Apple's magical mystery event demystified

The rumors they are a-swirlin'. What will Apple unveil on Jan. 27? Cringely has a few thoughts

It's January, and that can only mean one thing: Apple has cranked the Hype Machine up to 11 again.

It used to be that Apple had to run the machine itself -- stoke up the fanboys, leak a few juicy details to select members of the press, then deny deny deny. (Former Apple marketing honcho John Martellaro has written a fascinating account of exactly how Apple does a "controlled leak" for The Mac Observer.) Now all it takes to whip the blogosphere into a frenzy is to spam out a cunningly cryptic invitation to a "special event" on Jan. 27.

[ Haven't had your fill of hype? Check out Cringely's observations on the enormous hype factory that was CES 2010. | And stay up to date on all Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

The invite is so groovy-looking that I -- like 16,456,298 other blogs -- feel compelled to reproduce it here.


What do all the splotches mean, exactly? The NSFW snarks at eSarcasm have a few theories. (My personal favorites: Apple is merging with Skittles, or this is what you get when you cross the Teletubbies with a steamroller.)

No matter. The Web is abuzz with news, rumor, innuendo, vague speculation, and pure drivel about what we'll be learning one week from today, as well as several comprehensive summaries of same. Here's my own version:

  • The next-gen iPhone 4.0 OS will be introduced. It will let you do things (like multitasking with a multitouch interface) that other phone OSes made by Google or Palm already let you do, but you'll enjoy it so much more because it has an Apple logo on it.
  • Apple will introduce a touchscreen tablet PC called the iSlate, the iTablet, the iPad, or the iDon'tKnow. Heck, let's just call it the Wonder Tablet. It will feature a capacitive touchscreen that's 9.7 inches wide (unless it's really 7, 8, or 11 inches wide) and an OLED display (or possibly not). It will cost $999 and be available in June, unless it costs $599 and is available in March. It will feature wireless connectivity from Verizon or AT&T, but definitely not both.
  • The Wonder Tablet will be a "game changer." Unfortunately, that game will be Parcheesi. But still: a much hipper, industrially designed, extremely expensive version of Parcheesi.
  • It will also be a "Kindle Killer." (Hey, it's a nasty job, but somebody's got to do it.) The Wonder Tablet will allow you to buy content from book publishers like HarperCollins, magazine dynasties like Conde Nast, and crumbling newspaper relics like The New York Times, and will single-handedly save the publishing industry. Unless it doesn't.
  • Apple will also introduce a 22-inch all-in-one iMac with a touchscreen. Yes, it's touchscreen madness here at Krazy Kringely's -- we're virtually giving them away.
  • And just one more thing: iLife2010.


Really, though, unless you're already an iPhone or Mac fanboy, the real "news" is the Wonder Tablet. Everyone is desperately hoping Apple can solve the Gadget Goldilocks Problem and build a device that's just right: wide enough to display books and magazines, yet small enough to slip into a briefcase or purse; bright enough to be readable in different lighting conditions and yet offer reasonable battery life; fast and responsive without requiring a hot mitt to hold it; and finally, cheap enough for the masses with affordable wireless options to boot.

That ain't gonna happen, IMHO. Not even Apple can make a device that's less filling yet tastes great, that can fill you up without slowing you down, though they'll probably come closer than anyone has yet.

And if the Wonder Tablet doesn't achieve all of these things? it will be labeled a disappointment, no matter how good it actually is. That's the downside of having a world-class hype machine -- eventually you have to live up to people's unreasonably high expectations.

I just hope they don't call it the iPad. Because every time I hear that I think of feminine hygiene products. That's probably not what Apple has in mind.

What does Apple have in mind? Are you breathlessly awaiting the news on Jan. 27? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me:

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