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Big ambitions for the small screen from Apple?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Once again, Apple has issued reporters a vague invitation: Come to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts here to see us introduce ... something.

What could that be? Obviously, we're due for a new round of iPods -- Apple updates its lineup at this time every year. The iPod touch in particular is an obvious candidate for an upgrade that would add features that debuted on the iPhone 4 this summer, such as an ultra-high-resolution display and videoconferencing support.

But pocket-sized media players like the iPod stopped being exciting a while ago.

Much of the speculation this time around has instead focused on Apple's possible ambitions in TV. Published reports have pointed to the launch of a cheaper, upgraded version of the Apple TV, the media receiver that the Cupertino, Calif., company introduced in 2006 and then began to neglect. Those stories also suggest that Apple will rent TV episodes from some networks for 99 cents -- which could make the iTunes Store a more appealing option for viewers looking to cut back or eliminate cable or satellite TV subscriptions.

To upgrade the mystery a little more, Apple announced Monday afternoon that it would post a live video stream of the event on its site -- something the company never does. Weirder yet, in consecutive sentences Apple's news alert touts its webcast as being "based on open standards" and then specifies that watching it "requires either a Mac running Safari on Mac OS X version 10.6 Snow Leopard, an iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or higher, or an iPad."

This last-minute webcasting move may cause observers to mutter remarks to the effect of "you keep saying 'open standards' ... I do not think that phrase means what you think it means." It may also make for some awkward moments for journalists who told their editors "Apple never webcasts their product launches, so if we want live coverage we need to send somebody there." (Ahem.)

My own read on the move: Apple wants to show off how its video-streaming server architecture can hold up under intense demand. That might help it reassure skittish TV networks that it can reliably deliver rental copies of their shows ... at least to the minority of Web users running systems that meet those requirements. There's a precedent for that sort of limited rollout: The iTunes Store itself launched as a Mac-only service.

Then again, I could be wrong. What do you think today's news will be? Post a prediction in the comments -- then come back to the blog at 1 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Pacific) to follow along as I liveblog the proceedings from the Yerba Buena Center.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 1, 2010; 3:18 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Mac , Music , The business we have chosen , Video  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Belated BlackBerry Torch review
Next: Liveblog: Apple's new TV, tiny nano and social networking on iTunes

Comments

If Apple is only going to talk about delivering TV to their iPhones, it will be a yawner for two reasons:

1) Google and other have done this already, and the thought of actually paying for TV is not an exciting prospect

2) Everybody knows the limitation of delivering anything to the iPhone is the AT&T network. They're already punishing users with no more "unlimited" data plans

Updating appleTV? I can't imagine people care that much anymore. The time to do this was 2 years ago.

Yes, likely a slight refresh of the iPod line, but unless they deliver an improved iPad line with something really interesting (7" screen, two high-def cameras, better data plans from AT&T, more open App store) then this will be a big disappointment

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | September 1, 2010 5:42 AM | Report abuse

Enjoy your trip, Rob. If Apple events are streamed live from henceforth, fewer media will send reporters to the presentations.

In the interest of accuracy:

1) Google does not offer live streaming.

2) Most streaming to Apple's devices will be done over an Ethernet connection or Wi-Fi, not 3G. So, it will have nothing to do with AT&T's network.

I will likely watch the press conference on my quite appropriately sized iPad using Clear's 4G network. Hope it is fast enough.

Posted by: query0 | September 1, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

NO idea what they're going to announce. My son sold his iPod in advance of the new product release ~ he's ready for whatever it is.

I just wanted to say:
1. good Princess Bride reference.
2. is the baby here yet?

Posted by: MAL9000 | September 1, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

My theory: The live stream is there to hold off protests over the fact that there will be no public WiFi in the auditorium and no base stations (MiFi, etc) allowed.

After the iPhone 4 FaceTime demo fiasco ("Everybody turn off your WiFi!") they'll be cracking down hard. This will enable Steve to demo FaceTime on the new iPod touch.

Either that, or...ya know...what you said.

Posted by: BitPlayer | September 1, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: wiredog | September 1, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

The only Apple product I want to hear about is the next gen iPad with a price drop. Don't need new stuff when the old stuff works just fine. We have previous gens in an iPod Shuffle, iPod Touch, iMac, MacBook Pro 15, Mac Pro (for work). I want that iPad for travel; my MacBook Pro is just too large and heavy to carry comfortably along with my luggage. But I'll just have to be patient.

Posted by: ccs53 | September 1, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Whatever it is, I won't be buying it. It may be shiny and sleek, but I've stopped buying the overhyped and overpriced products those smug folks sell, ever since I had to deal with the "Genius Bar" who ironically couldn't do anything to fix my iPod.

Posted by: futbolclif | September 1, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

If Apple is good at nothing else, it is good at writing cryptically. So here's the translation. "based on open standards" means HTML5. IE6, 7, 8, don't support it so that leaves out the native PC browser. Firefox on the Mac/PC does not support h.264 video. Apple conveniently omits Google Chrome, almost as if it doesn't exist. Hence the Mac only, with Safari. Begs the question is Safari for Windows crippled in HTML5 support in some way?

Posted by: rushaw | September 1, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Maybe not everything needs to be new and exciting. Sometimes there's something to be said for simple, stand-alone products such as the original Volkswagon Beetle. Maybe there's a decent market for an i-Pod that allows you to carry it comfortably in your pocket and listen to music you've easily dragged-and-clicked to it from your computer or audio books, or possibly radio, at a low cost. Nothing more.

Posted by: Dungarees | September 1, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

The news today is that Apple continues to be able to get all the press and web attention it could want just by saying it might have something to say. Any product, however good, is ultimately less important.

Posted by: pglagasse | September 1, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

The real news that everyone already knows...

Steve Jobs has AIDS.

Posted by: BO_____Stinks | September 1, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I don't care much for Apple products, but as a stockholder, I hope everyone loves what they do so the stock can hit 400.

Posted by: nuzuw | September 1, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Why would I want to spend money on any device which restricts my choices of what will play on an Apple OS and Safari? I am a Mac OS fan when it comes to desktops, but ALL of Apple's portable devices, with the exception of Macbooks are too limited when it comes to the freedom to choose content. The other downside is that all, including Macbooks are built as disposable. If I want to watch TV from my computer I'll just buy a Mac-Mini, and use Firefox and be able to watch anything available on-line and NOT just what's on sale at the iTunes store.

Posted by: David-F-NYC | September 1, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Apple's attempt to build an exclusive parallel media universe has all the appeal of the similar effort by Christian fundamentalists. Maybe Appleism is a religion...

Posted by: raschumacher | September 1, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

What ever happened to the rumors about a 7-inch iPad?

Is it too soon for something like that?

Posted by: Annorax | September 1, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"But pocket-sized media players like the iPod stopped being exciting a while ago."
Rob, I understand what you mean, given your role as reporter/reviewer. Just remember that some regular "users" buy a product and use it for years, regardless of other product introductions. I'm excited daily by my iPod, of whatever generation they call it, because I'm a huge music fan and the content is beautiful and inspiring. The device is just a device, I'm into it for the music. (And even better when delivered through my high quality stereo - but hi-qual audio gets no mainstream press coverage).

Posted by: ClarkKent1 | September 1, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

apple will announce the virtual Steve jobs, his neural network will be copied into that giant data center they are building in north Carolina and he will be able to interact at gigabit speed via holographic projection. The demo requires safari because it has built in 3-d support

Posted by: patb | September 1, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

apple will announce the virtual Steve jobs, his neural network will be copied into that giant data center they are building in north Carolina and he will be able to interact at gigabit speed via holographic projection. The demo requires safari because it has built in 3-d support

Posted by: patb | September 1, 2010 10:53 AM

And will never support any past, present or future version of flash; including versions of flash yet to be imagined.

Posted by: James10 | September 1, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The real news that everyone already knows...

Steve Jobs has AIDS.

Posted by: BO_____Stinks | September 1, 2010 10:00 AM

-------------//

Which is as credible as anything you've ever said.

Posted by: James10 | September 1, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Nothing unusual here. As Andrew Tanenbaum cynically observed years ago (approximate quote!) in his book on Computer Networking - "There are so many open standards to choose from - everybody has one. And if you don't like this years model - wait for next years". Open just means it is not secret - it is well documented in its inner workings so other people can independently implement it (if they choose - but sometimes they don't see the streaming video battles with people afraid of each-others patent traps!). Standards based usually means an open process where anyone can go/join evolves/changes it - usually true for standards Apple uses - probably (not sure!) not true for various Proprietary (but open!) standards promoted under "windows media" umbrella!
Spin-masters of course like you to not observe these distinctions clearly and "control the standards" so they have monopoly products !

Posted by: yemkay | September 1, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

In addition to the iPhone demo screwup, Apple has had the disgrace of the antenna for the iPhone. So I think that whatever they announce they are trying to do it in an unusually public way so that everyone will think that they can still do something troublefree and that screwups are a thing of the past.
But they screwed up nonetheless, already. Now reporters like Rob won't ever be able to travel to Yerba Buena again for a product launch, because editors will say, "Ah, they webcast those things now." How happy do you think that Rob and others are about that?

Posted by: danjose | September 1, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I think two of the most exciting possibilities for the Apple TV are:

1) Netflix streaming - I think this one of the main reasons the Apple TV hasn't been as popular as it could have been. No one wants to continually pay for videos they'll only watch once. Renting via subscription makes much more sense.

2) iOS apps - think of the Apple TV as not just a media player, but also as a gaming console and then some. Sure, some TVs are now being sold with apps built in (like Twitter), but do they have an app store to pull from to continually add new apps?

Just my two cents.

Posted by: rhythmic_one | September 1, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Man, how many companies can schedule a product release, and then get the press to spend time speculating about it for a few days beforehand?

Posted by: xSamplex | September 1, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse


WaPo hacks are constantly shilling for Apple. What is it with you guy? Free samples from Apple?

Posted by: screwjob21 | September 1, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice if, every once in a while, Apple would FIX a product they already have rather than only bringing out new ones. I have been wrestling with iPhoto for months now, and it is one of the most difficult, counter-intuitive software programs I've ever encountered. Plus iHelp is of little help. How about a smooth easy to use program, one that is easily compatible with Windows? Maybe none of this will happen until Jobs is out of Apple one way or another, since he seems totally devoted to building empires rather than improving them.

Posted by: Tony83703 | September 1, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

apple has a picture of a guitar for the event and arstechnica is saying "music event" so i doubt it's tv-related

Posted by: alarico | September 1, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

rushaw et al: the open standard Apple refers to for the video streaming of this keynote is not HTML 5. It is HTTP Live Streaming, a protocol Apple developed and currently only implemented in Apple software.

It has been offered by Apple to IETF as an open standard, but it isn't one yet. It is a protocol that could be implemented in other programming languages, on other operating systems. There is no Apple "lock in" with it.

An open standard is still an open standard even if it hasn't been widely implemented.

Contrast with Microsoft's proprietary Silverlight (parts are cost-free, but it's not open).

Posted by: hitpoints | September 1, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

iOS 4.1 - "bugs fixed"m HDR photos, game center, tv rentals, upload HD video

Posted by: alarico | September 1, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Haters gonna hate.

Posted by: dorklord | September 1, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"requires either a Mac running Safari on Mac OS X version 10.6 Snow Leopard, an iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 3.0 or higher, or an iPad." I don't call that an open standard.

Posted by: tttttttt1 | September 1, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Dungaree has hit it on the head - Apple is intorducing the... iBeetle.

Posted by: shabbyreader | September 1, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Some awesome stuff! I love the new iPods and the new price on the AppleTV. I love Apple and I don't care who knows it.

Posted by: jtsw | September 1, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Glad Apple finally gave the iPod Touch a camera (or two) but it is probably too late for me. About the live streaming of the event as an example of Apple's ability to stream under a heavy load. Not so good. My feed had a lot of problems (Comcast HSI to MacMini via 802.11n). Lots of broken video and audio during the Apple TV update. That won't fly when I'm paying for the content.

Posted by: kamx3sj | September 1, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

1. It's a stupid question. Does anyone think a major corporation works in a totally linear mannner and can only do one thing at a time?

2. Why waste one iota of energy speculating? We'll know what it is soon, and then it's either interesting, or it's not.

Posted by: AnnieDC | September 2, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

1. It's a stupid question. Does anyone think a major corporation works in a totally linear mannner and can only do one thing at a time?

2. Why waste one iota of energy speculating? We'll know what it is soon, and then it's either interesting, or it's not.

Posted by: AnnieDC | September 2, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

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