A few weeks ago I posted about a picture of a new video iPod with a screen covering the entire front of the device. While news has been slow since, I’m starting to wonder about what could be next for the king of portable music players (also known as PMPs, good thing they aren’t Intelligent as well). Now, realize that Apple probably had to release something else in the meantime, like say Intel-based Macs, mini-Macs, who knows what else. So the iPod has gotten left alone for a bit. Wait, my bad, we had a cheaper shuffle, a smaller Nano (1gb) and some option adjustments. Oh, and let’s not forget the iPod HIFI.
But for the past few months, the primary hard disk based iPod has been growing stale. I think it’s time for a refresh. Now, sure as hell I’ll post this and tomorrow iPod will release a whole new product line. To compensate for that, I’m going to go out on a limb to create a cracker so far out there that Apple can’t possibly match it. That way, whatever they release will be an absolute waste of shelf space until the uber-iPod follows it.
What would be the uber-iPod of which I speak? Well, let’s start of with some of the basics.
Form Factor and Screen Size It is likely that any form factor will be identical to the current dimensions to maintain compatibility with all the dock-connector options available today, including the new iPod Hi-Fi. So given those constraints it will be a tall order to offer a display larger than what is on the iPod today. However, the entire front of the iPod being a 16:9 widescreen display is a must. The tiny screen pales in comparison to a TV and there are even some digital cameras that have bigger screens. Anything less than full screen is a waste of shelf space.
Connectivity Anything less that 802.11b/g is a waste of time. And Bluetooth is almost certainly required. With the new Bluetooth stereo headphones with A2DP being available, it is a must be deliver wireless audio from the iPod. And it doesn’t stop there. I want to be able to stream to any Airport Express directly from the iPod. Think about this at parties, who has the sweetest tunes in the place. And for a variety of retail venues you can queue up your music to play. A firmware upgrade to the Express would make it so that multiple devices can connect and maybe even QUEUE the order of players so that you can have multiple DJ’s in the house. Talk about a serious party machine and social aspect of the player.
And it doesn’t stop there. I want to at least be able to connect to my iPod sitting in a charging dock at my clock radio over wireless from my desktop. I want to be able to synchronize my newly ripped CD’s without reaching for that stupid cable. And I want to be able to control what is playing on my iPod from my iTunes machine over the network. Why not? You have _dacp as part of the namespace already for the express, why not for the iPod itself. Again, it’s all software once you get the wireless in the chassis.
iTunes Music Store Here is the real advance that we need. And you need this as the first step to bury Verizon and their online music downloading service. Give people the ability to search and buy iTMS tracks from the iPod. You already added the wireless or we wouldn’t be here. With Sony’s PSP having a browser and the cability to stream audio/video, it’s a given that you should at least be able to buy tracks from iTMS and download them directly to the iPod. You just captured your Joe Sixpack market that can’t figure out computers. Well, sort of anyway.
A side effect of this would be that your protected tunes would be on your iPod and not on your desktop. So yes it is time to cough up the ability to copy music from the iPod to your desktop. Maybe limit it to protected music to keep your record companies happy, I don’t care. Everyone knows there are third-party utilities that will do it for you, so just make it available, bury in a menu and try not to screw up a good thing.
**Streaming Audio/Video **This isn’t a must, but it would be nice to be able to watch your audio/video purchases while they are downloading directly to your player. That way, you eliminate a big step of connecting your iPod to the computer to get the latest episode of Lost. You can just download it at Panara (or your free wireless provider of choice) and be done with it. Of course, you need to offer the ability to resume a download as well. And while we’re at it, bandwidth is getting cheaper every day, why not just allow people to redownload content they already paid for on a different machine. It’s certainly another option to copying from the iPod to the desktop.
VoIP via Skype Okay, this is the nail in the Verizon coffin. While it certainly seems unlikely since Skype was bought by eBay, it would be the nail in the wireless coffin. You’ve already added wireless and Bluetooth, so using a headset (wired or wireless) and creating a Skype client would be the serious end-of-the-line for competing VoIP solutions. And it would give you a telephone without partnering with wireless network providers. Face it, the phone market is hard to compete in (ask Microsoft and others) and nobody wants a gimped music player like you get on a phone (99 song limit, wtf?). So just do it and make it work well. I don’t want to listen to music and talk on the phone at the same time, so conserve that CPU and make it work. Secure, free phone calls anywhere in the world from your iPod. Who wouldn’t want one?
So in short, I’ve set the bar high and Apple has absolutely no chance of meeting my idea of the uber-iPod. So with that, I’m certain to be disappointed in whatever Apple releases next. And if I’m not disappointed, I’m going to be freaking pumped because that would be an awesome device for anyone to use.
Also, note that I left out games. Nintendo and Sony have that market, let them have it. I have a PSP and use it all the time. It’s an awesome gaming console in a pocket. In fact, it’s hard to match the screen when indoors. Gaming is unnecessary on an iPod, but everything else I mentioned would just make it take another jump into the stratosphere and truly make unmatched by any competition.
Another thing to consider is Origami. Microsoft wants the ultraportable space. They want it bad. And their device will have a larger screen, be less portable, but it will do everything mentioned above out of the box since it is Windows. It will run Skype. It will run iTunes. And it will have a hard disk to play video. So I’m not asking for much, I’m just asking Apple to stretch out a bit and go nuts.