Back in May, iMore learned Apple would be going ahead with a 7-inch iPad and targeting an October release. Now Apple has gone and announced an October 23, 2012 event, and while we won't know the exact agenda until Apple executives take the California Theater stage, it's widely expected that the iPad mini will be star of the show. But it won't be the whole show. Whether Apple runs the October iPad/Mac event like the September iPhone/iPod event, as essentially two separate events glued together, or whether they run them as a single event like the WWDC Keynote that flows from one topic to another, rumors persist of a focus on iBooks, of an updated iPad 3, of new Macs, and perhaps of more.
Figuring out which are red herrings and which are real leaks, which are actual products and which are just products of the imagination is an interesting exercise. Apple doesn't pre-announce, but they also don't just throw things at walls to see what will stick. They're secretive but focused, surprising but sane. Based on their past behavior, we can try and predict their future behavior. And based on their past events, we can make some educated guesses about this week's event.
As usual, it's likely Apple's CEO Tim Cook will take the stage first, welcome everyone, and the proceed to give a quick overview of how Apple is doing. Apple Retail, iPhone 5 sales, Mac sales, App Store, iTunes Store, iBookstore, and everything else we usually see at the beginning of an Apple event. And again, unlike most other companies, we won't get bullshit percentages of specific markets or inventory stuffed into channels. We'll get numbers, big ones, and lots of them.
There is a segment of the market for which the current 9.7-inch iPad is too expensive, to heavy, or for one or both of those reasons doesn't make it the reading-centric experience they're looking for. An iPad mini -- or iPad air -- that costs less, is substantially lighter, and is launched in conjunction with an expanded and improved iBooks initiative, addresses that market segment.
It could well be the next big (little) thing, and Apple's next hundred million seller. And it could kick Amazon's Kindle teeth in. Here's the deal:
Back in August iMore reported that Apple was planning to update the iPad 3 to the new Lightning connector as well. In addition, new chipsets also sounded like their were on the agenda, including an iPhone 5-style cellular radio for international LTE. Although not at all a direct parallel, think of it like the Verizon iPhone 4 and its improved antenna -- a mid-cycle update to add additional markets, that just happens to improve a few things along the way.
If Apple really intends to use the iPad mini to clear the tablet skies of Amazon and their budget-ilk, than it needs to address books. Apple is so far ahead of any other online content provider in almost every area, it's almost laughable (if those of us outside the U.S. weren't so busy crying...), but books are a different matter. Apple's iBooks have always been technically ahead of Amazon's Kindle books in terms of capabilities, but Amazon is closing that gap. The gap Apple has to close is catalog.
It doesn't matter how good looking your books are if the ones people want to read aren't in your catalog. If Apple can equal Amazon's catalog, only then can their technology really eclipse Amazon's offering.
(And hey, can we get a Mac version already?)
The Retina Mac revolution began with the 15-inch at WWDC. Where it goes next has been the question ever since. 21- and 27-inch iMacs (and Thunderbolt displays) probably aren't imminent. Making panels that big and that dense sounds cost prohibitive at this point. Driving that panel is also beyond the throughput of current generation ThunderBolt connectors. Too. Many. Pixels.
Likewise, the MacBook Air line lacks the discreet GPU needed to run Retina, and lacks enough space in the unibody for batteries to power it. That leaves the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple could add a GPU to the 13-inch, and the panel size is smaller than the 15-inch, so it's both doable and affordable. And it looks like that's exactly what Apple has done -- the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.
The Mac mini will likely see updates to the latest Intel chipsets, along with USB 3.
That just leaves the iMac. It won't be Retina, it will also get updates to the latest chips and USB 3. The big question is whether it will get the same, new laminated panel the new MacBook Pros enjoy. That wouldn't make it denser, but it would make it better looking.
Apple showed off iTunes 11 for the first time at the iPhone 5 event back in September, but won't be releasing it until October. That leaves the potential for additional features to be shown off. And that's a mixed bag. People still use desktops and Apple still needs a single hub it can easily port to Windows, but iTunes is the past.
Regardless of what we get this Tuesday, it might just be the beginning of that end.
Time was Apple released new versions of iOS in the summer alongside the new iPhone, and updated them to iOS x.1 alongside thew new iPod touch. But now iPhone's are released in the fall, and this year the iPod touch with it, so could there still be an iOS 6.1 before year's end?
We've heard rumors of additional iOS 6 functionality, things that didn't make it into the first release. AirPlay direct, and other direct device-to-device data transfer features are one. Expanded background downloads and other activity is another.
We've all seen the iPad before. We've all seen iOS 6 before. Apple makes their money on hardware, but their soul is in software. If there's something else to either the device or the event, if there's something else on the roadmap this year, we'll know it when and if Apple SVP of iOS, Scott Forstall, takes the stage.
Join us for our coverage on Tuesday.