Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the Apple launch of the New iPad in San Francisco (Getty)
Jon Swartz, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO - Tech's biggest week of the year unfolds Monday with Apple's first major product event in nine months, the year's preeminent video gaming show and a dark cloud lingering over the industry.
It starts here first at Apple's developers' conference, with hopes among the Apple faithful of a wow product - whether a new iPhone, iPad or groundbreaking mystery gadget. Apple CEO Tim Cook opens the show with a keynote address.
The klieg lights are particularly intense on Apple, which is expected to announce new software for iPhone and iPad, presaging new products in the pipeline. Pressure has intensified on the company without its iconic leader and visionary, Steve Jobs, and Apple's stock and coolness factor have taken hits accordingly.
Though Apple faces withering competition from the likes of Samsung - now the world's biggest seller of smartphones - Google and others, tech analyst Patrick Moorhead doesn't expect anything eye-popping now.
"As Apple painfully learned from Maps and (voice-activated service) Siri, don't bring something out unless it's perfect and unique," says Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy, alluding to consumer criticisms of both products. "What I do expect are a lot of software and service announcements."
Down the coast in Los Angeles, the drama isn't as high but is just as crucial. There's a hardware war brewing between Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4. Both consoles could cost about $400.
Interest is keen for PlayStation 4 hardware, which was absent at its official launch in February but is expected to be launched Monday. Should PS4 do well in the U.S., it could tip the balance of power.
For now, Sony leads in global shipments through PS3 but trails Microsoft's Xbox 360 in the USA.
The concurrent tech conferences come against a backdrop of reports that nine major Internet companies - including Apple, Google and Microsoft - quietly cooperated with the previously undisclosed covert government surveillance program known as PRISM.
Apple, Google, Microsoft and several other companies have denied involvement in the program. So far, none of the nine companies' stocks has taken a hit and the scandal isn't likely to create a consumer backlash against the company's commercial products, Moorhead and other analysts say.
Apple, which issued the strongest denial last week, would rather focus its energies on products - and its fans are pining for it to redefine another market as it did the phone and digital tablet with iPhone and iPad, respectively. Its last major new product release was iPad Mini in October.
There's always a chance it might refresh everyday markets like watches or TVs, as rumored. But that will come another day - the question is how soon, says Charles King, principal analyst at market researcher Pund-IT.