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Apple’s Showtime occasion: What to anticipate and watch

Apple’s March 25 launch event is upon us, and we’re expecting it to shed some light on Apple’s new video streaming service, magazine subscription services and rumored new credit card.

Apple’s March event could be all about services

After weeks of rumors, Apple sent out an official invitation for a launch event on March 25 at 10 a.m. PT to be held at the Steve Jobs theater in its Cupertino headquarters. The tagline on the invite for this event: “It’s show time” followed by a black and white countdown reminiscent of a classic Hollywood film — further proof that this event could be about video.


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Even before outlets we ever had an official date for the event, we were already expecting some kind of Spring announcement from Apple. In 2018 the company held its iPad event in Chicago during the last week of March. Except this time around the event is not expected to be about iPads (Apple already announced that new line-up ahead of the event), or hardware of any sort for that matter. The main headliners, according to the reports, will be Apple’s new subscription services.

Apple’s Netflix killer

Over a year and $1 billion dollars after we first heard news of it, Apple appears to be ready to reveal the new video streaming service. It’s no secret Apple has been gearing up to launch its own original content for a Netflix-style streaming service with a library of at least 25 original shows ranging from dramas, comedies, docuseries and kids’ programming. Big name celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Reese WitherspoonJennifer AnistonJennifer Garner, and directors like J.J. Abrams and Stephen Spielberg are on board, some of whom may actually be attending the event.

But even a powerful tech giant like Apple could have an uphill climb in this new arena with established players such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video and soon maybe even Disney all vying for your screen time.

According to a recent New York Times report, Apple may also face a culture clash when it comes to dealing with Hollywood. Apple’s secretive nature seems to be one of the concerns for people working with the company as noted in the report. We’re used to the company being tight-lipped about its products, but apparently even the other players involved with Apple don’t have much clarity as to the release time and marketing plans for some of its shows. The report also says that Apple has been sensitive about how technology, specifically its own products, will be portrayed on the shows.

But Apple’s may not be relying solely on its own content for success. According to a Bloomberg report the Cupertino giant is courting some bigger names like Showtime, HBO and Starz to join its streaming service. One player who’s definitely out of the mix: Netflix. The company’s CEO Reed Hastings confirmed that the company will not be part of Apple’s streaming service, and warned the space will get very competitive, very soon.

And don’t expect any live sports on the service any time soon either. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Apple’s Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, revealed the company is not interested in licensing sports content at this time. Instead they seem to have their eye on becoming a sort of middle man between the fans and the action with a curated sports experience within the TV app.

Apple may even be willing to explore offering up its content for free to attract more eyeballs to its services. Rich Greenfield, an analyst for BTIG suggests Apple’s original shows could be free for iOS users, with the option to pay a subscription fee to add other providers to the service. Although we won’t know the exact payment model for certain until the event.

Magazine service

The other big service announcement could come as a subscription news service. Apple’s news service would be a premium subscription plan on its current News app that would allow users to view content from different publishers (magazine and newspapers). The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal are just some of the major news outlets rumored to be in talks with Apple to be part of this service. But according to a Wall Street Journal report, publishers are hesitant to sign on because Apple would take 50 percent of the revenue from the service.

Apple credit card?

And the last thing Apple could announce at this event? A credit card. According to Bloomberg, iOS 12.2 will bring a co-branded Apple credit card in partnership with Goldman Sachs. It’s rumored to be much like a regular credit card, including purchase rewards and up to 2 percent cash back. It would likely live in your Wallet — the digital one, that is.

AirPods, iPads and iMac updates

This week Apple gave us another big clue that this event would not be about hardware after the company released major updates to three of its products. Apple announced new iPads (Air and Mini) on Monday, updates to its iMacs on Tuesday, and second generation AirPods on Wednesday. The only other product left as a possibility at this point would be that AirPower charging mat which Apple teased nearly two years ago.

The new AirPods didn’t get a full redesign, but did get a new H1 chip, which would enable a faster connection and better battery life, hands-free Siri  for things like volume control with your voice, and a wireless charging case option which can hold more charge.

AirPods with a standard charging case costs $159, the same price as the originals, or $199 for the wireless charging option. The wireless charging case on its own will sell for $79.

The new iPads didn’t get the full Cinderella treatment either, unlike last year’s Pro’s which flaunted a sleeker design with flattened edges, barely there bezels, FaceID and USB-C port. But at least they kept that headphone jack.

After a four year hiatus, the new iPad Mini, which was in most need of a refresh, looks pretty much the same: it has a 7.9-inch screen, thicker bezels, and home button, but the tech inside has improved. It now has True Tone retina display, A12 Bionic chip, M12 coprocessor and Apple Pencil support (the original though, not the new one).

The iPad Air has similar specs as the Mini, but with a larger 10.5 inch retina screen. It keeps its crown as the lightest of the larger models weighing in at just 1 pound, but it’s no longer the slimmest one of all. The iPad Pros robbed it of that honor last year.

And while they’re both significantly cheaper than the iPad Pros, $399 for the 64GB Mini and $499 for the 64GB Air, they’re still more expensive than last year’s 9.7-inch model which starts at $329 for 32GB.

Lastly, Apple’s iMacs which were also due for an update. They still look exactly the same as the previous generations, but they did get significant performance upgrades under the hood: eighth- and ninth-generation Intel Core CPU and new AMD Radeon GPUs.

With hardware out of the way, Apple can now focus solely on software and services on March 25. 

How to watch live: Monday, March 25

The star-studded event will take place at the Steve Jobs Theater at the company’s Apple Park campus in Cupertino. CNET will have a group of veteran Apple watchers on the scene, backed up by dozens more around the world along with some celebrities and media moguls thrown into the mix this time around.

CNET will host a live show and live blog about the event.

Preshow start time: 9 a.m. PT, noon ET (See the start time where you are)

Event start time: 10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET (See the start time where you are) with a live video feed of the event on Apple’s website

Live blog from Cupertino: We’ll have a full team live-blogging on-site, including Connie Guglielmo, Joan Solsman and Shara Tibken.

En español, tambien: Gabriel Sama will be providing live Spanish-language coverage for CNET en español.

Video simulcast: Join Ashley Esqueda, Vanessa Hand Orellana and Lexy Savvides from our studio in San Francisco for real-time coverage and analysis live on CNET.com and YouTube.


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