Apple sauce: Verizon iPhone, App Store, iPad 2… and other assorted hearsay

Apple’s new App Store for desktop software was tucked inside the Mac OS X 10.6.6 update.

Funny, a few years back when Steve Jobs announced Apple’s exit from the annual MacWorld San Francisco love fest, he cited his desire to allow his devoted employees a little time off over the Christmas season as one of the reasons. Well, while Apple is still shunning both MacWorld (Jan. 26-29) and the recent CES, they’re still burning the midnight oil over the festive season with the results speaking for themselves. The first weeks of the New Year are abounding with new product announcements and well-founded rumours. For those keeping score at home, here’s a bit of a summary…

  1. Verizon iPhone – One of the worst kept “secrets” in the mobile phone universe, the long anticipated CDMA iPhone was launched this week, breaking the AT&T monopoly in the all-important US market. Of course, Canada has had a variety of iPhone vendors for quite a while, allowing multiple Telco’s the opportunity to rip off the consumer with outrageous data plans. The CDMA iPhone is a slightly modified iPhone 4 sporting an improved antennae amongst other minor enhancements. Many expected a 4G iPhone, but Apple shied away from the emerging technology, citing battery life as an issue. As all of Canada’s major carriers now sell the GSM iPhone, don’t expect to see this model north of the 49th.
  2. Mac OS X 10.6.6 was unleashed on January 6 packing a slew of minor tweaks, bug fixes and security patches into a beefy download. Also included was the new App Store for Mac desktop software. Modeled after the wildly successful App Store for iOS, this new branch of Apple retail opens a portal for Mac software developers to reach the growing Mac audience. Additionally, the App Store sells all Apple’s software offerings and enables automated software updates for installed applications. Unfortunately, the App Store doesn’t provide access to demo software. For that, users must visit the developers website. Apparently the App Store deliver more than 1,000,000 applications in the first week alone, though I’ve not seen a breakdown between free and paid apps.
  3. Rupert Murdoch to launch “The Daily”, an iPad App-based daily newspaper at an event on January 19. The information industry has high hopes for this new delivery vehicle for news and other forms of paid content, which is being touted as the savior of the beleaguered newspaper. Steve Jobs is rumoured to be present for the launch and many expect Steve to announce content subscriptions to be available through in-App purchase on the iPad.
  4. And speaking of iPads… the pundit-o-sphere has been a-flutter recently with leaked photos of assorted Chinese cases for the impending iPad 2. While Apple’s computer product cycle has been somewhat erratic, their iPod, iPhone and iPad consumer lines are seeing regular annual refreshes. Speculators suggest that the next gen iPad will sport at least one (and maybe two) cameras, faster processors, more memory and perhaps a trimmed down form factor. The new iPad could hit the streets as early as mid-February, but smart money says mid to late April is more plausible. This might be the iPad to coax some coin out of my piggy bank.
  5. iOS 4.3 should be hitting the download servers sometime in March, likely tied to the iPad 2 release date. Early betas have been seeded to developers who report that the personal hotspot feature introduced with the Verizon iPhone could be introduced to all iPhone users, providing an easy way to tether a laptop or other devices to your iPhone’s internet connection.
  6. Mac sales continue to grow, so you can be sure that Apple will not ignore their (sometimes neglected) computers for too long. Speaking of which, the MacBook Pro line is getting a little long in the tooth and is more than two months overdue for a refresh (based on the average upgrade cycle of 208 days). Last years revamped MacBook Air form factor may well be the basis for the new Pro line, perhaps explaining the long wait for new MBP product. The site has an excellent buyers guide that assesses each Apple product’s upgrade potential based on past cycles. Definitely check it out before you buy!

Not exactly what you’d call a quiet start to the new year! Apple appears to be racing into Q1 2011 with unabashed momentum. Time will tell if they can follow through with timely product deliveries.

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