It looks like Apple will be updating its iPhone operating system with the company scheduling an event on St. Patrick's Day next week.
But the event itself might be more newsworthy than you think, especially given the current climate in Cupertino.
Over the past few weeks, Apple has taken the unusual step of updating its Mac line of computers via press release. No event. And obviously no Steve Jobs because he continues on medical leave. Then, Apple just yesterday unveiled its new version of the iPod Shuffle. Again, via press release. No event. No Steve Jobs. Both of those product announcements would have served nicely as the backbone to the sorely lacking Macworld keynote in January. Alas, Apple saved these unveilings for press release fodder post Macworld.
Which brings us to the event on March 17.
The company has obviously been sensitive to Jobs' medical leave, and "events" tend to call attention to the fact that he's not there. After all, at the company's recent shareholder meeting, there was speculation as to whether he would show up. There was speculation that he was, or as we later learned wasn't, at Disney's shareholder meeting earlier this week.
But the show must go on, even if the CEO duties are being handled by an understudy, albeit a highly capable one. Look for acting CEO Tim Cook to emcee the event, and then likely hand the balance of the show over to Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone Software at Apple, another of the so-called "deep bench" members of the Apple executive staff.
UPDATE: iPod and iPhone marketing VP Greg Joswiak will be hosting the event, along with Scott Forstall.
Innovation apparently continues robustly at Apple whether Jobs is actively at the helm or not. That would lead me to believe that this iPhone event, which will offer a sneak peak at the latest iPhone operating system 3.0 as well as new tools for its software developers kit, the so-called SDK, could be a bigger deal than some might expect. That's not to say Jobs will be there. That's irrelevant. But it is to say that as Research in Motion prepares to open its own online applications store for the Blackberry, and Microsoft is doing the same thing with wireless devices running its Mobile operating system, the Apple iPhone operating system is due for an upgrade to keep its competitors on their heels.
Maybe that means a new "search" feature for iPhone, where users will finally be able to search easily all the content on their handheld device. Or even a "save" feature for email and other data on the iPhone. It might mean an updated home screen which Piper Jaffray says still looks pretty rudimentary, and reminds them of the old Palm Pilot . I don't know, but I kind of like the easy-to-navigate, easy-to-read home screen, but with so many apps being downloaded, it does indeed start to look crowded.
This event will be a lot more than merely unveiling a new mapping feature, or a new partnership with Google , or Facebook, or eBay . If Apple is convening an "event," it stands to reason the company has something important to share. And it appears investors agree with Apple shares inching their way back toward $100. If anything, the Apple event shows this company continues to move forward.
Oh, and those new Macs did the same.
And that new iPod shuffle. And now a new iPhone OS. And it all means momentum continues at Apple.
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