updated 02:00 am EDT, Sun October 21, 2012
At least one if not both likely for October 23 press event
Rumormongers and pundits continue to pile a long list of things they "expect" to see at Apple's scheduled October 23 press event, which was originally (and may still be) more-or-less exclusively about the so-called "iPad mini." Among the items now also rumored to arrive at or around the event itself are updated Mac minis and iMacs, a 13-inch The various rumors each have some basis in credibility, but the ones that seem the most likely (if Apple sticks to its tradition of focusing on one item or a theme of related items) appear to be the "iPad mini," the report of the iPad gaining a Lightning connector and iTunes 11, the last of which was explicitly promised for late October. The new iTunes, which was extensively previewed during the iPhone 5 launch event a few weeks ago, has been little-mentioned of late but promises to unify the revamped iTunes Store design seen on iOS devices and bring it to the Mac and PC, and offers a number of new features on its own, along with a redesign of the general UI.
Among the biggest changes is the dropping of the "source list," the left-hand sidebar that has been a staple of iTunes since its inception and is also a key element of many other Mac programs, though Apple has been slowly moving away from it over the last few years (iPhoto and the Finder are two examples of where the source-sidebar concept continues to be a main element). The main controls are still prominent, but lesser-used options like the Mini Player and the list of playlists are now represented by small icons on the interface rather than taking up a lot of screen real estate.
The Mini Player has been completely reworked and now has separate sizing controls, returning the "green button" on the iTune main window's left side back to the standard OS X function of intelligent resizing. The Mini Player now has a number of cleverly integrated new controls but keeps the layout clean and simple as its main use as a "background player" would suggest.
The third thing users will notice immediately is that their iCloud access and the iTunes Store itself have been much more subtly integrated throughout the UI. Items from the cloud simply have a cloud symbol next to them, and a small "store" button appears when appropriate (for example when an album or artist has been chosen, users can see what else is available for them to purchase that is related to that). Nearby concert information about specific artist has also been added, and the multiple file types iTunes now handles (such as podcasts, TV shows, books, movies, radio, etc) have been more elegantly added as sub-libraries near the top of the application.
A slip in a listing on the iBookstore, first noticed by TheNextWeb indicates that a new version of Books -- version 3.0 -- is on the way, though it is not known if this will get a mention at the October 23 event. The unannounced upgrade, if true, could conceivably be accompanied by a new version of iBooks Author, Apple's Pages-like e-book authoring app. The company introduced iBooks Author in January, and it has seen wide adoption as both an e-textbook and general e-book creator since then.
A feature that many users have requested is a version of iBooks that could also be used on a Mac, since e-book purchases from the iBookstore are currently unable to be read on a desktop or notebook, only on Apple's mobile devices. A possible iBooks 3.0 could solve the issue if it were available as a Mac or even "Mac and PC" application, and might even bring e-books to the Apple TV for the first time.
The listing could be a simple error, of course, or planned for further ahead than October, but the coincidence (if it is one) may point to a renewed emphasis on e-reading using both the current iPad and the forthcoming "mini" iPad, which will compete directly with both smaller 7-inch tablets and popular but more dedicated e-readers like the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and even the Kindle Fire.
Following on from the most recent Apple special event, which introduced the iPhone 5 as well as the refreshed iPod lineup, an event that focused on both the iPad line and iTunes -- particularly in regard to its app, book and media marketplaces -- makes thematic sense. Perhaps Apple will include some Mac news in the presentation, but it's also possible that they will save any major changes to the Mac side for after the holidays, or more quietly announce minor changes to the iMac and Mini through press releases rather than the October 23 event.
The various rumors each have some basis in credibility, but the ones that seem the most likely (if Apple sticks to its tradition of focusing on one item or a theme of related items) appear to be the "iPad mini," the report of the iPad gaining a Lightning connector and iTunes 11, the last of which was explicitly promised for late October. The new iTunes, which was extensively previewed during the iPhone 5 launch event a few weeks ago, has been little-mentioned of late but promises to unify the revamped iTunes Store design seen on iOS devices and bring it to the Mac and PC, and offers a number of new features on its own, along with a redesign of the general UI.