By adding wireless to the iPod, Apple could enable a number of additional markets for the iTunes music store. Being able to use an iPod without a computer enables a large number of people that cannot afford to have a computer system or the bandwidth to download music to use the iPod for their music. However, trying to implement something like the graphical interface of iTunes on a small iPod screen seems unreasonable given the lackluster history of Internet surfing on the small screen (think Treo, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile).
The market for such a feature is not your regular computer user with a broadband connection. As such, the market cannot be addressed by something that complicated. So I propose the following solution: The iTunes Music Store within a store. Take your average shopper at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, or whatever your local flavor happens to be in your town. A customer browsing the CD rack should be able to power up their iPod, enable wireless, and connect to the Wal-Mart kiosk network.
While connected, they can browse a remote library of music that is available on the CD rack (just like browsing a remote iTunes library with another instance of iTunes). If they decide they want to buy a track or two, they can do some magic on the iPod to indicate their purchase intentions, swipe their pre-paid iTunes music subscription card, and walla, the track is transferred to the iPod. Wal-Mart gets a small cut and the customer walks out happy without having to use a computer to rip and copy their music. They could easily offer the option of regular (128AAC) or lossless (ALC) for different price points (say the current $.99 for the AAC, and $1.29 for the ALC), or $9.99 for the entire disk ($12.99 for lossless).
There is a certain fear that such a change could impact the bottom line at Wal-Mart. However, for most users getting the tracks off their iPod is not likely and they still can’t burn it to CD or play it in their car (without buying more iPod accessories, and we know that is where the mark-up really exists). They have an unlimited virtual inventory of music on release date without having to stock an abundant supply of disks and loss-leader pricing. This could really change the marketplace for music, particularly as more folks more towards the iPod route.
Another great way to offer tracks would be enabled by allowing iPods to share their library just like iTunes on the desktop. If a bunch of us sitting at the coffee shop could listen to each other’s libraries, we could find a song we like (that was previously bought on the iTMS) and buy our own copy of it. This would eliminate the need to browse the entire iTMS on a small device, and eliminate the bandwidth of people listening to 30 second clips on their portable devices. It might even be possible to add the ability to buy a song with the same album name/artist name/song title (or the entire album), but there is some luck involved there since they aren’t able to directly link the actual track to an iTMS purchase.
There are likely a bunch of other marketing scenarios that come into play with a wireless-enabled iPod. I’ve offered the above as market-reasons why it should be added compared to the obvious “consumers want it so make it so” mentality. There are a ton of more consumer-oriented reasons to add wireless, which I’ll cover in another post.