Sunday, 7 September 2008

Will Tuesday be Blu-Ray day for Apple?

Kevin Rose has truly stolen the show this time in terms of pre-keynote rumors. Like a modern day Cassandra, all his prognostications appear to ring true. Spy shots of the new iPod nano appear to be the real deal. And Ars Technica are claiming a source corroborating his iTunes 8 prediction.

However, with an evolutionary rather than revolutionary new nano, and a few neat but hardly earth-shattering additions to iTunes, many are already grumbling that this keynote may not "rock" to quite the extent that the invite implies. But Apple is already making moves to counter this skepticism, with uncharacteristically "off the record" advice to invitees that the announcements are going to be big, and that they really must attend.

So if the announcements are truly going to rock, then there must be something more than what we already know. And perhaps we can find the clues in what has leaked to date.

MacPredictions' guess is that the big theme for 2009 will be HD. We already know from Mr Rose that iTunes 8 will finally get HD support (a feature previously, and rather frustratingly, limited to Apple TV). We also know that there will be some improvements to the on screen playback controls. It's reasonable to guess that we'll also see an update to Front Row to bring it in line with the new Apple TV interface - or better still, an update to both Front Row and Apple TV, since, let's be honest, the Apple TV UI ain't that pretty any more.

Continuing the theme, it's not such a wild guess to anticipate that Apple will finally announce their Blu-Ray strategy. Whilst Apple has been understandably reticent about Blu-Ray, in the hope that their HD download service will make it redundant, it would surely be Sony-style craziness to deny their hardware division the benefit of offering Blu-Ray options simply to appease their content division. (Remember what happened to Walkman when Sony's music division forced them not to adopt MP3.) Blu-Ray surely is as ephemeral as DVD anyway - it will eventually be replaced by downloads, but why not make some money off it whilst the going is good.

Rather than extending the DVD Player application, MacPredictions anticipates that Blu-Ray support will be added to iTunes 8. They may even do deals with rights owners to transfer Blu-Ray content to iPods. They'll certainly need to add all of the great on-screen controls that DVD Player already boasts - which iTunes store downloads would also benefit from.

On the hardware side, we anticipate a new Blu-Ray player accessory for the MacBook Air, with an integrated USB hub, a built-to-order Blu-Ray drive option for the Mac Pro and a new top of the line iMac with Blu-Ray.

This Blu-Ray theme may also explain why MacBook updates were seemingly in the frame for this keynote. They would otherwise have seemed a little random for an iPod/iTunes themed event. Our guess is that the new MacBook Pro with Blu-Ray is just not ready yet. It's quite possible, though, that it will still be announced, with availability in October.

Update: Peter S Magnusson (founder of Virtutech,) is setting out a similar argument in his blog - proposing a new Blu-Ray enabled Apple TV - something this blog speculated about last year.

3 comments:

  1. I'll believe it when I see it. I got my hopes up before with Shaw Wu's predictions.

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  2. Shaw Wu didn't make the Blu-Ray predictions, that's just speculation on my part. In fact, he's saying we should expect to be underwhelmed tomorrow. To be fair, Wu has a much better track record in predictions than most analysts following Apple.

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  3. The lack of a real FR update is one of the biggest disappointments for me from Apple in a long time. There is no reason why FR should not have a lot of the TV functionality. I want to be able to stream podcasts, rent movies, buy stuff, look at flickr, you tube and mobile me right from FR. I at the very least would like to watch my rented movies from FR.

    It seems like they have just given up on FR...which is truly sad. This is one place where I think even Vista surpasses OSX. (gasp...)

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