It's always possible that Mac fans salivating for their latest hit of shiny goodness will be disappointed by a ho-hum release of new productivity software or something similarly boring. But buzz on the more reliable Apple rumor sites points toward two likely possibilities: a new iPod dedicated entirely to video, and/or an Intel-powered Mac mini with media center capabilities.
Intelligence obtained by the Net's intrepid Apple spies suggests that the company has been tinkering with a supercharged video iPod. Last October, Apple unveiled a video-capable iPod; its square color screen was perfect for playing the TV episodes and music videos that Apple promptly began selling via its iTunes Music Store. But the new device supposedly uses the entire front of the iPod as a touch-sensitive screen. If the reports are true, the larger, rectangular display would be ideal for playing widescreen movies -- which represent the next logical step in Apple's digital-content sales.
An iTunes Movie Store would also fit nicely with Apple's other rumored gizmo, a pumped-up version of its tiny, low-cost Mac mini computer. Many Mac enthusiasts have already plugged their current-model minis into their TVs and stereos, using the $500-$600 device as a media server for music, movies, and TV shows. But the new model supposedly goes one step further, by bundling in the ability to record TV shows. (Third-party devices to turn Macs into digital video recorders have been on the market for a few years.)
Last fall, Apple unveiled new iMacs with Front Row, a program that lets users access a computer's iTunes music and movies via remote control. The software has since spread to its new MacBook Pro portables. With its big, glossy interface, Front Row seems made for TV screens in living rooms everywhere -- and as Apple's tiniest, least expensive product, the Mac mini seems tailor-made to run it. Adding fuel to the rumormongers' fire, current Mac minis have reportedly reached "end of life" status in Apple's retail stores, an event that has previously proved a surefire signal that new models are on their way.
As I said, neither of these gadgets may materialize at Apple's next event, if ever. Mac rumor sites have been wrong before. But both rumors make sense, given Apple's current transformation into a major player in digital music and media.
As a Mac enthusiast, I've grown a bit concerned by Apple's apparent willingness to coast on the iPod's success by rolling out minor revision after minor revision. (Look, this one is even tinier! And here, this one has a color screen!) But a sleek, movie-playing gizmo with a relatively large touchscreen would be a significant leap in portable media players; most current comparable products, like Sony's
That new Mac mini, however, could make an even bigger splash. Sure, a TiVo
We'll have to wait until Tuesday to see what Steve has up his sleeve. If it's yet another flavor of the current iPod, investors may want to start taking a serious, skeptical look at Apple's current astronomical valuation. But if it's a home media center or another new step into the consumer-electronics world, Apple shareholders could be in for more happy times ahead.
Fool editor Nathan Alderman already owns two perfectly good Macs and curses Steve Jobs for tempting him to buy a third. He holds no financial position in any company mentioned in this story. TiVo is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool's disclosure policy is irresistibly shiny.