Future iPod

Robert Cringely starts the rumors going for next January’s MacExpo. He expects an iTablet to be announced then, which is something I agree would make sense. The problem I find with his theory is that he bases a lot of it on Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) networking technology and the use of the tablet as a hub for your entertainment and computer equipment. I’m sure there’s room for such a device but I see it more as a wireless screen, not a whole computer.

The post on Onlineblog which is where I found the Cringely article mentions that a video iPod is a better bet for the obligatory Apple shocker. I still think that an expanded iPod with color screen and bluetooth is a good way to go. To add web capabilities it would use Wi-Fi or bluetooth (to connect to a cellphone), the ever increasing storage and new color screen would make it useful for image storing from a camera and possibly video. It would have to be bigger than the current iPod of course, probably something like the current PocketPCs but with loads of storage and Apple quality and ease of use it would make the device way more than those glorified PDAs.


aj December 1, 2003

Thing is, Apple just ain’t gonna do something like that. RCA’s new Lyra does that, for example, and any PocketPC with Windows Media Player can do the same thing. And as a market segment it’s still extremely fragmented, and getting more so. (“Hey! You got your cell phone in my PalmPilot!” “YOU got your PalmPilot in my WiFi network!” etc.)

As in that NYT story you linked to the other day about the genesis of the iPod, Apple would only create a “vPod” if there were a way for them to make money off it, like an iVideo Store or through some sort of subscription-streaming joint service with the major networks/studios and TiVo, who they already interoperate with in streaming iTunes content to the TV. And even then, they’d design it from the UI upwards to serve that purpose and that purpose only, in a surprisingly simplified, intuitive way, as different again from the iPod as the iPod is from other MP3 players. And mixing in all that wireless networking stuff? There’s not really that much value there, and it risks complicating the product for the consumer.

Patrick December 1, 2003

You must’ve seen that link on another blog because I haven’t posted it yet, it’s still in a “to read” tab ;).

1. iTunes is there to sell iPods, not the iPod to sell music, they don’t make any money selling music (or very very little). So no, they wouldn’t need a iVideo store to make a vPod.

2. The video storage is very secondary in my idea. The primary point is web access on something way more portable than a laptop. The second is massive image storage for camera owners. Video is just there ’cause it might as well. Same with any file for that matter.

3. I don’t see it as replacing the iPod so yes it would make it a lot more complicated but users who just want a simple perfectly designed MP3 player can still have it. I guess the vPod name didn’t carry what I had in mind but I was starting from their post, a mini data tablet would be a better description.

aj December 2, 2003

Gah! you’re right, sorry, it’s something I read on Boris’ blog, not yours.

The point about an iVideo Store is valid – sorry I got it backwards – such a store would help sell vPods, not vice versa.

For Apple to properly enter the web-enabled-non-laptop space, they have to come up with either a fundamental paradigm shift in the way people think about mobile data devices, or just do it better than everyone else. Whatever they do will have to be fundamentally as easy to use as an iPod or a cell phone, but extend those interfaces with their typical “complex stuff made simple” design sense.

They’ve said they’re not interested in doing PDAs because they couldn’t bring anything new to that space, and I think the jury is still out on Tablet PCs – are they really a useful tool for general productivity, or are they better suited to specialized niches like industrial tablets and handhelds? So that leaves us with some sort of Web-enabled smartphone.

Knowing the way Apple works – trying to establish/entrench industry standards, making broad alliances and savvy partnerships – it would be some sort of Apple-designed-and-branded Sony Ericcson big-screen phone that works on GSM, GPRS, and does IP telephony over WiFi – and is of course Bluetooth enabled – and maybe has a FireWire-based docking/charging station.

Besides regular cell phone service via selected GSM partners (T-Mobile, Fido, Orange etc.) the big enabler app for this device will be Mobile .Mac portal services – access to your .Mac email, AIM/iChat (even iChat AV, but I’ll get back to that), iCal scheduling, and maybe microSafari web browsing.

WiFi access means “free” long distance calls using iChat AV. I imagine a Bluetooth-enabled mini version of iSight that you can prop up on a desk or attach directly to the smartphone.

In a Rendezvous-enabled LAN, it can allow direct calling between stations (like standard iChat), lookups via LDAP or NetInfo directories, etc. and browse available network resources (like shared iTunes libraries, Pictures folders, etc.) I imagine third parties could come up with clever bridging devices to standard PBX systems like Nortel Meridians etc.

In a H.323/SIP-enabled Voice-Over-IP environment, it would be able to emulate a Cisco IP phone – even using Java to support corporate IP screen-phone applications (directories, scheduling etc.)

Moblogging tools might be built-in: it would be great to announce a partnership with Canon or another camera maker to have a Bluetooth-enabled pocket digicam, so that you could take snaps, then upload them through the phone, wirelessly – and establish that as an open industry standard.

Patrick December 2, 2003

I agree with pretty much everything you are saying except I don’t want the device to be the phone, it then limits it’s possible size and makes it a worthless web access tool. To be good for the web it needs a screen that covers almost all the surface of something about an inch longer and wider than the current iPod. In that scenario, there are two ways to have a phone in that bundle:

1. As I ment initially, you have a seperate phone, both have bluetooth and the phone becomes a modem for the tablet when out of WiFi range.

2. The phone is within the tablet but you have some kind of clip on earpiece/mic/very minimal call selection interface so you can keep the main unit in your bag and the other part plays the role of phone even though the antenna and most of the electronics are within the tablet.

I hadn’t thought of the voice over IP angle through WiFi though, cool idea.

aj December 2, 2003

Yeah…more like a slimmed-down Newton-sized device with iPod aesthetics, more screen surface, and a Bluetooth headset – makes sense – and that way they can put Ink recognition and maybe limited voice dialling built-in.

Have you seen the OQO? It was designed by the same team that created the 15″ TiBook: they took their idea to Steve, he rejected it, and they went off to start their own company. Dunno if it’s making much progress, though. http://www.oqo.com

Patrick December 3, 2003

Good wrapup of what I want aj :)

Yes I have seen the OQO… 2 years ago. Or something like that, it smells more and more like vaporware though.

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