AMITIAE - Friday 29 August 2014

Cassandra: Apple's 9 September Event - Speculations and Probabilities

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


While I still have considerable doubts about an Apple iWatch, many sites this week have upped the reporting on what they feel is the imminent announcement of a wearable device. The intensity increased by several magnitudes on Friday morning (here - Thailand) when Apple finally sent out its invitation to the dance with its usual enigmatic message: this time, "Wish we could say more" below the date (in numbers, not alphabetic characters), 9.9.2014. For once there can be no confusion between the US and other dates. Several sites had this, including BGR, where there were comments by Zach Epstein

Apple Invitation to a Wish (image from BGR)

This has caused a great rush to print as the message was parsed and, with the previous days' speculation, the iWatch is a reality as far as many observers are concerned. So, too, are the 4.7" iPhone and a 5.5" version with or without sapphire glass and NFC, as well as other features from the speculation bible.

Let me speculate a little here (everyone else is doing it) and suggest that the word "wish" in that announcement from Apple might refer to the name of the new product that everyone is sure is coming. It does fit with Apple's sometimes-poor naming conventions, and could indicate some of the capabilities: reacting to the user's needs. Speculation, as I indicate. Another suggestion, in a Tweet from Tom Negrino, put forward the equally plausible idea that this could suggest a major "improvement to Siri's capabilities."

iFob A Seeking Alpha article by NYTrader treats the subject as if the iWatch is a done deal and calls it a game changer (in the present tense).

There is no doubt that if Apple did produce such a wearable device, the history of the company would suggest that the product would be properly thought-out, would integrate with other devices and would be desirable.

It would have to be considerably more desirable than a standard watch as many users, including me, never wear anything on the wrist. I still use a pocket watch.

With companies like Samsung producing many devices that they seem to hope (a local writer Jon Russell suggested in a Tweet) that something might stick.

There is a slight hint about additional capabilities in a recently-unearthed patent filing by the ever-vigilant Jack Purcher of Patently Apple who examines the potential of wireless payments on the iPhone 6, but uses an illustration of a watch-like device that charges wirelessly: a theoretical possibility that has not yet been commercially realised. A patent means the investigation may have started, but that does not guarantee a workable product: worth looking forward to, nonetheless.

Also related to the potential new device is the news that Apple is to control HealthKit data sharing (Mikey Campbell, AppleInsider). This is prudent. Not only are there privacy concerns, but these are heightened when it comes to personal data regarding health and medical organisations, including the USA Food and Drug Administration - the federal Agency that controls healthcare and medicine - would be down on Apple like a ton of bricks if such data were leaked.

Unusually, rather than the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts the event is to be held on Tuesday (10am Cupertino time, Midnight here) at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts at De Anza College, Cupertino. As well as being where Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh computer in 1983, this is closer to Apple's headquarters and there are several reports of a 2- or 3-storey temporary structure being built there (Juli Clover, Mac Rumors). Joseph Keller (iMore) also had an early picture of the site.

The choice of the Flint Center cannot be an accident and this may suggest that the history card is being played. This would indicate a significant product release that could include several examples of hardware, as well as software. When the next iPhone is released, that will also be the time that iOS 8 is made available, although I would doubt that OS X 10.10 Yosemite would be released on the same day. That hardware is less likely to include new Macs at this time, although the Apple TV is a candidate as it fits into the home environment (see below) and is due an update, perhaps to include 802.11ac Wi-Fi capabilities.

Clover makes a number of points about the historical link and the larger seating capacity at the venue. While the reason for the construction is currently unclear, product demonstration and display are possibles.

An interesting comment came from Cult of Mac (Jim Merithew) who suggested that this construction looked as if this could contain a full size home of the future. The article includes several revealing pictures (of the outside) which give a far better indication of the scale of this construction.

HomeKit This dovetails neatly with a number of other speculative items concerning HomeKit and would make a lot of sense considering the already-available synchronisation of devices and the way that Apple has been championing the twin Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi connections, not least of all in the soon-to-be-available features of OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 that will allow improved device recognition.

A well-timed item by Sanna Chu on International Digital Times (28 August) outlines the ways in which home technologies could be controlled by an "iWatch": it could "potentially be used to control everything in your home from turning on the lights to changing the TV channel." The item adds, "anything in your home that's connected to the Internet whether it's your fridge, slow cooker or thermostat could be managed from your Apple smartwatch."

This fairly sharp article goes on to examine the possibility of the device using HealthKit, before making more comments on the HomeKit potential.

A long-expected inclusion on the iPhone has been NFC and a number of sites speculate that this could now become available. Among these an item by Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider has the interesting idea that a "secure enclave" might be used on the iPhone chip (expected to be A8) which would follow on from the similar secure enclave used for fingerprint data on the A7 processor used in the iPhone 5s.

Campbell refers to articles by John Gruber and an item on Wired by Christina Bonnnington. Another comment on this by Zac Hall on 9to5 Mac mentions Tim Cook's hint at Apple's interest in payment services.

Much of this is speculation, as are the reports of what the devices will look like, including several examples that purport to be photographs of parts of the iPhone. All this will become clear when (presumably) Tim Cook takes the stage at the Flint Center and starts the presentation.

A number of sites will have live feeds; and if Apple also has a telecast I expect to be following events as they transpire on 9 September (the early hours of 10th here).

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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