Hope or hype: Will Apple star video on September 1?

For all the optimistic hype some are now warning that Apple's September 1 event next week may not deliver quite what we're expecting, and that the all-new iTunes won't be quite so focused on streaming, but might have a strong social focus.

Peter Kafka of Media Memo spoke with music industry sources who claim Apple hasn't yet reached deals to stream content to users. However, they did say they expected iTunes to get an overhaul, with social features added to the service, which will itself become a lightweight Web-based service.

"Apple plays its cards close to the vest even with the music labels it works with, so the people I've talked to are making informed guesses," Kafka said.

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The writer's sources are expecting a lightweight, Web-based version of the iTunes Store, designed in order that users can easily share their musical tastes with others.

The Web-based iTunes Store will sell music and other content along with easier Twitter and Facebook integration.

There is also some talk of wireless sync finally making an appearance for users of Apple devices.

Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, suggested wireless iPhone sync will reach us "someday" in one of his fusilade of email exchanges in which he engaged this summer.

Expectation that Apple will introduce a new version of the Apple TV (called iTV) and 99-cent TV show rentals should be tempered by the appearance of the invitation to the company's special event next week.

The invitation (pictured below) shows a guitar with an Apple logo-shaped hole at the center.

Screen_shot_2010-08-26_at_15_36_22.jpg

This doesn't suggest television to me, and in terms of music hints a focus at music creation.

Could all the chatter on Apple's music and television in the cloud plans be accurate, but mistimed?

Is Apple's special event next week going to focus on new iPods, some iTunes updates, iOS 4.0 for the iPad and new, cloud-based releases of iWork and iLife, rather than video. Will Apple TV feature at all?

After all, the guitar in the invite reminds me very strongly of GarageBand, it doesn't resonate much with television.

Look to a follow-up report on Bloomberg yesterday. In that report, Bloomberg's Peter Burrows wrote,

"Even with the refresh, [Steve] Jobs isn't convinced the new version will be a mainstream hit, says the person familiar with Apple's plans."

He suggests the Apple TV will not be the star of the show, and that instead we can look forward to some interesting stories for iTunes.

That something is going on is clear. The invitation to Apple's special event underlines the importance of this, while the invitation received by European media to a simultaneous satellite screening of the Apple event lends further weight to expectation of big news.

Apple is also rumored to have hired new staff who are undergoing intensive training to help the company lay the ground for a "very big new product".

While some industry watchers warn that Apple may not focus on Apple TV next week, Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster said he expects updates to iTunes, the Apple TV and the iPod touch.

Munster isn't certain we should anticipate apps support on the Apple TV (though he thinks it does make sense). He also warns that Apple may announce the new lightweight iTunes service, but not actually release it until later this year.

Another analyst, Brian Marshall (Gleacher & Co.) tells us that the emphasis will be on the iPod, particularly the iPod touch, with some minor announcements about iTunes and Apple TV.

"It'll be about the iPod," he told Computerworld. "Apple TV, that's still chugging along. They will likely introduce [an Apple TV] in a sleeker case with more storage, but that's not going to be a big deal."

Television remains an attractive-seeming battle ground.

According to AC Nielsen, Americans consume about four hours of television per day. If Apple charges one dollar per show, then its service will be too expensive to really impact against cable and satellite services.

Marshall doesn't expect Apple to introduce its new video products until next year, remarking that the North Carolina data center isn't yet ready for the task.

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