Apple’s Got (More) Fun on Its Mind

One of Silicon Valley’s favorite games is guessing what Apple Computer  will do next.

Ever since the Cupertino, Calif-based computer maker sent out a cryptic invitation to select media to “come see some fun new products from Apple” at its headquarters Tuesday, the game is on again.

Apple rumor sites and pundits are abuzz about what it might be. Two likely areas in the news could be another Intel-based computer rollout and additions to Apple’s hot-selling iPod line. The MacMini, essentially a small, low cost box of a computer that Apple  ships without keyboard, mouse or monitor, is also due for a refresh with Intel inside.

Others see more accessories or announcements related to the hottest-selling device under Apple’s roof.

“An iPod announcement or announcements seems likely,” Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates told “And Apple moving in against their partners (selling iPod peripherals) wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

Apple already made a huge product news in January at Macworld Expo when it unveiled the first Intel-based Macs (delivered several months ahead of schedule). Nothing so grand is expected Tuesday; but Apple likes to dazzle, too, if past product releases are any indication.

The MacMini can use standard PC keyboard, mouse and monitor which gives buyers the option of using those PC peripherals it already owns. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said at Macworld the company would be transitioning its product line to Intel processors and away from PowerPC over the course of the next year.

It may be a stretch to see an Intel-based MacMini the feature attraction of a “fun new products” rollout. But analysts say Apple could add a few wrinkles in upgrading the MacMini such as including the ability to record TV shows.

In the iPod realm, ThinkSecret, AppleInsider and other Apple rumor sites are predicting a “Hi-Fi boombox” accessory. If true, it would rank as the first major iPod accessory from Apple — which has seen a huge market of iPod add-ons grow around its best-selling music player. By some estimates, the market for iPod accessories is already worth several hundred million dollars. Apple did roll out the iPod Radio Remote at Macworld with the ability to listen to FM radio stations and display station and song information on the iPod screen.

If not Tuesday, at some point Apple is expected to introduce a version of its video iPod with a higher-resolution and slightly bigger display; even an inch more would be more than a twenty percent increase in size. Current models are available with 30 and 60 gigabytes of storage, which is plenty for music. For video Apple might offer more storage and also improve the battery life which currently is around an hour for video.

“‘Fun’ sounds like crypto for consumer to me,” Kay added.

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