CES 2011: Why Apple will steal the show

As per usual, Apple [AAPL] seems set to dominate CES once again next year, even though it won't actually attend the show. And that's despite a keynote speech from Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. Here's why Apple's taking over.

Do you really consider it preposterous to think Apple will steal the CES thunder? Look: Apple already has two hot appointments for official CES opening day, January 6.

Mac App Store

appstore_hero20101020.png

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

Strike One, announced yesterday, Apple will open the Mac App Store on January 6. This means even as we look to CES for the latest innovations in the wider industry, the computer world will be looking to Apple to see its future.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said yesterday in a statement: "The App Store revolutionized mobile apps. We hope to do the same for PC apps with the Mac App Store by making finding and buying PC apps easy and fun. We can’t wait to get started on January 6."

I particularly like that Jobs refers to PC apps in his statement. Don't think for one second he isn't implying something there -- perhaps only that the Mac is a PC, that Apple invented the UI for the personal computer (PC) and, well, add iPad sales to Mac sales and Apple is actually the biggest PC seller in the US.

Perhaps he's got an idea for PC app sales too, one day. Why not? All it needs is a little OS X on Windows emulator...but I digress.

This is what will happen once the Mac App Store opens:-

All those Mac-using Windows journalists will be running for a CES hotspot to get their 'first looks' and passive aggressive criticisms filed. Meanwhile the Apple-holics will be gushing, hopefully over apps with a little more about them than this one, but you'd have to be blind, dumb or stupid not to be able to see the reality-creating Apple hype machine rolling into action.

(I often wonder why people call it 'reality distortion' when again and again Apple's actually in the business of 'reality creation'. Like: PC, music player, smartphone, tablet industry creation?)

Whatever else is announced at CES will have to be pretty amazing to contend with the global attention being focused on the Mac App Store.

Did I say whatever else is announced?

Well, given the flurry of rumors speculating what is rapidly becoming the tech world's worst-kept secret, how's about releasing the Verizon iPhone?

iphne.jpg

Oh, I know that's preposterous, but don't forget that Verizon CEO, Ivan Seidenberg is delivering the 8.30am 'State of the CE Industry Keynote address' at CES on (gulps) January 6.

This CES opening day's shaping up to be a big day for Apple, isn't it?

Grist to the mill of course, words from CEA President and CEO, Gary Shapiro, who says,

"We are pleased to welcome Ivan to the CES stage for his debut keynote and look forward to hearing the vision for Verizon's next generation of products and services."

Next-gen products and services?

Apple can't lose.

Even if a Verizon iPhone doesn't ape a blushing bride in making her debutante appearance during the keynote, Apple still wins.

Why?

Because starting now you can expect a plethora of reports speculating about the Verizon iPhone at CES.

Sure. Approaches will vary:

  • Some will assume wisdom and give a hundred reasons it won't happen, others will gush it as if certainty.
  • Some more level-headed journalists will give you the quid pro quo of the device, and the mutual benefit for Apple and Verizon in the move.
  • Others will drum up as much Apple hatred as they can with the usual claptrap in which they mistake a focus on high-quality user experience as control.
  • It will all be business as usual. Reportage in the age of clicks.

Me? I'm a soothsayer, I make predictions. I wouldn't bet on them if I were you. After all, if I were any good at clairvoyance surely I'd be winning the lottery. I haven't. But I'm right about this: Even if the iPhone doesn't hit Verizon during this keynote Apple still wins, in media attention alone.

The analysts are going ga-ga, too, as reported by Apple 2.0:

  • Kaufman Bros.' Shaw Wu raised his estimate for Apple's first fiscal quarter revenues by $1.12 billion
  • J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz raised his Q1 iPad estimate by 1.27 million units
  • Stifel Nicholaus' Doug Reid raised his iPhone sales estimate by 1.05 million units
  • Merrill Lynch's Scott Craig raised his Mac estimate by 290,000 units

Spare a thought for poor old Google. Not only can't it (allegedly) manufacture the Nexus S in high enough quantities because of a shortage of AMOLED screens, but its fast advance in US marketshare has reportedly slowed (c'mon, it had to). Now of course, Google's about to see proper competition, once iPhone escapes AT&T's ghetto.

Estimates for the number of iPhones we can expect to see sold next year via Verizon vary, ranging (from memory) at between 2 million and 8 million. Both are significant and will help Apple bolster its position against Android.

There's an elephant in the room

Then there's that other horse in this race -- Microsoft.

What's the betting Ballmer's speech before the event (likely to generate only a little attention) will see him announce future NFC support, multitasking, further integration with Xbox Marketplace and new app developer milestones?

Sure enough, Microsoft may be a weak player now, but it is the company with the business plan (and now the patents) to cause Google's Android a few headaches. But that's another topic.

Weeks before the show opens, Apple is already casting a giant shadow across CES, despite having no plans to attend.

If you do visit the show, don't be too surprised to see iPads and iPhones everywhere, either. That's just how it is -- even CES has an iPhone app. And do look out for the Macs in the press room as we move inexorably toward the Year of the Mac.

I wonder what other cards Apple's ready to throw across the table as it thinks different to ensure 2011 is the year tomorrow belongs to the rest of us?

Any ideas? Let me know in comments below, and I'd be very pleased if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I could let you know about new articles as they first get published here on Computerworld.

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