Apple is holding its special event on March 25, 2019, at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park, in Cupertino California. It kicks off at 10am PDT, 1pm EDT, and we're here live there to bring you back all the action.
So, what are we expecting to see?
Apple News Premium
Apple News was announced at WWDC 2015 and launched as part of iOS 9 for the iPhone and iPad in the U.S. and, soon thereafter, the U.K. and Australia. And then, nothing. Years and years of nothing and more nothing until January, 2019 when it Apple News launched in Canada.
That's a far sight from the 100 countries Apple Music rolled out in at launch, and the 110-ish it's in now.
But, Apple hadn't been standing still entirely. There were updates to the News app in subsequent versions of iOS, and a UIKit port included with macOS Mojave. They also hired more editors and, in the age of social network media manipulation, began aggressively curating politics, sports, entertainment, and more.
And, of course, in March of 2018, Apple bought Texture, a magazine subscription app for iOS and Android, previously backed by Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines, Meredith Corporation, News Corp, Rogers Media, and Time. Many call Texture the "Netflix of Magazines", because all the magazines for one low sub, but that label only really worked before Netflix began focusing on original content. Texture creates precisely zero original content. A better analogy is the "Apple Music of News".
Apple Music was originally an iOS and Android subscription music service by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, before Apple bought it along with the rest of Beats.
Apple then integrated it into iTunes on Mac and Windows, and the Music app on iPhone and iPad, and rolled it out to those aforementioned 100 countries. And, yeah, even updated and kept around the Android app for the monthly price of $10 for singles and $15 for families.
That could be the same play here. An Apple-ized version of Texture gets melted into the existing News app.
The platform strategy may be a little different, though. There's already a marzipan app on the Mac, though it still needs a lot of Mac-liking. Apple killed the Texture app for Windows 10 almost immediately though. Will there be a new one? Serious lols at anyone who suggests just grafting it onto the existing iTunes monstrosity. In the Windows 10 Store. But, now, oh god, I kinda totally want to see that so badly now… Sorry.
There's a Texture app for Android, so all Apple would have to do there — I say as someone who can't code a line — is reverse integrate News into that. If not ready at launch, then at least on the roadmap.
International availability is still a huge question. Apple has shown they can push music out around the world. They've not shown the same with news. And it makes international customers feel not just less appreciated, but as though they're being treated as lesser customers. So, there we'll have to wait and see.
The huger question, of course, is price. Many news pups already charge $10 a month. That makes it tough to afford more than a couple at any time. Apple News Premium would step in as a bundling service offering publishers a bigger potential pool of customers and customers a single, overall far cheaper bundle. Texture was already charging $10 a month to do just that, albeit magazines only.
Would $10 for a single and $15 for a family sub to Apple's new News work as well? For the publishers, if they could make it up on volume — don't laugh! I almost laughed. For customers?
Hold that thought.
Google, Microsoft, Valve, Sony — they're all getting into some form of game streaming. But Apple's strength is in the silicon and the privacy and the local device. So, could an Apple premium subscription gaming service better fit their bill?
Some worry it would lead to games that try to trap your attention through ever-increasing conspiracy and sensationalism, like Facebook Newsfeed or YouTube recommended. Others, that it could just be the future of sustainable gaming.
If it has some exclusives and a strict code of conduct, and developers can really see revenue, maybe it could be the best of both.
Apple's been doing video for a while now as well. Sure, it's been Carpool Karaoke and the tragedy that was Planet of the Apps. But, Apple's been doing it and pushing it out through… Apple Music.
Yeah, music-themed video on a Music-themed service. But, video.
For the last while, though, Apple has also been putting together an armada of original programming. Comedies. Dramas. Contemporary. Science fiction. Adaptions. TV. Movies.
The producers, directors, stars, and source materials read like a who's who and what's what of some of the biggest names and best properties in the business.
So Apple will have new content. Hopefully really good new content. But more than a few questions remain here as well.
Will it be moved over to the TV app? That'd make sense but, unlike Apple Music, TV isn't in very many countries at all yet. That can change, if Apple thinks English-language programming has a big enough audience internationally.
Will Apple have catalog content? Bloomberg says:
Users will also be able to pay to access shows from other providers, such as Starz, as is possible with Amazon's video service.
But that's not the same thing. Netflix has amazing original programming, but it started off with catalog content. Quantity before quality. Amazon has both as well. So does pretty much every streaming service. Original content is great but when people finish watching it they want to keep watching something else.
Will there be a Windows app or Android app? Apple has recently made deals with Samsung to provide iTunes for their smart TVs, and with Vizio, Sony, and LG to provide AirPlay 2 support. That's the cross-platform play. But what about other PCs and phones?
How much will it cost? Rumor again has it that some content will be free, but what about the rest of it? Will it be another $10 a month for singles, $15 for families?
Again. Hold that thought.
Apple TV Express
Even though Apple's made deals with Samsung, Sony, Vizio, and LG, which covers a lot of a the TV market, iTunes and AirPlay 2 support is only coming to the most recent versions of those TVs.
People with older TVs can still get an Apple TV 4 or Apple TV 4K box to watch Apple's new streaming video service, but that's a minute of money up front.
Amazon and Google both offer cheaper TV sticks. I've been writing for years about how I'd love an Apple TV Express stick, and even made a video about it a couple months ago when The Information caught up on those rumors as well.
But it doesn't sound like Apple is anywhere near shipping it yet. Still, what a great stage to announce it on if they are.
One More Price
$10 a month here. $10 a month there. Add it up and… yeah, it's real money.
What makes audio like Spotify and Apple Music work is that you get effective all the music in the world for that one low price. There are a few differences in the catalogs of the different services, but nothing mainstream critical.
What makes video like Netflix and Prime not work anywhere nearly as well is that you get a relatively small, fractured, piecemeal amount of the world's video for your money. And, unlike music where all the record labels are in all the services, every Hollywood and international studio seemingly wants its own exclusive service, sometimes by property — looking at you, DC.
Imagine if you had to pay separate subscriptions for Warner and Sony music, and separate subscriptions for big artists like The Beatles and, I dunno, Bon Jovi or the Gaga.
But that's what the industry wants us to do for video, and the creeping costs are real. Netflix + Prime + CBS + Apple + Disney ++. We may all want to cut the cable cord but their digital land grabs are going to have us all running and screaming back to bundles.
And that's just music and video. Apple's also going to be doing subscription news.
For the sake of argument, straw person argument, of course, let's just say each one is $10 and $15 a month. That's $30 and $45 for singles and families respectively, and only for the Apple stuff.
Music and news, you're fine, but video, well, Prime takes care of itself, but you'd probably still want Netflix, maybe one or two others. And now you're up at $60, maybe $70, and you still don't have local channels, sports, video news, whatever.
It's a Thanos-style moon being dropped slowly towards us, and like Tony, we're eventually going to lose it. That's not all Apple's problem to solve, but it's the reality Apple will be offering services in, and a huge opportunity if they can figure it out.
A good place to start would be an Apple Plus subscription. Get everything Apple, including Music, News, Video, and maybe some unique differentiators like iCloud storage, AppleCare+ protection, who knows, maybe even the iPhone Upgrade Program, all bundled together for one industry moving price.
It might be a logistical nightmare for Apple to work out, especially considering all the media stakeholders, but It would also be a way to get, lockdown, and reward buy-in from Apple's most engaged customers.
That might make it worth much more than the cost of any single sub, for everyone involved.
Any more things?
As always, nothing is official until Apple sends out invitations, executives make announcements, and we get all the new hardware and software in our hands.