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About the Zune update, today's Apple news

So I'm in Redmond this week, as you may know. Yesterday, Microsoft was forced to prematurely announce the details of its upcoming Zune 3 platform when Fry's Electronics leaked details about the new devices and software features. (And here's that hi-res shot I was looking for.) To be clear, that is exactly what happened: Microsoft wasn't trying to "spoil" today's Apple event, at which the Cupertino company is expected to announce new iPods and a new version of iTunes. In fact, it's pretty obvious that Microsoft would have preferred to announce their new Zune wares after Apple.

Anyhoo. As ZDNet's Sam Diaz notes, today is a big day for Apple. Their event starts at 10:00 am PST. At that time, pretty precisely, I'll be talking to someone from the Zune team at the Microsoft campus. (They had Zune MVPs through campus yesterday.) It's a weird bit of timing, the Apple event and the meeting, that is, and not something I'd normally mention beforehand, but the cat is pretty much out of the bag on Zune 3, so there you go.

Regarding Apple's big day, it's pretty clear from the rumors that there's not much planned, from a product standpoint, and I see this as just another example of how the iPod market is maturing. NYT's always-excellent blogger, Saul Hansell, put it this way this morning:

Expect a lot of socks at Apple’s event Tuesday. iPod Socks are the sort of brand building fluff that Apple talks about when it isn’t changing the fate of humanity.

What an excellent way to put it. But I think the reason this is indeed a big day for Apple is, frankly, Steve Jobs. People are curious about the guy's health, and for good reason. And while Apple's penchant for secrecy may work wonders for product launches, it's not doing much to overcome investor fears about Jobs. If he looks OK today, at least one analyst has predicted that Apple's stock will skyrocket. Fair enough.

I can't wait to see what Apple announces, though I'm worried it won't be all that exciting. And I'm very curious to talk with the Zune folks about their underrated platform.

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