So what’s next?
Over the next year, Apple will likely announce incremental upgrades to most of its existing products. It recently updated the Mac mini, and it’s likely to tweak its iPod and Mac lines over the next several months.
And as far as major overhauls or completely new gadgets go, there’s room for at least one in 2011.
Everyone thought Apple would overhaul the iPod touch -- the future of the iPod business -- last year, by adding a camera to it. Nope! Instead, Apple put a camcorder in the iPod nano and left the iPod touch pretty much alone.
So this year, it seems likely that Apple will actually make significant hardware changes to the iPod touch. Like what?
- It could add the dual-camera system that the new iPhone 4 has, allowing iPod touch users to make FaceTime calls with iPhone 4 users, achieving an end-around on the wireless carriers. (Or it might just add the front camera. Or the back camera.)
- It could add the hi-res 'retina display' that the new iPhone 4 has, and maybe some of its design cues, like the metal band and (faulty?) antenna design.
- It could add the Apple A4 chip and additional memory and battery that the iPhone 4 has, supporting longer battery life.
- It could make a smaller 'iPod touch nano' with a hi-res display to replace the iPod nano.
The Apple TV set-top box is the weakest link in Apple's product lineup. It's so bad that Apple doesn't even promote it on the front page of its web store anymore. It's buried as an iPod accessory.
Publicly, Apple refers to Apple TV as a 'hobby,' but always says it has some ideas on how to make it better. So we assume that sooner or later, Apple will unveil an improved Apple TV gadget. What might that look like?
- Perhaps it'll sit on top of your TV set and have a camera built-in for FaceTime video chat sessions with iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. This might actually be Apple's easiest entry into normal peoples' living rooms. The concept of Internet TV is still foreign to a lot of people. But free video chatting with relatives is intuitive to anyone.
- Based on iOS 4, with an App Store. Video apps from Netflix, Hulu, MLB.com, ABC, and others; not just iTunes videos.
- Smaller, with no spinning hard drive. Based on streaming video, not big downloaded files.
- Cheaper, ideally $149 or $99. It could basically be an iPod touch without a screen.
- iAds! Apple's entry into the massive TV advertising market.
- Maybe, just maybe, it'll be built into an actual TV, the way Google's 'Google TV' is getting built into Sony TVs. Apple is getting experience building and shipping big things -- the 27-inch iMac, for example -- and could potentially enter the high-end of the TV market. But this won't help it achieve much market share -- people don't buy TVs very often, and they're highly price sensitive.
Apple's first iPad was a good first take. But now that we've seen the iPhone 4, we can begin to see some of the features Apple's iPad 2 may have. These could include...
- A front-facing camera for FaceTime video chat.
- The hi-res 'retina display,' which would make reading e-books and web pages even better on the iPad.
- The new flat-back glass case, perhaps. (Or a lighter metal back.)
Enough with the excuses, Apple must sell the iPhone at Verizon Wireless, the no. 1 U.S. wireless carrier.
Why? Because it'll help Apple sell a lot more phones, and it'll simultaneously hurt archrival Google Android, which is picking up steam fast because of its prime billing at Verizon.
So, what would an iPhone at Verizon look like? Maybe, the same as the current iPhone 4, with slightly different guts.
Or maybe Apple will also use the opportunity to diversify the iPhone lineup a bit. One thing we've read in the past is that Apple might introduce a smaller iPhone at Verizon. We had previously dismissed this, but now that we've seen the 'retina display,' which packs more pixels in a smaller space, anything's possible.
Now that Apple's iPad tablet is launched, it's possible that the MacBook Air has reached the end of its line. Maybe people don't need the extra horsepower and Mac app compatibility that comes with a MacBook in a super-portable design anymore. Maybe the iPad will suffice for most buyers.
But we have to assume that as long as Apple ships Mac laptops, it'll always want to make them thinner, smaller, and more portable. And that's where all the lessons Apple is learning from the iPhone, iPod, and iPad could really help the MacBook lineup.
So we think Apple might come out with a new MacBook Air in the next year or so that's so thin and light that it's shocking, with a super-long-lasting battery, and maybe even a non-Intel chip on the inside.
It might not be an 'Air,' but just a super-thin MacBook Pro. But either way, it's silly to assume that Apple won't apply its miniaturization lessons to its Mac laptop lineup.
Update: The Magic Trackpad is real! Here's my review.
Earlier: Apple has supposedly been developing a 'Magic trackpad' accessory that basically replaces the mouse -- a device Apple has struggled with for years -- with the same multi-touch trackpad on its MacBooks.
This thing reared its head in June on the gadget sites, but Apple didn't announce anything about it at its WWDC conference.
So maybe something to spring on us next time it has a Mac-centered event? Perhaps in October when it typically updates its Macs before the holidays?