An Exciting Announcement from iTunes tomorrow?

Image from iTunes app, teasing a special announcement about iTunes. Text: "Tomorrow's just another day. That you'll never forget." Below it are a line of world clocks.

Interesting: this image appeared on Apple.com’s front page today. It was also the standard top-page banner in the iTunes app (which is where I first saw it a moment ago.) At 10 AM tomorrow (Eastern time) Apple will announce…OK, something. I haven’t any firm idea of what it’s going to be.

But it’s a Monday morning, so let’s see if we can’t goof of of work all the way until lunchtime by engaging in extracurricular speculation.

Point One: Apple doesn’t tend to stick its neck out this far unless they think they really do have something big on their hands. So they probably won’t be naming Paul Anka as their featured artist of the week. Secondly, it’s definitely not a hardware item. That’s not an iTunes-specific announcement. Besides, if it were hardware, Apple would have released it weeks ago to get a jump on the holiday season.

It seems likely to be some sort of extension to the scale of the iTunes service in general. I’m guessing that it’ll either be an “iTunes Anywhere” feature (stream your purchased content to any of your iOS devices or one of your five approved desktops; it’s seemed inevitable, ever since Apple bought Lala.com, a streaming music service last year) or it’ll be a new deal that dramatically expands the range of TV programming available for purchase and rental.

The odd timing makes me lean towards the latter. Apple’s never done a big “Hey, everyone, look at us” announcement like this so close to the holidays. I presume that whatever-it-is would encourage people to buy more Apple hardware, or that it’ll position them extremely strongly against competition; otherwise, it seems like you’d want to hold off on an announcement until you could get more attention for it. If Apple suddenly had lined up deals to deliver the majority of popular TV shows to their software and hardware, then they’d suddenly become the presumptive leaders in Internet TV and the $99 Apple TV would suddenly become a very hot gift for 2010.

And it’d be a very bad news day for supporters of Boxee and Google TV. Consumers are still waiting for that last, clear, compelling reason to hook up a WiFi-enabled box to their TV sets: the first service and device that delivers close to a full range of broadcast and cable programming will likely end the competition before it really began.

My other reason for suspecting a new pile of TV deals is that by their nature, negotiating with all of the corporate entities that control TV content is a frustratingly nonlinear and analog process. I can easily imagine Apple hoping, or even expecting, that they’d have closed all of these deals in time for the annual iPod announcements last month…but that things dragged on another few weeks.

(I can picture the new head of NBC Universal listlessly prodding at the plateful of kitten hearts Apple presented to him as requested. “They’e tasty,” he said, “but unless I get to eat them while children are watching me in tear-stained horror, it’s not really a full meal, is it? Can we try this again in a few weeks?”)

As usual, though, we’ll only know what we know when we know it…and Apple doesn’t want us to know until 10 AM tomorrow.

The time is also possibly an interesting data point: whatever it is, Apple wants every news outlet to have the story in time for the day’s broadcasts…and the stock market will be open and trading when the word gets out. It’s got to be something big. Hell, they don’t even mind that we can record MacBreak Weekly at our usual time with this information firmly in hand. Wow!

[Update: But the pointed use of world clocks keeps me wondering. It implies “everyone in the world will be able to take advantage of this,” doesn’t it? If that’s true, it could point to either conclusion. Streaming is a basic extension to your entire iTunes experience and would apply to all users equally. But so would an expanded marketplace. Either one would require a lot of new deals to allow Apple to send content worldwide.

A deal to send this week’s “House” to Japan would seem to be more complex than one to allow streaming of purchased content. But remember that a new streaming feature could also stream that TV show. So maybe it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I’ll be shocked if it isn’t one of those two possibilities, though.]

[Update #2: I’m going to stick to the “expanded content” theory. I can’t imagine that Apple could implement a feature as broad as “stream your purchases anywhere” without a LOT of updates to the desktop and mobile editions of iTunes. There’s streaming technologies in all of these apps but I don’t think Apple would want to do it as a straightforward service that uses standard, right-out-of-the-box functionality.

Apple just released a major new edition of iTunes last week. If this was in the offing, AND I’m correct in assuming that they couldn’t enable streaming without a new iTunes…surely they would have waited another week.

Unless, of course, all of the infrastructure is already in iTunes 10, hiding. I’m not sure that the code wouldn’t have been discovered by somebody over the past two months, though.]

64 thoughts on “An Exciting Announcement from iTunes tomorrow?

  1. John Law

    I am kinda hoping for a LALA service like Zune? But an ala carte tv service would rock and would move the Apple TV to the top of my list for TOY NEEDS….

  2. Steve

    I wrote about this on my tech blog earlier this morning, and I agree. Streaming iTunes songs via that North Carolina data center & the LaLa.com tech they bought a while back.

    They know what everyone bought from iTunes, and they know some folks don’t have all the capacity on their iPod Touch and iPhones… why not just let people stream it? And if you only want to stream it, pay a fee, and you’d be able to do that too.

    Sure would explain why AT&T dropped “all you can eat” service earlier this year.

  3. Michael Gaines

    Andy,
    I would think that it has something to do with a streaming service, based on Apple buying Lala in January. You’re right that Apple wouldn’t stick its neck out that far for just anything, but I don’t think deals with the networks would warrant a title saying “Tomorrow is just another day/you’ll never forget”. Am I really going to remember when I could stream Galactica 1980 to my iPad? No, but I will remember when I could upload my whole iTunes library to the cloud.

  4. Daniel

    Whatever it is it seems it might only be in the US, UK, Japan, New Zealand and Canada. No other stores have that announcement on their front-page. So for me here in Sweden it may not be all the exciting.

  5. Rokku

    Or it’s the announcement of The Beatles catalogue being on iTunes (with “Just another day” coming from their song “Another Day”, natch).

  6. Michael A.

    I want it to be “B” (more Apple TV content), but I’m afraid it’s “A” (iTunes libraries in the cloud). But Andy’s right of course, the odd timing suggests something that wasn’t entirely under Apple’s control, such as content negotiations.

  7. Daniel

    @Rokku: The Beatles don’t have a song named Another Day, they do have A Day In The Life. Maybe close enough? ;)

  8. Tim

    Let’s see, things I deem unforgettable in my life.

    Two space shuttle disasters.
    The murder of John Lennon.
    First sexual experience with someone other than myself.

    Wow, this better be good. But I’m afraid it’s just more narcissistic Apple marketing.

  9. Ihnatko Post author

    I don’t think it’s a Beatles announcement. First, because it probably wouldn’t be big enough. But as time passes I’m convinced that there’s no reason for EMI and the Beatles to ever make their music available for download. They can make wayyy more money selling them as entire albums on CD and they’re probably the only group around who can sensibly stick to that strategy.

    The choice of time zones is interesting. It might point to limited licensing and availability but I suspect it just underscores that this change effects iTunes as a whole and will affect the worldwide community of users.

    Streaming or expanded content are the two front-runners. I honestly don’t know which is the safer bet. I’m tempted to say that TV has the edge. If Apple wants to enable streaming, there’s a lot of upside to waiting until January before rolling it out. Whereas there’s plenty of immediate upside to announcing that the iTunes catalogue just got a lot bigger.

  10. Tom Read

    Also bear in mind, this is a worldwide announcement (just check for example apple.com/es, apple.com/fr) . TV and film deals are local. This could be pretty big (unless it’s just the 4.2 update!)

  11. Murphy Mac

    Michael Gaines is on to something. The standard Apple invites don’t claim such grandeur – something you’ll never forget.

    Uploading everything to the cloud seems impossible though – if it includes non-purchases.

    Something you can’t forget: A charge that shows up on your credit card bill every month…

    Think of the number of iOS devices out there. Even a small percentage of them on a subscription plan is an extremely notable MONTHLY revenue stream.

  12. Daniel

    If it’s TV it still leaves out the majority of countries that have iTunes Store access. Or maybe that’s the announcement that all countries can rent and buy movies/TV-shows + something else.

  13. David

    My first thought was expanded content. But the international clocks suggest that Apple wants people to expect something exciting at the same time wherever in the world they happen to be. It seems unlikely to me that they would be announcing a content deal internationally like that. Aren’t most content deals country-specific?

  14. cmason

    Doesn’t it seem odd that this announce is not aimed at press? All others are at Apple HQ or a swanky location, with full blogosphere live views etc. This one just popped on the website.

    Sounds minor to me, Apple isn’t even winding up the press, or anyone else, just a garphic on the website.

  15. Ihnatko Post author

    “No” on iOS 4.2. This HAS to be an iTunes thing, not something that affects one set of hardware.

    @David – Yes, the clocks is the biggest clue (of the weak clues available). Apple throws a switch in Cupertino and then bang, this new thing happens.

    Hmm.

    Yes, you’ve gotten me to swing away from the “streaming library” conclusion again. That feature would require a new edition of iTunes, wouldn’t it? And we just had a major release last week.

    ASSUMING that’s true, Apple would surely have held the release a week.

  16. Ted E

    Hmmm two words

    iTunes Cloud.

    (well I am hoping that’s what it is, if its the Beatles Yellow Submarine iPod I am going to be upset).

  17. BobRudge

    If it is a worldwide announcement then I really doubt it is just Apple announcing they have signed up more networks and studios for rental and sale.

    Firstly, those deals are incredibly difficult in the States alone. never mind worldwide.

    And secondly, while Apple are famous laughable hype, even Steve Jobs would struggle to tell people that having more TV shows an films to rent is a day you’ll never forget.

    Streaming seems more likely but that seems a bit weak as well. People have overplayed the importance of “iTunes Anywhere” – it’s very achievable now but no one does it.

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  19. Rob

    I can’t decide at all what this might be – expanded content is great but is it really going to make “a day I’ll never forget”, even accounting for standard marketing hyperbole, i’m not sure more content is that life impacting.

    Streaming would seem like a good bet, but as you’ve pointed out why release 10.1 last week? Unless the streaming service is a whole new application / platform, or tied into mobileme or something. Unlikely.

  20. Lamar

    OK, what hard information is available in the ad itself?

    Apple is making an announcement tomorrow at 7 a.m. their time.

    The ad shows clock faces from four points around the world.

    Those are the only two hard facts we have. What can be deduced from these hard facts?

    If Apple were only going to make an announcement, would they put such an emphasis on this? The hyperbole of the headline suggests that it won’t be just an announcement, but rather an introduction to something available when the announcement is made. Announcing this on iTunes, plus other reasons already mentioned elsewhere, suggests this will be the announcement of a new service.

    The hyperbole of the title suggests that this new service will be something that a lot of people around the world either have already expressed an interest in or that Apple believes will have a significant interest in. To me, this rules out the expanded TV offerings option. TV is regional/local; what’s poplar in the US may be popular in the UK, to some degree, but less so in Tokyo. It simply isn’t enough of an issue to justify this level of hyperbole.

    That suggests the streaming, cloud-based service others have mentioned. It’s something a significant number of users have expressed interest in over the years, and it certainly would be a pretty significant change in the way Apple presents content to its users.

    And I think that’s absolutely not going to be what it is. Apple thinks this announcement is big enough and important enough that it has it posted on their website’s homepage in place of everything else that is usually there. At the same time, this is the first notice about this announcement at all — no press release before hand, no invitations to a big Apple event.

    One possibility, based on absolutely no information whatsoever — Apple is spinning iTunes out into its own company. It makes sense to a certain degree. Apple is a consumer-device company, not a content company. It needed iTunes to make the iPod a success, but stand-alone iPods are dying; I imagine these will be phased out in the next year or two. If you want an iPod from Apple, you’ll need to get an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch.

    Of course, those devices are dependent on the App Store. It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple split the App Store out of iTunes. The App Store would sell software for its devices, including the promised Mac OS app store. iTunes would sell media, like it always has.

    I’m just speculating here. No idea, really.

    L.

  21. Stefano Lavori

    i’m guessing auto backup “to the cloud!” of your purchased stuff and streaming to any device running itunes is a component. maybe that’s included with a MM account. but that would present some level of overlap with airplay, hmmm.

    i’m hoping they’ve struck some very big deals with media providers and are offering a month-to-month subscription as well.

  22. Ron

    Andy, your speculations are always worth reading, but I say, with a smile, that this exchange reminded me all too much of Vizzini in the Princes Bride: “All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: Are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me …” etc.

  23. TonyP

    Hey, if we’re going to speculate, let’s go big shall we?

    Apple buys Twitter.

    (This is a joke unless it comes true, then I totally meant it).

  24. Stefano Lavori

    you know what i’d pay money for? an apple “tv” network: one channel showing product reveals to steve jobs (“you’re fired”), one that shows jobs rehearsing for keynotes, and another that just shows steve replying to emails.

  25. Dean

    Remember the data centre!

    Cloud streaming is the only thing that makes sense for an iTunes announcement now.

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  27. Chris P.

    The Data Center is online and fully operationally. But who is it targeting?

    Whatever this announcement is, I think it was something that they wanted to tell us at the iPod/iTunes event. But the data center wasn’t up and running yet. So they had to hold back. Until now.

    But Andy, I can’t imagine the announcement of more TV shows and Movie content is something that we “will never forget.”

    @cmason – That simple graphic on their website and the iTunes store is exactly the way to “wind up” the press without spending $$ and answering journalists questions.

  28. Daniel

    I think it’s iTunes steaming since there have been rumors of the data center in North Carolina going operational “any day” it would make sense if streaming/anything in the cloud goes a long with that.

  29. Chris V

    It’s gotta have something to do with this (from NYT’s “On This Day blog”):

    1959 The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music” opened on Broadway.

    All musicals, all the time, anywhere, any device!

  30. Omni

    Expansion of mobile me? This could include aspects of many of the aforementioned items plus moving the iWork web services into more of a collaborative direction

  31. Chris

    If it’s streaming, why wonder about iTunes? iTunes manages local content and devices, if it’s a cloud service, then you service it in a web browser. (Or some other app?)

    iTunes has too many features as it is, so I’m guessing cloud based streaming with cloud app/browser interface.

  32. BJ Wanlund

    I’m thinking that a) this is 100% out of left field, and b) there will be no less than five announcements:

    1) iTunes Cloud / iTunes Anywhere. This would be huge, especially for those of us with excessive iTunes libraries in excess of 60GB, which would help majorly with regards to the future expansion of said libraries.

    2) Deals with Apple Records/Beatles for their entire library, as well as with Jimmy Buffett as the exclusive download distributor of all of Jimmy Buffett’s live concerts that have ever been recorded by Jimmy and aired on Radio Margaritaville, especially since Mr. Buffett is a major Apple and iPad fan.

    3) Because there are TV shows in Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States (all the countries represented on the 4 clocks in the teaser image), we’ll see some major TV deals for not just those countries, but the rest of the world as well. This could not only mean more new shows for the partners currently on iTunes, it could also mean more overpriced season passes for suckers like myself to buy, especially if said season passes were for some of the very few shows not currently on iTunes I actually regularly watch anymore.

    Here is just a sampler list of the studios Apple could have deals with for rental as well as purchases:
    FremantleMedia (the current owners of the Goodson-Todman library of game shows, as well as the producers of a show that has a major partnership with iTunes called American Idol)
    Nickelodeon and its affiliated channels (there are so many old Nickelodeon shows that aren’t on iTunes yet for one reason or another, this could be another source of a truckload of older game shows)
    BBC Networks (shows like Dancing With The Stars or the British equivalent, Strictly Come Dancing are on the Hulu-esque services, but not for legitimate download or available for streaming in its entirety to the best of my knowledge)

    4) A Hulu-esque streaming video service that has more than what Hulu has in place now, maybe even streaming channels for people who are increasingly cutting the cord for a-la-carte cable like services, like I said a few months ago prior to the iPod announcements.

    5) iBooks available for sale in the iTunes desktop store? Dare I hope? And dare I hope for more content on the iBookstore?

    Fire away.

    BJ

  33. ghoppe

    I’m going to chime in and agree with Chris P. and others. Will I really never forget the day that I can finally get more TV shows on iTunes?

    It’s gotta be a streaming or subscription service.

    @Omni Can’t be *just* an expansion of Mobile Me, since it’s specifically announced as an announcement “from iTunes”.

  34. Tiziano Ferro

    The tease appears at apple.com, itunes.com, and the desktop itunes app. but does not appear within the ios devices app (itunes). We already have music streaming via iDisk, so I know that iOS devices won’t be left out of the loop. I guess what is to be streamed will be controlled by the desktop itunes app (via the sync meme) and that there will be a subtle visual distinction in your ios devices’ ipod and videos libraries between which content is local and which is remote.

    Maybe the service will actually even launch this week—no iOS update is needed (see “Ping” on iPad).

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  36. James

    Andy, what do you make of the fact that the announcement is at 10 a.m. Eastern? Usually Apple times their announcements to 10 Pacific. This strikes me as focused on the East Coast which to me suggests content deal but with the data center nobody knows.

    An acquisition is a nifty idea but those are usually announced after market close.

  37. perfect face for radio

    Does’t Apple usually time it’s announcements around 10am local time? The 10am local time for this announcement is EST… Perhaps Jobs will be at the new data center for the announcement?

    My two best guesses?

    1. Streaming.. something.. that, frankly I couldn’t give a wet fart about, considering (a. I prefer to own, not rent anything I care to not wait to watch via scheduled/dvr’d cable, and (b. my limited ISP choices.. suck.. making streaming anything in decent quality a stuttering pixelated mess..

    2. Expanded content deals.. NASCAR, NFL, MLB same day (11:59pm PST) downloads.. in their entirety.. shrug.. NASCAR is the only reason I still have cable, so this would be something I’d actually get excited about.

    And just for sniggles and ghits, let’s say..

    3. The Beatles!!! (and a Merlin Mann Edition Yellow Submarine iPod Touch)

    ;-)

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