Apple is promising a big announcement on Tuesday, taking over the homepage of its website with a teaser promising that tomorrow is a day "that you'll never forget."
A visit to the Apple website cues up this cryptic message: "Tomorrow is just another day. That you'll never forget. "Below the message are a number of clocks tuned to different time zones that all coincide to 10:00 EST.
Suffice it to say that Apple has some kind of big announcement planned, but sources say a streaming music service is unlikely. So what does Apple have in store now? Here are 7 leading possibilities:
1) Streaming Music
The entire media and technology industry has been waiting for months for Apple to add a full-song, on-demand streaming element to iTunes, ever since it bought and subsequently shut down Lala.com. Will it be a locker service that lets users stream songs purchased in iTunes from any device? Will it be a monthly subscription service? We don't yet know.
But it doesn't seem likely that tomorrow will be the day this is finally unveiled. Label sources tell Billboard that there's been no meaningful advancement of any discussion of a streaming music service. Even if Apple were to launch a version of a streaming service that somehow did not require label licensing (like a version of a storage locker), usually the labels still get a courtesy heads up, which in this case they haven't received. We do know that Apple has been developing a data center in North Carolina filled with servers necessary to handle the demand for any kind of media streaming service (music, video, etc.), and we know that facility is finished.
2) Longer Song Samples
We know that Apple has been making the rounds with publishers and labels to get the agreements necessary to lengthen it's current 30-second song sample to 90 second samples. And while that's very cool and all, it's hardly the kind of upgrade that deserves a tease on the Apple homepage. More likely, this is just one more indication that the streaming service mentioned above is coming to fruition.
3) Ping/Facebook Integration
Apple's iTunes social network was unveiled with great fanfare back in September, but landed with pretty much a thud as it had no integration with Facebook. Any social network existing in a silo like this is a non-starter. Add in the cumbersome process artists must slog through to establish official artist profiles, and you have a service long on promise but short on delivery. Tomorrow's announcement could be that Apple and Facebook have worked out their differences and will not integrate. But that still seems a little thin for the proclamation that it will be a day "you'll never forget." Just last week it introduced a much-needed integration with Twitter and did so through a mere press release. Unless... there's more to it. Maybe Facebook/Ping are integrating beyond just iTunes. Maybe Ping becomes Facebook's default music "service." Maybe Apple buys Facebook, though that is unlikely.
4) The Beatles (Finally) Go Digital
iTunes and every other legitimate digital music service or retailer has been without the Beatles catalog since the digital revolution began. And any time Apple hints at a big music announcement, the Beatles invariably enter into the rumor mill. Whenever the Fab Four's catalog does eventually make it to iTunes, it'll likely be done in a big way and through a big deal. Is it a "day you'll never forget"? Maybe. "Another Day" is a Paul McCartney song released on his solo record "Ram," but written during the Beatles' "Let it Be" sessions. Coincidence? Hint? Misdirection?
Of course the announcement may not be music related at all, or at least not music-centric. Apple and iTunes offers a number of other types of media, such as videos (movies, TV) and apps. And all this media is used to make its core business more profitable -- devices and software. So it's possible tomorrow's news may have more of an ecosystem feel to it, such as...
5) Upgraded Software
Sounds rather "meh" at first glance, but it could have major ramifications depending on the capabilities allowed. We've been waiting for a promised upgrade to the iOS operating system that powers such devices as the iPhone, iPod, iPad and Apple TV. While an upgrade iOS 4.2 may sound very sexy, there's buzz that it could allow for such things as streaming TV directly to your iPad, some kind of Ping integration between all devices running the technology. Most of what we know about iOS 4.2 already includes more mundane features like organizing apps into folders, wireless printing, a Gaming Center, and other improvements.
6) New Product
A new iPad? A new iPhone? But Apple has released plenty of new products and never teased it this type of way. Usually new products are shown off at special press events, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs can demo devices on stage.
Again, possible as part of a broader service announcement, but unlikely to be something that's the centerpiece of the news.
The main mind-bender here is that Apple has posted the teaser on its homepage, something rarely seen from the company. That indicates that whatever is being announced tomorrow is no small deal. It's big enough that Apple wants to get the news our right away and not take the time to schedule a special live press event. Or at least it better not be, or Apple is going to lose some credibility.
What do you think Apple will announce tomorrow? Share your best guesses in the comments.