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Mark your calendars. Next Tuesday, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) will host a press event in San Francisco. "Let's Rock," the invite reads.
What's it mean? The Wall Street Journal refers to lagging growth in the iPod business. "Let's Rock," writes reporter Nick Wingfield, could refer to new music products for Mr. Mac. I think he's right.
Then again, if we know anything about Apple events, it's that we're almost always surprised by what CEO Steve Jobs has to say. After Macworld in January, for example, investors fled when Apple failed to introduce a 3G iPhone at the event. (They'd have to wait till June for that.) A new Apple TV got top billing instead.
And yet ...
So we can't really know what Jobs will say on stage next week. But isn't guessing part of the fun with Apple? Of course it is. Here are my top three predictions:
Prediction # 1: Steve Jobs will be in excellent spirits and good health. Persistent rumors of Jobs's poor health, and even death, have kept Apple's shares low. That has to be tough to swallow -- these are just rumors, after all. And yet there is logic in reporting on Job's health; neither Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , nor Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) have as much invested in their leaders.
So far, Apple and Jobs aren't talking. I take that as a sign there's nothing wrong. Mr. Mac's lawyers aren't dumb; they know that concealing their CEOs health issues would invite hundreds of millions in legal claims.
Prediction # 2: Lower prices for the iPod Touch and a refreshed iPod product line. The no-brainer. Ever since Apple convinced AT&T (NYSE: T ) to subsidize a portion of the 3G iPhone, lowering its price to $199, we've been waiting for the iEmpire to cut prices on the iPod Touch. At $299 on the low end, the Touch is almost priced for irrelevance.
What saves it? Ma Bell, ironically. There's a subset of iGeeks who love the handset but don't love AT&T, creating a picture-perfect market for the Touch. But that may not last. Apple has released a software update for the 3G iPhone that is addressing most connectivity issues, and Ma Bell is too big, and too invested, to not do what it must to keep profitable iPhone customers happy.
Which brings us back to the Touch. There's no market for an antenna-less iPhone that costs more. Apple needs to either (a) reinvent the iPod to create space between it and the iPhone or (b) lower prices. I'm expecting both.
Prediction # 3: Sirius content. The simplest way to boost the iPod's relevance is to add content. The App Store serves that purpose to a degree but Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android Market looks impressive; it could blunt the advantage that the App Store was supposed to create.
Apple therefore has to -- in its own parlance -- think differently. It needs to dream bigger. It needs to tune in Sirius XM (Nasdaq: SIRI ) . Foolish colleague Rick Munarriz and I have both written about this in the past. The thinking: If the iPod is a disruptor for satellite radio, why not join forces and end the war?
A partnership would be particularly meaningful if the Touch were the platform. It already has a Wi-Fi antenna; would adding a satellite tuner be too much of a burden? I don't think so. (Remember XM2Go?) And even if it were, Apple could create Sirius and XM channels in the style of the YouTube channel the Touch already has. Get your radio feed anytime you're connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Tell me I'm wrong
But those are just three ideas. And, again, Apple has a history of surprising us iGawkers. Think I'm wrong? Have a different take? Share your insights in the comments box below.
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