can has stability!!11"

However, that won't for one Jobs-forsaken minute prevent us from guessing!

Will There Be New iPhone Hardware?

This one has been almost completely off the radar. No leaks of a 32GB iPhone, or of the chips Apple would have to switch to so that 32GB would even be possible given it's current NAND configuration (which, due to more space being taken by radios, is half what an iPod Touch can hold).

Our prediction? The reason we haven't heard anything is that there's nothing to hear, here. It would be too expensive to switch to the 16GB NAND Flash chips needed for 32GB, and no other hardware tweaks really make sense yet.

On the color side, (Product?) red was rumored back when black and white were leaked pre-WWDC, and that's a relatively easy differentiator for Apple to make in order to have a new holiday iPhone offering...

Will There Be a New iPhone Firmware?

2.1 is hawt, what with the rumor of secret special features and all. But we're going to swim against the stream on this one. 2.1 will get shown, but it won't be made available immediately. They'll announce a date for it, perhaps, but to soothe us over in the meantime, 2.0.3 will drop on or soon after event day to squash yet more bugs.

People may think they want new features, but what we need is a stable platform. Fix the foundation first, then build the high rise.

Yeahbuwhat If 2.1 Gets a Demo? What Will It Show?

Apple's push notification service, which it's offering in lieu of background processes for applications like AIM, was pulled from the last beta, but that doesn't mean we won't still see it. Video recording might still be a battery problem on an already hungry device, and MMS is an old technology to a company that cut disc drives (iMac) and now optical drives (MacBook Air) way ahead of the curve.

So... we're going with cut/copy/paste as an easy offering to calm 3G-dropout, App crash-burnout users, maybe with something from left field thrown in just so Apple can remind us what Apple does best (give Steve Jobs his "Boom!" moments). On the far outside chance, maybe a clipboard mechanism extended into a full shared file space to enable actual document editing on the iPhone?

Hey, we can dream!

Will There Be any New iPhone Initiatives?

Last year saw Starbucks come on board as an iPhone partner. Could Apple be keeping any initiatives in their back pocket for this year? Rose run rumors have it iTunes 8 will move from Smart Playlists to Genius Playlists, not only sorting our music but actively recommending new music based on what we already like (a la Pandora or Last.fm). Could Apple strap its own tag-and-buy service to it, like Microsoft is about to do with the Zune 3? No built in FM radio, and the Powers That Be seem intent on killing Internet Radio just to watch it die, so this doesn't look likely.

But what about the rumors of the Starbucks model being pushed further? Buy not only music, but beverages, and why not other retailers, like movie tickets, cheeseburgers, Apple Store gear? It would require massive infrastructure investments from retailers before it could go live, of course (remember how long the Starbucks roll-out it taking?), but it's not impossible we'll see another collaborative announcement along these lines. And, hey, there's always Nike...

More likely? A partnership announced with a GPS company to enable real turn-by-turn navigation while sidestepping the licensing issues Dieter brought up last month. That seems like a match made in liability-avoiding heaven!

iPods, MacBooks, and Tablets, Oh Why?

iPod Nano we pretty much know. Taller, widescreen, bigger capacity up to 16GB and more colors than you can shake a bag of skittles at. This is Apple's bread and butter player, after all, and it'll get the Jobs-bump big time.

iPod Touch has rumors of GPS and a new form factor that could fit the chip... or a bigger battery... or a mind-numbing 64GB set of NAND flash that would allow Apple to finally but the Classic/Micro HD line to pasture? Doubtful, for the same reasons outlined about for the iPhone, but Apple is expert at cramming a lot into a little, so I wouldn't be surprised.

MacBook Touch/iTablet is rumored every time Steve Jobs sneezes. And it always will be. As a possible extension to the Mobile OS X family, we'd have to see a pre-announcement just to get developers revved up to working on a similar device with a quadruple (or whatever) resolution screen and possibly additional hardware (USB ports, etc.) Apple TV was pre-announced a couple years ago at an event just like this, however, and it would certainly allow for similar a follow up at MacWorld 2009. If it runs full Mac OS X, the same holds true for getting devs up to speed on multi-touch, but a much richer software ecosystem would already be primed and portable. Still, I think Apple has had this device ready and waiting for so long, they'd just as soon keep it waiting until they think they could sell 10 million of them, and that's probably not now.

MacBook, Pro, Air are all in need of Intel proc bumps. Last year we saw the iPod Touch debut alongside the new aluminum iMacs, so it's not like Apple minds mixing and matching. Case designs have already leaked for the Pro, looking a lot more like the Air, so I'm guessing these babies are ready to drop as well. A real Air, sans cobbled chipset, would be fantastic. New MacBooks likewise. For the Pros, we'll probably not see them at a consumer show, but at a higher-end event, or increasingly as an "Apple Store Down!" Tuesday surprise along with new Cinema Displays and other pro gear.

One More Thing?

Well, that's it for our peek into the Let's Rock Crystal Ball. How about you? Any prognostications? What will we see? What won't we? Let us know here, and remember to join us at 10am PDT / 1pm EDT for our Live Meta-Blog of Apple's 2009 pre-Holiday "Let's Rock" event!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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