It’s Only Rock and Roll Event Prelude

The word is that Apple’s “secrecy machine” has been kicked back into high gear ever since you-know-who returned from you-know-what. Anecdotal evidence backs that up: I’ve heard very little about tomorrow’s “It’s Only Rock and Roll” event.

What I do know is what everyone knows: there are going to be new iPods. Everyone knows this because there’ve been new iPods announced at special music events just like this one every September since 2001.

The most important iPod, the Touch, is getting a camera, and I believe will match the iPhone 3GS on processor speed and RAM. Three sizes: 16/32/64 GB for $199/299/399. iPhone OS is the future of the “iPod” brand. The Nano is getting a camera. The Classic isn’t going away just yet — I think they’ll bump the capacity from 120 to 160 GB and keep the price at $249.

That’s about it for the sure thing bets. There’s a lot more I’m interested in, though.

The Nano — I’ve heard two not-good-enough-to-bet-on but worth-mentioning rumors. First, that Apple has developed some sort of top-secret new material / treatment for the Nano shell. No idea what it is, if true. Second, that the Nano is getting an FM tuner. That sounds slightly odd to me, insofar as the iPod’s lack of an FM tuner was a frequent complaint years ago, but seems like something no one complains about anymore. But why not, right?

The Shuffle — My gut feeling is that the current no-button Shuffle has been a dud sales-wise, and at best has been a disappointment. Notice anything weird on the current Apple Store page for the iPod Shuffle? Apple still sells the old previous generation Shuffle. And they’re not just selling off old stock — they’re still making new ones. It’s hard to see how the continuing demand for the old Shuffle isn’t an indictment of the new Shuffle’s design. So I’m thinking Apple will announce a brand-new design — maybe even with a button.

Steve Jobs — I hope he’s up on stage doing his thing, but my gut still says no, that he’s done as the company’s spokesman. If he’s not there, how much of the press coverage will revolve around speculation as to why he isn’t? Or, what if he is there, but looks just as gaunt as he did a year ago? It’s going to be one or the other, folks.

iTunes 9 — The rumors and leaks regarding iTunes 9 have revolved around purported social networking features. What I’m interested in is more esoteric: is the Mac version still a 32-bit Carbon app? Common sense says yes, but that’s because common sense says it’s never a good time for a low-level framework rewrite. But the writing is on the wall: the future is 64-bit, and the only path to 64-bit is Cocoa, so eventually, it has to happen.

What makes iTunes such an odd duck for Apple is that it’s not just a Mac app — there are far more iTunes users on Windows, and but there is no 64-bit Cocoa runtime for Windows. So here’s my pet theory: at some point iTunes will be rewritten using WebKit to render the UI. I’m not saying iTunes will become a web browser — just that the UI itself will be a WebKit view. WebKit is cross-platform and built for the future.

Cocktail — And speaking of WebKit, there’s Cocktail, the much-rumored new multimedia “album” format that Apple is expected to debut tomorrow. The idea is to create a new “collection” format that is more than just a collection of songs. What platform could this be based on that would support playback on Mac OS X, Windows, iPhone OS, Apple TV (with a software update), and even, say, a new tablet platform scheduled for early 2010? Oh, and it would help if it were based on technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that developers are already familiar with.

Obviously: WebKit.

So my guess is that Cocktail is going to be like a sort of next-generation Dashboard.