5 Next Steps for Apple

Apple-watching is a strange occupation. We're all increasingly fascinated by the company's products, expected products and the seeming consumer design genius of death-defying founder, Steve Jobs, and his band of merry souls.

That fascination's clear if you take a look at Google News, where you'll see how highly Apple or its products feature among the top searches on Google News in the last week.

Apple is the biggest term for searches related to computers and electronics. The iPhone also dominates search in the telecoms sector.

Not so shabby for a company that had no direct presence within telecoms until 2007 (excepting H.263, 3GPP and erm, that Motorola iTunes phone).

This huge interest means there's always lots of speculation to play with; lots of facts to chew over; lots of possibility to ponder. And while time scales may not match expectations, many times these things come true.

So, here's five Apple predictions.

The iPad Pro, the iOS iMac

iOS is great. Slick, fast and built for touch.

Touch isn't everything about the future computer interface paradigm, but it is part of it.

Speech, movement -- even retina movement -- all are being explored for future interfaces. Right now it is touch. In future, interfaces will be less dominated by the mouse, and more dominated by movement, touch and speech.

With that in mind, consider the impact of iOS. Right now it is about mobile devices, but being that it is based on OS X, in future some of what Apple is learning about touch-based interfaces will be fed back into the Mac OS.

This is why we can expect some form of touch-controlled iMac in future. This is also why we can expect the iPad Pro, a tablet device like the iPad but capable of running full scale Mac apps.

I don't anticipate either product making an immediate appearance, though there is some expectation of an iMac introduction in August/September.

The iPod Touch

This is all over the rumor sites this morning. Leading UK retailer, John Lewis, has shared details on what it expects for the future of the iPod touch, based on chatter from within its supply chain.

Expect:

  • 5-megapixel camera
  • LED flash
  • front-facing camera
  • support for FaceTime chat over Wi-Fi
  • A high-res screen. (Retina display?)

With support for iOS4 (which we reckon should also reach iPad about that time) the next-gen 'touch will also offer the same movement sensors as the iPhone 4, the retailer reckons.

Also expect support for iMovie, with all of this running on an A4 processor.

I'm putting my own neck out here and suggesting the processor may be clocked for lower than iPhone speeds, the principle being to offer all the facilities of the phone, (bar calls) but with a fantastic battery life.

3G for iPod touch? Right now? Not sure. You get an iPad or iPhone if you want that. In future? Probably, there's relevant activity right now, read this.

iTunes Gets Cloudy

I won't say too much here, take a look here and here for some previous thoughts on this.

As I understand it, iTunes will continue to be the online media store that it is today, offering music, film and more for sale and download.

This offering could be extended to permit iTunes users to stream any content they already own to any of their devices (at a guess up to a maximum of five) over WiFi, will include wireless sync, and will also enable an eminently portable and data space-saving locker service, so your music and other media is safe and sound on Apple's own servers.

No idea yet how far this will extend to music ripped from CD -- will this offer the same usage rights in the cloud? I'm pretty convinced file-sharers may be disappointed by the iTunes/Lala hybrid.

You should also be able to rent music for streaming playback. There's a host of potentials here.

I'd argue that the iPod touch and LaLa.com's previous service also means you'll be able to download your favorite playlists, even of tracks you don't own, for offline playback on your Apple device. Other such services already offer this.

What will make Apple's offering more interesting is the inclusion of some movies and tv shows within this offer. However, there is resistance to this, so don't be over-optimistic this will feature in v.1. Cnet warns us not to expect it too soon.

MobileMe will live up to its name

MobileMe is good, not great. Sure, it gets improved, it integrates with the OS nicely, it can be incredibly useful and is at least policed and doesn't inundate you with ads and spam just yet.

Other services do drop ads onto you in different ways.

Fair enough -- ads income is part of how they can maintain those free services. That and the gathering of various sorts of user data in order to build a pretty accurate demographic picture of who you are. This is the kind of thing Google does.

But now equipped with iAds, Apple needs this kind of data too. So you can rest assured that MobileMe will soon be hooked up with advertising in some way.

One way Apple might do this (without annoying all the thousands of existing fee-paying users) could be to offer MobileMe as an ads-funded service, with a fee-based version offering additional features, such as your Home folder in the cloud.

Don't skip that statement.

Here's my proposition. For the existing fee you get to keep your Home folder -- your actual main user information on a Mac where all your documents, applications, images and so on are stored -- you get to keep all that data in the cloud.

Then -- and think like DropBox here -- you will be able to access all that data using any Mac, PC, or supporting mobile device, including an iPad.

More than this, you'll have secure online-hosted applications to enable you to work with these items, even if they are not supported by the platform you are working from. All from a browser.

Very like Google's inspiration for its browser-based Chrome OS. With that in mind lets move along quickly to prediction five.

iTunes for Android

Come on. It seems so very obvious. All those millions of Android users who perhaps should have been iPhone users. Why not get them buying their music and media in the Apple shop. After all, Google's all about "openness" and "choice," isn't it, isn't it? And it wouldn't be the first time Apple went and let Hell freeze over for iTunes?

A long shot? Maybe. But if I was Apple staring across the fence at the former ally turned competitor, I'd want a little Apple in the Android shop.

(If none of this comes to pass, don't flame me. There's people on Wall Street who get paid millions to predict things which don't happen. But I do hope you've enjoyed the ride.)

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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