Obligatory Apple Event Speculation Post
The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
While they revel in keeping secrets at Apple, they have… particular ways of doing things. They tend to release new iPhones in September and goodness me but Apple sent out invitations a short while ago for their upcoming event on September 9th. But there the familiarity stops. Many things about this event are different to those before.
The venue is different. iPhones are never announced at the Flint Center in Cupertino (Apple’s hometown) but rather the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco or occasionally Apple’s on-site Town Hall meeting room. The Flint Center holds four times as many people as the other two venues and Apple has used it only three times, most notably for the announcements of the very first Macintosh in 1984 and the very first iMac in 1998. Furthermore, Apple have constructed a massive temporary structure outside the venue. See below for a birds-eye view:
And then there’s the teaser page for the event itself. While this isn’t too unusual, Apple to my knowledge has never had a running countdown on a teaser page. There have even made available a downloadable file that will add an entry to your calendar. They have invited more tech bloggers than ever before but according to reports have invited for the first time fashion and lifestyle journalists from publications like Marie Claire too. Apple rarely over-hypes an event to this extent before it’s actually happened but here they are practically screaming that this year is something special. They really want attention.
But attention for what? This is the iPhone announcement so obviously we’re going to get new ones, undoubtably with bigger screens and a shiny new version of iOS to go with it. But in no way is that worth all the hoopla. Speculation is rife that Applewill launch their opening salvo in the War for Wearables also, although it almost certainly won’t go on sale in the near future; rather, Apple will follow its playbook for announcing the original iPhone. They will announce the new thing before they submit it for regulatory approval and before they set their massive (and leaky) manufacturing machinery into action, thus losing their ability to keep the thing secret. It would also makes sense, as speculated by the redoubtable John Gruber of Daring Fireball, that the thing would be announced alongside the new phones as it would be partly dependent on them, via a Bluetooth connection, to function optimally. (Whether they will be usable by Android owners remains an intriguing question. I wouldn’t hold my breath.)
Whispers are also abound that Apple will also show a contactless payment system built into the new phones and potentially the new wearable too. But even all this whizz-bangery wouldn’t really force them to build a temporary structure the size of a festival mainstage, so what else might we be treated to? Near the top of my finger-crossed-list but far down on the list of things that are actually likely to appear is an upgraded Apple TV. That thing is ripe for a boost. iOS is more than powerful and mature enough, the current chips are beasts that thanks to the “Metal” graphics development tools announced at their Worldwide Developer Conference can achieve Xbox 360-level graphics. An App Store for Apple TV would allow some awesome games on the big screen and with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch for a controller. All the pieces are there, Apple simply has to put them together. But WWDC came and went without any mention of developing for the TV which made my heart hurt. I want a powerful new Apple TV really very badly.
A new and improved Apple TV isn’t super-likely, but Apple also announced some other intriguing new developer-side technologies at WWDC; HealthKit and HomeKit. HealthKit will act as a central store on your phone for all sorts of different biological measurement devices to feed into, somewhere for the data from blood-glucose monitors, step trackers, heart rate monitors and the like to be stored securely and presented in a clear, unified way, with the potential to inform your doctor if your vitals start to show worrying trends. Apple could announce a wearable of their own that could measure a great deal of that kind of information and demonstrating that measurement is probably going to need some space to move around in.
HomeKit is similar in nature but instead of corralling biometric devices and data it will command and control “smart” devices in your home such as lights, cameras, locks and thermostats, to name a few. Your phone could group these devices together and control them in a secure and simple way. For instance, tell Siri “hey, I’m going to bed” and your iPhone will lock your doors and garage, turn down the temperature and switch off all the lights downstairs. Cool, huh? Apple might have some previously top-secret home automation devices of their own to show off, probably not, but either way demonstrating the amazing new powers your iPhone has to control your environment will need a house-like environment for the phone to actually control.
Showing off the iPhone in a “connected home” setting will be the primary use for the big white building, I think. Quite frankly though I’d be surprised if Apple went to such great lengths just to show off how good their new toys are at playing with other peoples’. I get the feeling that they don’t just have new phones and a wearable. I could be wrong, they might genuinely just want to showcase iOS 8’s ability to command other manufacturers’ devices in as realistic a way as possible. We shall see soon enough. Apple has never gone this far to demonstrate a new device, even a brand-new-category-for-Apple device. This is not the Apple of the past. They’re doing things differently.
iPhone part leaks. Whispers of wearables and payment systems. A massive, purpose-built structure and a venue much bigger than usual. A summer that promised massive leaps in the way that both apps and Apple devices can interface with actual things and share tasks and data with each other. An Apple that is happy, confident and at the top of its game. Impact tremors is what these are. On Tuesday we shall see what’s causing them…