What's next for Apple?
For my next trick ... devotees wait to see what Steve Jobs has up his sleeve
iPod? iPhone? iTV? Apple's guru will try to dazzle fans and rivals in showcase event
Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent in Las Vegas
Saturday January 6, 2007
What exactly does Steve Jobs, the Apple chief executive, have up his sleeve? Is it a phone? Another iPod? Or something else entirely? That is the billion-dollar question as the technology industry gears up for one of its biggest weeks.
Apple has media pundits and bloggers frenzied with speculation over what products it might be preparing to unveil. Many are convinced that the long-awaited iPhone - a mobile handset that incorporates iPod functions and design - could be on the menu when Mr Jobs takes to the stage at his annual showcase in San Francisco next Tuesday.
"Apple waited several years to enter the MP3 market," says Gene Munster, an analyst with the investment bank Piper Jaffray, who believes that an iPhone is imminent. "We believe the company is well-positioned to enter the phone market now that early music-enabled handsets have tested the waters."
Mr Jobs's speeches have become a must-see event in the technology industry, with the crowd - largely comprised of adoring followers - screaming and whooping their way throughout. Even the most minor announcements are met with a mania that leaves his strait-laced rivals baffled. Despite such cultish devotion, the Apple phone has been a rumour for so long that it has developed into a standing joke. However, technology experts remain convinced that it is a necessary step if the company wishes to convert its iconic status into a truly global force.
Despite the iPod's success - so extensive that its designer, Jonathan Ive, has just been granted a place in Who's Who - few think it is infallible. Mobile companies such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson have started putting iPod-like capabilities into their phones. And with sales of mobiles expected to pass 1bn in 2007, the threat is growing.
"I am 99% confident we will see an Apple phone, with enhanced music capabilities and maybe a few computing features such as email," David Sobotta, a former manager at the company, wrote in the Guardian this week. "The mobile phone market is almost perfect for Apple strategy."
Other suggestions include iPod enhancements such as a touch-sensitive screen or the ability to connect to the internet, as well as the final launch of a television set-top box codenamed "iTV". This device could record TV shows and download programmes from the internet but has yet to materialise on the high street after being previewed last year.
Even if Apple unveils something substantial next week it will still have to compete with a host of rivals. Monday marks the start of one of the most frenzied periods in the technology calendar, with Apple's exhibition vying against the massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Considered one of the world's premier showcases for new technology, CES features a large number of heavy hitters ready to outpunch their rivals with big announcements.
posted by Steve @ 12:56:00 AM