So the conjecture goes on and on, giving pundits, reporters and analysts a solid 2-months of employment (1 before, 1 after.)  Why am I adding to the noise?  I suppose so I can point to the blog and say “I did think of that before Apple announced it.” sigh.

So what could it be?  The folks who know ain’t talking. (Much)  But I wonder….

Apple had made quite a market of entertainment in the last few years. And only recently have they made an unexpected splash in games with the iPhone/iPodTouch (which I’ll refer to collectively as iPhone for the rest of this). So, it seems natural to wonder if Apple will press the video game market further and invade closer to XBoxes and Playstations.  The online App Store certainly proved itself with cheap games.  Of course with games costing as much as a soda, people will buy to try.  Its not worth as much to listen to reviews (unless you’re trying to find the gems among the rocks.)

I’ve heard conjecture of Apple going after online print markets with something to out-do the Amazon Kindle.  This could be hard.  I got my wife a Kindle for her birthday recently.  She always loved to read, but she had absolutely gotten addicted to that gadget.  She now says she likes it better than paper books for lots of reasons.  The least obvious of these:  she can read one-handed much more easily.   Kindle surprises for me: how thin it is, having copies of purchases in my iPhone, how well the free cellular modem works for this thing.   And yes, it was fun watching her instantly compare Kindle prices with the book-store prices.

The hardest part for killing Kindle: getting a content catalogue that compares.  Amazon has a LOT of Kindle books.  I looked at the sample for one on Core Animation for Mac and iPhone (which seemed rather ironic.)

Making a tablet a big video platform seems kind of natural.  The iPhone only supports video in full-screen playback, probably because it takes just about all its cpu power to do it.  Making something more capable than an iPhone probably requires more power than can go into the case right now.

So, something the size of a small laptop would have more room for more batteries, more cpu, and of course more pixels.  So playing bigger videos (HD?)  is good, but more interesting, you can play them in windows (OK, UIViews).   In other words, it could play video on one part of the screen while doing other things on other parts.  And not to forget,  more cpu means more and better rendering.

The iTunes store though, ah that’s quite a big ingredient.  Since Apple could very well sell any kind of data-based items, they could put a big dent in anyone’s market. They don’t sell books per-se, but many books are in the app store in the form of iPhone Apps (books merged with the reader software.) And they do have audio books.  It wouldn’t take much to add books.  They already have podcasts and other media fed by RSS (I’ve seen a few PDF files land in iTunes.)  The 1/3 share is working pretty well in apps.  How would book WRITERS respond to keeping 2/3 of $1 per copy?

If Apple could negotiate a low-cost or no-cost (to users) cellular internet connection for the purposes of selling,  that would be a HUGE move.  Lots of people use free wifi to buy songs and apps.  The deal Apple made with Starbucks to allow iTunes to purchase without needing to pay for wifi was interesting.  Customers hear a song in Starbucks and can buy it on the spot.  With a no-cost cell connection, they could buy songs and apps on the spot anyWHERE,  anyTIME.  When the whim hits, sales get made.  (I bet Apple has noticed this on the iPhone.)

Verizon and other cell companies have no doubt been trying to get Apple devices for their networks.  AT&T made a good deal in hindsight.  But Apple doesn’t need them to take a big risk anymore.  No one thinks it risky to sell the iPhone for their network. But it is.

Why is it risky for cell companies?  Because they’ll have to change the way they do things.  Apple won’t just say “sure, sell our phones and do what you like”.  They didn’t do that with AT&T after all.  When lots of my friends were saying “cool, cool” to all the things iPhone could do,  my jaw was on the floor at what STEVE had done: he got a huge phone company (maybe THE huge phone company)  to change the what it was doing in the back office to get that voicemail list.   Having worked in a phone company, I can tell you, that is HUGE.  Lots of important people have given up after trying.  (But I will NEVER miss the voice synthesizer menus of those other phone companies I’ve used.)

A final thought on where Apple might go that I’ve not heard much of (but then I have pretty busy for reading lately)  is the humble infra-red (IR) emitter.  What?  How can we need infra-red for communications when we have so much wifi and bluetooth?  Answer:  we don’t.   We need it for the surprise success sector of the iPhone: extensions.

By “extensions”,  I don’t mean plugins or software that gives it a feature it didn’t have.   I mean that it extends the abilities of  something else.   In the main case, it extends the capacities of other systems, including some games.  Extending your email’s reach, the interface to twitter, or your ability to control your environment.

How often have you sat on your couch and realized you didn’t know where the remotes were?  Did you know where your cell phone was? Yup.   Know where your iPod is? Yup.  If only they could control the TV/VCR/IR-Box-of-Choice.   (A better solution for this is a little box that bridges wifi and IR.  Then, any little smartbox with a network connection could control them. These bridge boxes exist, but are rare and expensive.)

So, back to the tablet,  with IR, you could control your existing devices while waiting for manufacturers to put wifi in everything. (Don’t hold your breath.)

Often I’ve talked to people about how I keep waiting for Apple to open their own BANK.  That may seem odd, but it would be a market-changer.  They’ve already impacted music, videos and games, but impacting finance.  That could be a world-changer.   Think of it like this:  Apple sells you a song or an application and what happens?  NOTHING.  Apple literally waits a few days before charging your card or PayPal account.  Why?  Because the credit companies charge Apple a PER-TRANSACTION fee.  I’ve heard of 34¢ per transaction, but I bet Steve has negotiated that down some.  Even so,  33¢ is a big chunk of 99¢ for one song.  If you make another purchase, they can combing them into one charge.  Then they pay the single 34¢ fee for the 2 purchases and Apple keeps a lot more of the money.

So if Apple can bring lots of companies and users together for a payment system that charges the vendor less, we can all buy more songs and apps for the money.  Or at least Apple and the developers and singers can keep more of the money.

Take Care