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The wait is almost over. When Apple executives take to the stage today (March 25) to kick off the company's "Show Time" event, expect the focus to be on services and nothing but services.
How do we know? Because Apple just spent the better of the last week making hardware announcement after hardware announcement with an eye toward clearing the stage for its rumored video and news services.
A new iPad mini plus an updated 10.5-inch iPad Air. Processor boosts for the iMac lineup. The long-awaited sequel to the AirPods wireless earbuds. Apple pushed it all out last week, taking care of just about every hardware announcement it could in advance of the March 25 press event. (There are some exceptions, of course — AirPower, please call home, your family misses you very much.)
"It looks to me like Apple is trying to build anticipation with the staggered releases, but at the same time, it is getting the hardware updates out of the way so that its new services get full attention next week," said Avi Greengart, lead analyst at Techsponential.
How to Live Stream Apple’s Show Time Event
As it usually does for its product event, Apple plans to live stream Monday’s get-together starting at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. If you’ve got an Apple TV, just go to the Events app at the appointed hour.
You can also watch from Apple’s web site. You’ll need an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 10 or later or a Mac running Safari on macOS 10.12. Windows users can hop on a PC running Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge.
A Focus on Services
There's a reason why Apple wants everyone talking about its new services on Monday and beyond — revenue from services is a growing part of Apple's business which is taking on greater importance amid slowing iPhone sales. During the 2018 holiday quarter, Apple recorded just under $10.9 billion in revenue from services, which includes the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud among other things. That was a 19 percent increase from the year-ago quarter, and Apple would love to keep that growth going throughout 2019 and beyond.
So what services will Apple introduce Monday to help beef up that part of its business? The company could always have some surprises in store, but based on rumors surrounding the Show Time event, here's a look at what Apple could announce along with odds on the likelihood of it happening and how you can watch.
An Apple Video Service
It's almost a dead certainty that Apple will talk up its video plans on Monday. But what's less clear is what direction Apple's still unnamed service is going to take.
We know that it won't include Netflix — CEO Reed Hastings said as much this past week. Nor will it feature live sports — that's straight from Apple's Eddy Cue. And despite the fact that Apple has reportedly shelled out $1 billion creating its own original content, that may not be the initial focus of the new service, at least according to a report in Recode.
Instead, Apple's streaming service sounds like it's going to focus on bundling up content from other sources and selling it for a monthly fee, of which the company will take a healthy cut. Expect some of that original Apple programming to be featured in there, though some reports suggest Apple might offer its original shows for free to owners of iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs and other devices.
Carolina Milanesi, a principal analyst for Creative Strategies, said that over time, she'd like to see Apple's new service showcase the investment it's made in original content, but that the short-term focus could be on providing a good library of programming in a one-stop shop. "Right now, I have different subscriptions —Prime, Hulu, Netflix and cable," she said. "While my Smart TV helps me navigate my content OK, there are still a few steps that could be avoided through one service."
A big question Apple will have to answer Monday is how its streaming service stands out from established offerings from Netflix and Amazon, among others. One way could be Apple Music — it's not out of the question that Apple could offer a bundle that combines its fledgling video service with its popular streaming music offering.
"Netflix has tremendous content depth along with compelling exclusives. Amazon now has its own award-winning content, but Prime’s value proposition is a combination of things to watch along with shipping and other services and discounts," Greengart said. "Apple can offer unique content, unique bundles, or both. But consumers are spoiled for choice right now, and if Apple’s shows aren’t worth watching, bundling Music or online storage is not going to be enough."
What We Think Will Happen: It's no secret Apple's going to announce a video service Monday. Look for Apple to detail what channels will be included in its service and preview some of the original programming it's lined up. We think Apple Music remains a separate service for now.
An Apple News Service
Apple's iOS app already features a news app where you can read curated articles tailored to your interests. But Apple looks like it's going to bet you'd pay to read even more articles from more select sources.
The company is reportedly developing a service that's been dubbed "Netflix for News" — a magazine-style app that's going to collect articles from assorted magazines and newspapers and put them behind a paywall. Apple will charge $9.99 a month for this service, according to multiple reports, and it's likely to unveil exactly who's involved during Monday's event.
"Maybe there could be a tiered approach where for the lower subscriptions you only have a number of articles you can read over a month and that number changes as you go up the price point," Milanesi said. "Or depending on what [Apple's] been able to do with publisher ,it could be as simple as $9.99 [for] read-as-much-as-you-can on a set number of publications and then you add for premium ones — kind of what you do with cable."
It sounds like a good deal for potential subscribers who will get access to multiple news sources for one fee that's lower than what they'd have to pay if they were to sign up for each service individually. Publishers, however, may be reluctant to fork over half of the subscription fee to Apple and divvy up the remaining pile among themselves. That's why the Wall Street Journal is reportedly in, but the Washington Post and New York Times appear to be giving Apple's subscription news service a pass.
What We Think Will Happen: Apple's news service is all but a certainty. What's less clear is which partners will be unveiled.
An Apple Credit Card
Apple likes to trumpet Apple Pay, its mobile wallet service, and how many transactions it's involved in (1.8 billion in the holiday quarter alone). So you can imagine the company would like some of the purchases to be done with an Apple-branded credit card.
That's apparently what Apple is working on with Goldman Sachs, according to a Bloomberg report. Exact details aren't known yet, but the Apple credit card would be part of a revamped Wallet app in iOS 12. Reportedly, the forthcoming iOS 12.2 update includes changes to Apple Pay and Wallet that would support this payments feature.
What We Think Will Happen: A credit card seems like a lot to announce on top of two streaming services that we know will debut. But Apple Pay itself was unveiled during 2014's iPhone 6 launch, so it's not like Apple hasn't found time to work in mobile payments news amid other product announcements in the past.
If Monday's event is focused on Apple expanding its business beyond core products like smartphones, tablets and computers, then Apple could shed more light on what it's working on with cars. After all, it's not really a secret that the company has some sort of automotive effort going on, though the exact nature of Apple's plans — is it working on a more elaborate version of CarPlay, software for self-driving cars or something else entirely? — remains up in the air.
Considering that Apple reportedly moved 200 employees off its long-rumored automotive efforts earlier this year, it's unlikely that Apple will have anything to publicly announce any time soon. But rumors about Apple's interest in the car are likely t continue, especially as Apple mulls new revenue-generating opportunities.
What We Think Will Happen: We'd be shocked if Apple even hints at something involving Project Titan.
It's also no secret that Apple expects augmented reality to be part of its future. Tim Cook has spoken enthusiastically about the possibilities of the technology, Apple's released two versions of its ARKit developer tools to help build AR apps, and the company is even reportedly working on AR glasses that could go into production by the end of the year, according to some reports.
But AR isn't a service — not yet anyhow. And Apple's AR efforts to date have been pretty much tied to the iPhone, an Apple product that enjoy its day in the sun later this year.
What We Think Will Happen: Expect AR to be a topic of conversation at Apple's developer conference in June. But not here.
Any Hardware at All?
Yes, in less than a week we've seen new iPads, new iMac, and a new set of AirPods. But have you done for us lately, Apple?
As unlikely as new hardware products may seem — "People get distracted when there are shiny new things," Milanesi said — there are a handful of devices that could fit in with the services Apple is pitching on Monday. "The only hardware that would make a lot of sense on Monday is an Apple TV with integrated Siri, similar to the FireTV Cube," Milanesi said. Other reports suggest that Apple might revive the iPod touch this year, though an event focusing on video and news subscriptions seems like the wrong fit for that kind of product.
What We Think Will Happen: There's a reason Apple announced its hardware updates this week, and that was to clear the decks so that its new services could enjoy the spotlight.
Credit: Tom's Guide