With word that Apple plans a big announcement next week, speculation has once again centered that a video iPod might be around the corner.
The question of how Apple might do for video what it has done for music has been on people's minds since the iPod became a hit. Many have assumed that the answer is just to add video playback to the iPod and add a video download service.
It seems clear that Apple does have video ambitions. The company has scooped up rights to distribute music videos, sources say, and its iTunes music jukebox now supports video playback as well. And Apple has included video in some of its patent and iPod trademark filings.
But adding video to the iPod's one-inch screen seems alone doesn't seem to be a hit in the making. While many people listen to music on the go, a far smaller group watches movies, and those that do typically prefer a screen more like that found on a laptop. Those devices that have hit the market, machines like the Microsoft-based portable media centers, have hardly taken the world by storm. Even Sony's PSP, which has gained some following, is noteworthy for more than just its movie-playing abilities.
The fact of the matter is most people watch the movies they rent or buy at home, on a television. So, if Apple wanted to hit the sweet spot, their answer would have to work there as well. Some have speculated that the Mac mini might make a nice set-top box. But an even more portable option would be if the iPod itself acted as set-top box. Driving high-quality video, though, would likely require some higher performance innards than are found in today's music players.
Another sleeper product that could be in the mix is Apple's AirPort Express. In addition to serving as a portable wireless router, the device can stream music around the home. From its inception, though, the product has been notable for the possibilities it opens up. Video could also be carried over the same wireless airwaves.
And, oh yeah, let's not forget that the 'One more thing' Apple is announcing could be a Mac. You remember the Mac, right? That's the computer that used to be 100 percent of Apple's business just a few years ago.