What are they building in there? Speculation on the Apple Store birthday mystery

With all the chatter about Apple’s super secret sweet 10th birthday party for the Apple Store, what better time than now to engage in some trivial speculation?

There’s just something about new tech that’s much more fun when it’s shrouded in mystery and built up like some sort of Secret Service need-to-know business, isn’t there? Whatever Apple has planned for this big 10th birthday party for the Apple Store seems likely to be much more iPhone 3G than iPhone, given that it probably won’t change the very idea of shopping, whatever that would mean.

Instead, there’ll be some cool feature added to the store, possibly something to do with NFC Scanners or a separate NFC device, if you can believe the speculation from FastCompany.com.

The point is, all of this is much more fun and interesting because of the mystery. If Apple just rolled this thing/idea be into stores Thursday and nobody had bothered speculating, how many people would notice? I’ve lived with people who re-arranged the furniture in my living room and it took me weeks to figure it out.

But making employees come in for a mysterious overnight shift, covering the windows and collecting everyone’s phone so they don’t ruin the surprise? Like Tom Waits, I just want to know what they’re building in there. Unfortunately I don’t have a mole on the inside of the operation, so unless someone contacts me beforehand, I’ll have to wait it out like the rest of you. And waiting, especially waiting on something involving secret NDAs and zip-drive memos, is arduous. Waiting on something like this can make a day feel like a year.

To help pass the time let’s break down some of the loudest bits of speculation and see if we can’t tire ourselves out at least.

NFC Scanners: I’ve always thought those custom iPhones that the Apple Store uses to check people out were really unique and inventive. I guess If you use them every day they’re probably a lot more boring, so this rumor might be the most fun for Apple Store employees.

Without NFC technology in the iPhone, however, I’m not too sure how it would impact the consumer. Even if that tech arrives in the iPhone 4G or 5 or whatever it will eventually be called, I’m still not sure providing me with a new way to blow large amounts of money in short time is worthy of an NDA.

A standalone NFC-enabled device: This certainly gets the juices flowing a little more, but adds its own set of questions or concerns, at least for me. Apple has already segmented the portable market once, between the iPhone and iPad. Is a third device really a smart business move? What could it possibly accomplish, other than its inclusion of NFC technology, that couldn’t also be done by either the iPhone or iPad?

If we’re talking about something that literally does nothing but act as a mobile NFC-enabled device, that’s still intriguing but wouldn’t it need to be about the size of a credit card to make any sense? While I realize NFC can be used for much more than transactions, that’s its most obvious primary use at the moment. In my mind then, it has to be at least as convenient in size to make me want to stop bringing my wallet everywhere.

A new paint job!: All right, no one has actually mentioned this, but wouldn’t it be the most surprising? What if you walked into the Apple Store on Thursday and saw a rainbow of colors on the walls and the floor? I would not have seen it coming had I not speculated about it right here, first.

Whatever the case, we’ll all find out together tomorrow, but for now I’ll enjoy the speculation and the thought that there are a number of Apple Store executives and employees who are operating on a very 007 frequency right now. It’s hard not to be jealous! If you’ve got your own ideas for what you think the big surprise is, leave them in the comments below.

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