Why the Next iPod Will Blow You Away

It’s not a question of whether a new iPod is coming. (It will.) It’s not even a question of when. (Soon.) What everyone has been wondering since January is how similar it will be to the iPhone.

What’s really baffling is how many people are convinced that the next iPod is going to keep the same physical click wheel, small display form factor when Apple Inc. has all the resources for the multi-touch screen technology that everyone has been crapping their pants over for the past year.

We already know the super iPod, which some say could come as early as next month or as late as January, exists. Jobs confirmed it on the day of the iPhone launch, saying he has a team working on an iPod that runs OS X. All the pieces are in place, so why not release it right away?

There seems to be this misconception that Apple now has an allegiance to AT&T that it doesn’t want to sour. While Apple probably does have some added incentives for pushing phones — Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster estimates the five-year exclusivity agreement with AT&T bought Apple a $3 per month cut for iPhone users with data plans and $8 for each new contract — they’re not giving up on the portable player market.

If there’s going to be cannibalization of Apple, it better be by Apple.

The other reasoning I’ve heard is that it’s in Apple’s best interest to avoid releasing a product that might steal some of the iPhone’s thunder, a practice in the technology industry known as avoiding cannibalization. It’s a funny argument, especially after Steve Jobs’ statement in June, saying in response to a question of whether the iPhone might hurt iPod sales that if there’s going to be cannibalization of Apple, it better be by Apple.

The company rarely cripples a product to protect another line. When the MacBook hit the market last year, they were nearly on par specs-wise with the pricier MacBook Pro for months. This is a company that traditionally devotes a timeframe to focus on a particular product line’s launch/update and release the best product for the line’s set price point, worrying about its competing lines later.

The brick wall with the iPhone is that Apple can only go so far in converting people to AT&T. More than half a million of the phones were sold within the first couple weeks. I think the “wow” factor has done its job grabbing the early adopters. For those people whose cell contracts are expiring in a few months, they have their phone purchases planned, and no iPod is going to change that.

So now that Apple has taken the smart phone market by storm, it’s about time to tighten its grip on its flagship market, while flexing its muscles into a few others.

It’s a Widescreen iPod

There is little doubt that the next iPod will be widescreen with the touch-sensitive controls that Apple has put so much development time and money into. The form factor will probably be similar to the iPhone: few buttons and a full bodied screen for watching videos.

Such a device, with a storage capacity on par with current generation iPods at between 30 and 80 GB, will devour the digital player market. Microsoft’s Zune, which should have used the time since the iPhone’s announcement to photocopy the touch-screen concept, will be left in the dust.

New features beyond what we see on the iPhone’s implementation of iPod is the ability to display dynamic, music-synchronized lyrics for portable, drunken karaoke, as a new Apple patent suggests. The functionality, which may or may not be available when the product launches, would be added to the iPhone through a software update.

But the bigger picture is what this will do for the film industry. Not many could tolerate watching a two-hour flick on 3-inch iPod screen. This new device, along with the iPhone, two fully capable portable video machines, will really get people watching videos on-the-go. This means big sales of TV shows and movies on iTunes, and no doubt stronger interest from movie studios to get their catalogs on the store.

This new device… will really get people watching videos on-the-go.

Many assume this is where Apple will stop, that it will only deliver the iPod section of the iPhone interface because, well, it’s an iPod. And just delivering those features would be big news to many consumers and industry executive. But I think the Cupertino-based company is ready to keep moving.

It’s a PDA

As we’ve seen with the iPhone, the multi-touch screen gives the user infinitely more power to interact with the software, easily inputting and accessing data. This means the next iPod will have the ability to revive and conquer a dying market: the Personal Digital Assistants (PDA).

The iPod has long had software for viewing information like contacts, calendars and text notes. But the user could never edit or add data. The click wheel might be great for listening to music and moving between lists, but it’s terrible for input.

The click wheel might be great for listening to music and moving between lists, but it’s terrible for input.

Apple even experimented with an onscreen keyboard for the last update to the iPod line with the library search function. But using the wheel to select individual letters is as intuitive as pressing a tiny button on a cell phone six times to enter a comma (that is, not very).

However, the widescreen iPod will allow all of the deep software functionality of the iPhone to carry over. Managing and syncing your calendars, notes and contacts will be identical to that of the iPhone.

This should be reason enough for the iPod to steal this coming holiday season, which so far seems to be absent of any new, hot products (besides the then-six-month-old iPhone). But it seems to be in Apple’s best interest to go one step further.

And It’s an Internet Communication Device

This is the area that many are uncertain about. Will the iPod include wifi Internet access via Safari?

Apple didn’t spend months of porting and developing Safari for Windows just for one phone. The company is readying a full takeover of the browser market like it did with the iTunes digital jukebox using the “iPod halo effect.” Offering bookmarks and RSS synchronization from Safari to iPod, Apple will include with every iPod a copy of Safari 3 on the software disc, alongside iTunes and QuickTime.

With wifi in place, Apple can take full advantage of its partnership with Google and Yahoo, offering maps, YouTube and weather to Podders whenever they’re near a hotspot.

And with more than three times the storage of an iPhone, users may be able to easily save map directions, weather forecasts and their favorite prairie dog videos to the device for access when away from a hotspot.

Google and Yahoo didn’t jump so eagerly on this partnership (with Yahoo offering free POP mail access, something it doesn’t even do for PC customers) for a company that is just beginning to test the mobile market. They were promised a wifi iPod, and it’s on the way.

The possibility of every iPod owner having a wireless-enabled device with them at all times is huge. Apple has big plans for their wifi generation of products, centered around the direct communication of iPods and iPhones in close proximity, a feature coined by the Zune.

Apple filed a patent in September detailing the plans. Device owners can discover others in their proximity and transmit all types of data at blazing 802.11g router speeds. Imagine meeting someone at a bar and being able to exchange contact info by simply sending your vCard to that person’s iPod or phone. Or meeting up with your buddy before a road trip and transmitting the directions to his iPod. The possibilities are endless.

And let’s not forget that Apple has confirmed that the AIM client iChat is on the way to the iPhone via software update.

We could also see the iPod acting as a wireless multimedia remote for the Apple TV, a device Jobs said was launched initially only to test the waters.

The iPod isn’t called an iMusic or an iMultimedia. It’s an iPod, a purposely ambiguous name that has allowed the device to branch off into every area of technology. Jobs loves device convergence, and now that the technology is ready, Apple will be ready to execute.

iChat is on the way

Since I’ve spun a ton of predictions into one giant rumor, I might as well throw one more on the pile. Harkening back to the old days, the new iPods will only be available in white. If the overwhelming popularity of the black iPod and the pricier black MacBook have shown Apple anything, it’s that people will pay more for a prettier paint job.

So I would start saving your pennies because the next iPod is going to be a doozy.


2 comments so far

  1. […] http://bigthawt.com/2007/07/24/next-ipod/ ethicka: There’s no way it’ll come out Sept 5 because they’re dumping their iPod stock on college kids (the buy a mac get a free nano deal isn’t up until 9/16). TdiFFRob6876: I wonder what the Zune will look like once the new iPod line is released. EerFoolWVU: I can’t believe I’m the only one that thought of the Texas quarterback when I read this! WolfDV: I want just want a new nano with 16 or 32gb of flash mem in the current form factor (not that rumored fat-nano) blup3ace: does anyone have the leaked pictures of the new nano? most were taken down. […]

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