Tech Check

Apple Event's 'Soft' vs. 'Hard' Core


Let the rumor mill kick it up a notch with only a few short days left until the Apple Inc. Worldwide Developers Conferencein San Francisco Monday.

What we know: No Steve Jobs. No new hardware, meaning no new iPhones, no new Mac tablet PC. No new laptops. And that part about no new iPhones could go a long way toward encouraging those on the fence about whether to run out and buy the new Palm Pre this weekend.

More on that in a second, as well as more on Jobs since the two are actually related.

My sources tell me the core of this event will be about software, not hardware. Apple 'soft'core, if you will.

We'll get a good long look at Snow Leopard, the next generation Mac operating system, precisely what Apple needs to blunt the growing momentum behind Microsoft and its upcoming Windows 7 release, which now appears to be way ahead of schedule with its planned October release. This could also go a long way toward heading off any buzz Google's Android operating system might be generating as well.

We'll get an extended look at the App Store, along with some updated numbers about apps available and apps already downloaded. Both numbers, I'm told, are trending far better than existing momentum should have anticipated. And this alone -- the breadth of the App Store -- could go a long way toward muting any buzz the Pre sales figures would generate since that device has no where near the same kind of developer support the iPhone has.

As far as Jobs is concerned, he won't attend. Unless he decides to. It's that simple. But there's no indication he will deviate from Apple's oft-stated remarks that he'll return to the company in late June. Which is about the same time frame analysts anticipate new iPhone hand sets. Phil Schiller will handle keynote duties Monday. I'm hearing that an additional hardware event for Apple could be on the calendar in a few weeks, and it might be at that time that Jobs returns to the public stage. Or not. But that's the buzz.

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Meantime, Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray is hearing decidedly different rumors: he's anticipating an entire family of new iPhones, $99 to $299 depending on storage and data plans. If Apple doesn't offer new eye-candy, it could put its recent stock run in jeopardy, with shares enjoying euphoric anticipation ahead of this event. Still, even hints of new hardware on the way, as well as an increasingly depleted channel, might be enough to keep shares buoyant.

Remember, this is a show for developers. A lack of sexiness as far as new hardware is concerned, along with the headlines Pre will likely generate, could mean a "sell on the news" kind of day for the Mac faithful. But that might mean opportunities for those looking at any discount ahead of the new iPhones that are almost certainly on the way.

It'll be interesting. It just may not offer the kind of pay-off spectators are hoping for. Kinda like soft vs. hard core.

I'll be live-blogging, of course, and we'll have complete coverage all day long. Stay with us!


Questions?  Comments?