I admit to some trepidation regarding Apple's "Let's Rock" special event tomorrow. It's likely that - given the title, Apple's past history of music-related announcements in September, and the constant beat of the rumor drums - we'll see updates to the iPod line and perhaps a revision to iTunes. Also likely is an update to the iPhone software, given the message one of our readers received from Steve Jobs promising an iPhone bug fix this month (see "Jobs Personally Acknowledges iPhone Bug and Upcoming Fix," 2008-08-19).
But I'm not really thinking much about what new music-related products Apple may release, since all my old iPods still work fine, and I'd be shocked if Apple actually updates iTunes in a way that makes it useful for families with multiple Macs. I'm more interested to see if Apple can pull off a successful launch of new products without the kind of bugs, mistakes, and followup flailing that have marked recent launches, ranging from MobileMe to iTunes 7.7 to the iPhone 3G.
If this launch really is focused on iPods, Apple should be able to pull it off without significant difficulty, since the company has done many such releases without notable problems and the iPod line doesn't require significant integration with other products and services. However, if a major update to iTunes is involved, or anything that revolves around MobileMe, the integration issues across Apple's many product lines become much trickier, and the chance for problems all the greater.
It's ironic - Apple is in many ways finding itself in Microsoft's shoes. The more products you have, and the tighter the integration between them, the harder it is to push something out the door quickly and cleanly. Whereas Microsoft has Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, Outlook, and MSN, Apple now has Mac OS X, the iPhone software, iTunes, and iLife on the software side; the Mac, iPhone/iPod touch, and iPod on the hardware side; and of course the iTunes Store and MobileMe. That's a lot of software, hardware, and Internet services to keep in sync.