It’s official, the famously secretive Apple will announce something having to do with iTunes, the new iPod or even the iPhone, on September 5th. The company, which is known for its Willy-Wonka levels of secrecy about new products and announcements, sent out invites to a few thousand journalists, analysts and other industry folks that feature a picture of the Cover Flow scrolling-album-artwork feature familiar to anyone with iTunes or an iPhone. So even though that gives us a hint that the announcement will be music-related, we still don’t have a clue what the specific news will be. And neither does anyone else, but this hasn’t stopped the blogosphere rumor mill from swirling, intensely. We scoured the Internet to find what we think are the five most likely Apple announcements next week. Just know that Steve Jobs could surprise us all and do something completely different.
- Touchscreen iPod: There’s no doubt that the addition of the touchscreen and Cover Flow feature to the iPhone made it the best iPod ever, so it’s time to spread the love to Apple’s non-cell-phone handheld icon. Rumors of a touchscreen à la iPhone have been swirling ever since an Asia-based tech rumor site revealed the Taiwanese company that was to provide the touchscreens for a new iPod.
- The Beatles catalog on iTunes at last: First Paul McCartney, then John Lennon made it to iTunes (Ringo’s post-Beatles work was added today, and word has it George Harrison is coming up soon). Now that the lawsuit over the Apple name has been long resolved, it’s time for the Beatles catalog to get on iTunes’s virtual shelves. This will likely be the cherry on top of any bigger iPod announcements. The ironic thing is, after years of such careful protection and avoidance of online distribution, the Beatles’ songs will finally get sold in the least protected way possible, with non-DRM tunes from EMI! Get yer CD rippers ready!
- Wi-Fi download store for iTunes: Following in the footsteps of the Zune, Music Gremlin and the Sansa Connect (with Yahoo! Music Unlimited), a Wi-Fi download store that lets users download right to a wireless-enabled iPod sounds sweet. This rumor has been going around for a while, and just resurfaced yesterday. It’s certainly possible, but we think Apple will limit Wi-Fi to the iPhone for now. Adding communication capabilities to the iPod just cannibalizes iPhone sales — and who wants an Internet Tablet or device, anyway (we talking about “Internet-surfing,” but not much else, devices as the Sony Mylo, the PepperPad and the Nokia Internet Tablet).
- Nanos with bigger memories: The main cool thing about the Nano is it doesn’t have any moving parts because it uses Flash memory instead of a hard disk. Problem is, Flash memory didn’t come in larger sizes, until now. So a pint-sized Nano with more memory would be a very welcome thing indeed. Incidentally, there are also rumors of a Shuffle with more memory, which means you could seriously bring your whole music collection to the gym with you.
- The European iPhone: This is almost a given, since Apple has been talking about a fall launch for the iPhone since June. Only question is, which carriers and which countries will get the iPhone first? Our money is on France, England and Germany, the three Euro countries that download illegal music the least (at least according to our Madrileno tech writer friend Angel Jimenez, who writes for Spain’s largest daily newspaper, El Mundo). This announcement is likely, particularly since Apple just launched TV show downloads on iTunes in the U.K., for nearly four times the price (almost $4!) it costs Stateside.
- Bonus Rumor: Ringtones! This is also looking very solid: According to reports, for a small fee you will be able to make ringtones on your iPhone out of tracks for sale at the iTunes Stone.