The online home for Greg Leedberg, since 1995.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Video iPod!

Apple today announced what people had been predicting for quite awhile: a video-capable iPod. I think this is a great, great annoucement. You may already know that I own a regular fourth-generation, and I have nothing but good things to say about it. Combined with a Griffin iTrip, I use my iPod just about every day, and have brought it with me on every recent trip of mine. Especially combined with a few good podcasts, the iPod really helps pass the time on long commutes, during exercising, and plane rides. It really changes the way you think about portable music, since you are now able to carry around your entire music collection, not just a few select songs.

I was a big fan of the idea of an iPod Photo when that came out, but I think Apple dropped the ball in a couple key areas. First, it was way too expensive. The cheapest Photo model was $499, which I think is more than most people are willing to pay for something that is predominately a music player. There were $299 and $399 regular models out at the time, and the addition of photos wasn't worth $100 - $200 extra. The Photo models were also larger than the existing music-only models, which took away some of the "slickness" that the iPod is known for. The iPod Photo failed, but only because of these tangential issues.

Since then, Apple got rid of the music-only iPod, and replaced those two models with color-screen Photo models for the same price. This, I think was a good move. The reason I was a big fan of the Photo in the first place was that now that digital photography is becoming increasingly more popular, people are beginning to want to take these digital photos with them and show them to people. I know that, for me, I have on several occasions showed my digital pics to people by hooking my camera up to a TV and displaying them there. It's much better, more convenient, and cheaper than printing those pictures and making a physical album. But, you have to carry a camera with you. Combining this functionality with an iPod is perfect. Generally I'm against the idea of combing electronic devices into multi-function devices, but in this case it makes sense because: a) There's no sense in having a device that only displays pictures, and b) Adding the photo functionality to an iPod doesn't (ideally) add any bulk to the existing iPod.

Now, with the video iPod, I once again think it is a great idea in its own right. You can buy TV shows and music videos for a very reasonable price ($1.99) at the iTunes Music Store, and then watch them on your computer and also carry them around with you. Buy an AV adapter and you can watch display your videos and photos on a TV. Since most iPod owners tend to always have their iPod on them, this means you can always have your photos and videos ready for viewing. Low-res videos are, I think, slightly less useful on the go than photos, but still not a bad idea if gracefully integrated with the existing iPod functionality.

And this time, Apple has actually pulled it off. The video models replace the existing Photo/music models, and carry the same price tags ($299 and $399). And now you get more space (30GB and 60GB, respectively), a smaller iPod (finally!), and longer battery life (supposedly).

My predictions for the future: Apple will release a high-res video iPod, and this will give birth to the ability to download and watch full-length movies that you can watch on your TV. With all distribution removed, Apple will be able to charge very reasonable rates ($5 - $10), just like they did with music. Due to DMCA restrictions, I doubt you will be able to rip your existing DVDs, though. Also, Apple will need to allow you to import your existing video collection (primarily so you can get home videos, which will be the big selling point for a large portion of the market, I think). Lastly, I still think that for just music, 20GB is the "sweet" spot for most consumers. I know it is for me. Now that regular iPods start at 30GB (overkill if you just want to listen to music), expect a 15 - 20GB iPod nano (or maybe, just maybe, a brand-new line of iPods similar to the now-defunct iPod mini).

I love my 20GB 4G iPod and have no desire to upgrade right now, but I think Apple has a great selection of new iPods, and am happy to know that if mine died and I had to upgrade, there are nice models to choose from.

Way to go, Apple.