The rumor mill is buzzing about new iPod models that Apple will apparently introduce in a press event on Wednesday, September 5.
That date comes from "sources within the company" who spoke to Ars Technica. The article goes on to cite AppleInsider, which is suggesting that there will be four new models, all incorporating Apple's OS X (like the iPhone) and based on flash memory (like the Nano). The consensus seems to be that these new models will not feature a full touchscreen like the iPhone, but will have some of the music-interface features from that product, and that they will be thinner but with wider screens than the current generation.
None of this sounds particularly exciting. The iPod became the gold standard for portable music players because of its design, particularly the clickwheel, and iTunes' ease of use. The gradual rollout of smaller, cheaper models--Mini, Nano, and Shuffle--drew new users in and spurred existing iPod owners to buy a second or third model for the household.
But by now, I'm not sure interface and design changes are enough to keep the iPod juggernaut rolling. The iPod's no longer a novel product--nearly everybody knows what it is. If you want an iPod, you've already bought an iPod or are saving your money for an iPod (which means you would have bought one regardless of whether Apple rolled out new models or just kept selling the 5Gs).
I personally think that segmentation's gone as far as it can--there's no more room for a lower-priced BabyPod. So to keep sales growing, Apple either has to attract new users who were holding off for some reason, or convince existing iPod owners to replace their current one. And the only way to do that is with significant new features.
How about a Wi-Fi connection? Add Safari and some links to online services (YouTube) like the iPhone has. Wireless downloads, iTunes radio, maybe even a subscription version of iTunes. (I know Jobs has resisted, but he also said that video was a bust on a portable device.) It wouldn't cannibalize the iPhone because it wouldn't have cellular data or phone capabilities. Its range would be limited, but who cares--it's not a business tool, so you don't need to be connected all the time.
Let's hear from iPod users--what would make you throw your current one away and replace it? And for those of you who have been holding off, is there anything Apple could do with the next version to get you to buy one?