September 4, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

The iPod is growing up

If Apple really is putting a version of Mac OS X in a new iPod, presumably it has more in mind than showing high-quality reruns of The Hills.

Any talk these days of Apple and the future of mobile computing quickly turns to the iPhone. The company is on its way to selling a million iPhones in the first three months of what Apple says is a multiyear strategy to enter the mobile phone market.

But Apple makes another mobile device. It's called the iPod. And if the persistent rumors are fulfilled Wednesday during the latest episode of The Steve Jobs Show (a product presentation at San Francisco's Moscone Center), the iPod is about to get a whole lot more powerful.

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Apple announces a revised lineup of iPods, a new version of iTunes and a Wi-Fi Music Store.

A wide-screen iPod that looks an awful lot like an iPhone seems like the most likely bet for the sixth generation of Apple's ubiquitous music and video player line. It also seems very likely that those new iPods will run the same stripped-down version of Mac OS X found on the iPhone, something even Jobs himself hinted at during a meeting with Apple employees on the eve of the iPhone launch.

You don't need a sophisticated operating system to play songs and TV shows, so at that point, the iPod stops being just a gadget. So, then, what exactly is it? Like the iPhone, it becomes something in between a gadget and a PC, which has been treacherous ground for the PC industry.

The tech industry appears to be at another one of those pesky crossroads. The PC is, well, dated. We all need one, and we all use one, but we just don't get excited about buying a new one anymore.

As a result, the PC industry has been scrambling to find the next big thing. Tablet PCs? Nope. Home media centers? Maybe, but not yet. Digital televisions? Still the domain of the consumer electronics industry.

An iPod with a more powerful operating system and a touch screen could suddenly become an intriguing little device for those who like the iPhone, but don't want to spend 600 bucks or hook up with AT&T.

Apple found its next big thing six years ago when it released the iPod. It wasn't the first company to figure out that people wanted to carry all those Napsterized songs in their pocket, but it has certainly made the most of it. More than 70 percent of people in the U.S. who want a portable digital music player buy an iPod.

But the iPod really does just one thing. It does it well--and yes, you can also store contacts, appointments and play games that would have looked lame 10 years ago--but nobody buys an iPod to make sure they remember that doctor's appointment.

After Wednesday, that might be different. An iPod with a more powerful operating system and a touch screen could suddenly become an intriguing little device for those who like the iPhone, but don't want to spend 600 bucks or hook up with AT&T.

It wouldn't be hard to imagine some of those people put off by the iPhone's price and wireless carrier would shell out $349--the current price for the 80GB iPod--for an iPod that can do far more than just play videos or music.

That is, assuming Apple doesn't overlook what's really needed in a mobile computer. There's no point in putting a sophisticated operating system in an iPod if you wall that device off from the Internet. Apple has resisted adding Wi-Fi to the iPod thus far, but it broke that barrier with the iPhone and perhaps it has figured out a way to add Wi-Fi without killing battery life.

And it would really need to be a phone-less iPhone, with applications like Safari, YouTube and Google Maps. Ideally, it needs third-party applications, such as games or GPS navigation. But it might take Apple awhile to admit that, given that its approach to application development on the iPhone was to limit developers to Web-based applications.

The entire combination could make the $349 iPod more attractive. Apple's revenue growth from iPods has stalled, even though the unit growth is still above 20 percent year over year. That implies that iPod buyers are opting for the less expensive $199 4GB Nano or the $249 30GB iPod.

It would also finally give Apple the real wide-screen video player that iPod fans have been clamoring for since just before last year's "showtime" event. And, after all, that's still the iPod's sweet spot: mobile entertainment.

It's quite possible that Apple doesn't want to make that dramatic a leap just yet. Jobs prizes simplicity and aesthetics, and a large part of the iPod's appeal has been that it does one thing (or a couple), and does it (or them) well.

But a Mac OS X-based iPod could be a compelling device as the industry and its customers try to figure out how mobile computers should evolve. It would avoid the early mistakes of the UMPC, which runs a battery-sapping PC operating system, doesn't fit in a pocket, and at around $1,000, has been met with lukewarm--at best--interest from consumers.

There are other devices out there, like Sony's PSP and video players from Archos, that are trying to do the same thing. But with sales of more than 10 million iPods a quarter--and a whopping 21 million last holiday season--Apple has established the iPod as one of the most widely used handheld gadgets on the planet.

What if it were a computer, too?

See more CNET content tagged:
Apple iPod, Apple iPhone, Apple Computer, video player, Apple Mac OS

41 comments

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geeks vs cool
all in one mobile warrior = HTC Advantage 7501 with phone, 5" screen, Windows Mobile 6, GPS, etc, etc.

Or UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) is their HTC Shift with Vista... Yea, both bigger than iphone/pod but I can ADD anything I want to either without cracking the code.
Posted by ChartGEEK (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too Much?
Is it why Steve keeps on insisting that it's not the millions things you put on the device? Some people thing it's not on the Apple device because Apple doesn't how to do it. I think it's because Apple doesn't want to do it.
Posted by kool_skatkat (982 comments )
Link Flag
Nobody wants these things..
"all in one mobile warrior = HTC Advantage 7501 with phone, 5"
screen, Windows Mobile 6, GPS, etc, etc.

Or UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) is their HTC Shift with Vista... Yea,
both bigger than iphone/pod but I can ADD anything I want to
either without cracking the code."

Fine, except nobody wants to buy these things except "geeks"
who have no money and like fooling around with hard to use
features. The "geeks" just don't get it. They never have and they
never will. They are NOT representative of the market in any
way, shape, or form. They are an aberration who think they
know what the rest of us want and need. They are irrelevant and
the failure of their pet gizmos in the marketplace proves it.
Posted by lkrupp (1608 comments )
Link Flag
with its HUGE 8 gig HD
8Gig HD doesn't impress me. You can Add somethings with out
cracking the code I suppose. Plus Windows Mobile, well enough
said.
Posted by roark1 (36 comments )
Link Flag
The next ipod will be VERY COOL!
Touch screen with a virtual wheel.

Just as long as it can play pacman like the other
video ipods can then I'm all smiles!
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Totally correct it turns out
Hey, it was even better than you imagined.

video iPod nano
iPod touch
IPhone cheaper than ever.

ITs an Apple world out there. Come join the real social. :-)

en
Posted by eldernorm (220 comments )
Link Flag
It's a PDA
I don't know how you can write an entire article struggling to define this new class of mini-PC without even mentioning the word PDA, which, in fact is the correct answer.

The new ipod, if the rumors are true, will be a mobile device that runs a scaled-down version of a big name OS. Hello? It's a PDA, an established piece of technology. No need to think up a more creative term for it.
Posted by menotbug (93 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It needs to be more than a PDA
PDA's are a shrinking market. The iPod needs to be something more than a PDA it win in that arena. Then again they are going to need to be more than just an iPod to win in that arena as well...

Interesting times ahead for the iPod and the mobile device industry as a whole.
Posted by Renegade Knight (13748 comments )
Link Flag
PDA sans STYLUS
ala apple it's the iPAD
Posted by ColdMast (186 comments )
Link Flag
Just don't call this PDA a PDA
It is a PDA, but everyone one avoids the term becuase that conotates the nerdy PalmOS. The limited OS popularized the product, but it's just not a cool at the iPhone, or the small and shiney smart phones. All the other PDAs prefer the term smart phone or pocketPC.

Ironicly, the ability to add software was a compelling point for the PalmOS, but I never used more than the included software, and got the Visor with the SpringBoard, eventough I never bought I never bought modules.
Posted by bobcode (73 comments )
Link Flag
A little different
Traditional PDAs (Tungstens, iPaqs) weren't video or music players, at least not to the iPod's ability.
Posted by Tom Krazit (436 comments )
Link Flag
iPDA
I guess that makes it a iPDA.
Posted by lantzn (130 comments )
Link Flag
Bingo!
You hit the nail right on the head- Apple is trying to prevent
stuffing the iPod full of features that only 5% of its users will
actually use. People seem to forget (until the time comes around
to list "greatest tech flops" or somesuch) that Apple already
made this mistake with the Newton and learned from it.

Everybody wants to ascribe the iPod's success to marketing and
such, but the truth is people wanted simple and powerful and
Apple gave it to them. If you want ungodly complex and stuffed
to the brim with near-useless features, there are other
companies for that, as ChartGeek demonstrated so aptly.
Posted by DaiMac (62 comments )
Reply Link Flag
agree
..theres too much applewanking going on. If Jobs launches a PDA IPOD (even writing that sounds wrong) he will have a flop.

I need an IPOD with a bigger screen, a better wheel (i always seem to accidentally select from the menu the choice above the one i want) and better battery life. Thats it.

I'll do my PDA'ing and PC'ing elsewhere thanks Steve....on your iphone and powerbook.

Apple...the new Bang and Olufsen. Bring it on!
Posted by mattmoo (7 comments )
Link Flag
Bingo! X2
>Apple is trying to prevent stuffing the iPod full of features that
only 5% of its users will actually use<

That's the point that people overlook. And if we take this one
progressive step further, you can argue that Apple has limited
the functionality in the iPhone and now the iPod Touch to avoid
competing with their other mobile products, namely the
MacBook and MacBook Pro. If people want the other functions
(email, user-installable apps, etc.) this steers them towards
those products - and let's face it, they will be far more capable
of those tasks than any handheld will likely ever be.

Somewhere back in the deep vestiges of One Infinite Loop, I'm
sure that there is a team working on a true Apple PDA (the
Pippin reincarnate?) that won't play music, but will have Web and
email capability, install apps (ala PalmOS) and interface with your
Mac desktop/laptop seamlessly. Vaporware speculation?
Perhaps. But Steve Jobs has shown a proclivity for knowing what
products users want and bringing them to market..
Posted by douggro (14 comments )
Link Flag
RE: PDA
I would put a large chunk of change that Apple will never
produce something that could be classified as a "PDA" (again, if
you call the Newton that). Considering they've already surpassed
that label with the iPhone, they have no reason to straddle it
with another product. Any software that they implement for use
on the iPod (or any device for that matter), including iterations
of OS X, won't resemble anything you've seen on what has been
called a "PDA," nor will it strive to meet the functions necessary
to be classified as such.

I think anyone that believes they can accurately predict what
Apple will do next is crazy. Why those who obviously don't
understand how Apple works would consider this is beyond me.
Posted by drumby04 (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Personally, I'd like a PDF reader
All of the eBook readers except Sony's have **** poor support for PDF. Throw a PDF reader on this baby, we have a game changer!
Posted by frankz00 (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
even Adobe?
Even Adobe's own Acrobat for PalmOS or pocketPC?
Posted by bobcode (73 comments )
Link Flag
Archos Players already read PDFs...
Archos players - the 404, 504, 604, 604Wifi, and 605wifi already read PDFs very well. The Wifi models also have extremely functional touchscreens and you can add a Web Browser that actually has Flash support.

Hmmm, native support for flash, that means you don't have to have some "spiffy" add-in to watch YouTube videos...and that means you can watch flash videos on ANY other media site.
Posted by dj_euphonek (6 comments )
Link Flag
Son of a Newton
I was an early adopter of the Newton. I still have a Newton to manage my diabetes, the DietLog app for the Newton is the best I have ever seen, including the PalmPilot version. If they put the same handwriting recognition on it that would also be a good thing.

It seems like Steve Jobs is comming around to John Sculley's point of view. If he hadn't killed off the Newton Company he would have quite a team of experienced developers for it.

The Newton's gone, long live the iPod.
Posted by RobertFHarwood (181 comments )
Reply Link Flag
my guess
I think Apple will add Bluetooth to the iPod (pad) and then you can use the expanded screen as input for any mobile phone that supports wireless web
any new motorola and Nokia will act as a wireless modem already and Bluetooth doesnt use up much battery so usable life isn't compromised on the iPod

Just my guess tho
Posted by ldhoover1 (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey c|net....
While I am all for an iPod from the iPhone minus the phone and AT&T, how about if you stop all the rumor and gossip junk. Basically you keep saying the same thing over and over but with a different heading. How many times do you plan to gossip about something that hasn't been announced, may not be and has already been gossiped about by you before. Come on how about some real news!

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Grammar (sorry, it just bugs me)
While I found the story to be interesting, the last sentence just bugged me. It really should be, "What if it *were* a computer, too?"

"In FORMAL writing, use WERE rather than WAS to express a state of affairs that is contrary to the facts: I wish it WERE finished (but it is not); Suppose it WERE true (but it is false); He behaves as though he WERE a millionaire (but he is not). Similarly for hypotetical conditions after if: If John WERE here, he would know; If it WERE to rain we should get wet; He spoke as if I WERE deaf.

In all of the above, WAS is common in less formal styles. But even when you're not attempting formality, WERE is the only choice in inverted sentences: WERE this true, it would be very alarming."

Source:Longman Guide to English Language (Sidney Greenbaum, Jane Whitcut)

Sorry, back to your regularly scheduled arguing. :)
Posted by eccesignum (37 comments )
Reply Link Flag
contrary to reality
The device won't be introduced until tomorrow.

"Was" doesn't make sense, speaking in the past tense of
something that hasn't been introduced.

"Were" in the contrary-to-fact subjunctive sense is also not
logical. Since we don't yet know the facts, how can we know
what is contrary to them? The subjuctive can express a wish, so
maybe "were" could convey the "what if it turns out to be" that
the author was expressing.
Posted by steve4lee (174 comments )
Link Flag
You was right :)
Our resident grammarians inform me that you're quite correct, we'll tweak that sentence.
Posted by Tom Krazit (436 comments )
Link Flag
Blah!!!
Add something useful to the conversation
Posted by David Turner (114 comments )
Link Flag
True widescreen?
The big question is will the 6G iPod be a true widescreen device
with an aspect ration of 16:9? If so, let's hope it can support
720p content, so the Apple TV and the iPod can finally play back
the same files. Of course, all of this assumes that the iTunes
Store will finally offer 720p content. Forget about 1080p movies;
it ain't happening.
Posted by Galley (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MORE STORAGE! 120 or 160GB,
I hope they don't forget many who use iPods as secondary music
devises and require a large capacity for our music collection. I keep
hearing about the possibiltiy of flash based pods only.

I want/need at least 120-160GB or more for my music collection.
There are many who simply use it at second homes, bars,
restaurants, stores, studios etc. We plug them in our stereos and
want all the music that fits and more. Don't care about video or
wifi. JUST MORE MUSIC!
Posted by beatmoses (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wait for actual product announcement...
Rather than writing iPod fiction articles, Cnet should wait until there are actual products to discuss.
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
News Analysis
That's why this article is labeled "News Analysis". It's a speculative article that is analyzing what might be released and how it might change the market.
Posted by dj_euphonek (6 comments )
Link Flag
No limitation on web development
Why the media keep saying that it will be a limitation to develop applications as if they where web applications????? I think is a great idea. You can even simulate an operating system with web development. Search on the internet , there are a couple. I dont see it as a limitation at all. Please steve said that they will look like native applications. So again what the big deal.??

In terms of features. It will be nice to have it wifi enable so I can browse the web instead of a carrying my laptop. I could use web office tools from google. A bigger screen, will be nice for both movies and web browsing. Beyond that, I dont care.
Posted by yacahuma (530 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your wish is granted. :-)
And Steve says --- "Your wish is granted"
iPod Touch is here.

en
Posted by eldernorm (220 comments )
Link Flag
Remote Control GUI
How about adding a remote control interface to the big screen iPod
to use with a Mac, AppleTV, gaming or any other Apple device
coming in the future?
Having OS X iPhone like capabilities on the new iPod would make
this possible.
Posted by lantzn (130 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Here's what I'd like to see...
Assuming it comes with a hardrive, I'd like to see a few photo editing apps that I could use to edit photos on the fly as I offload them from my camera (same goes for video). Also, I'd like it to be that if I surf to a site that features flash games or animations, I can watch/play them just like on a PC/apple computer. I'd also like to be able to listen to internet radio streams and be able to access Skype or something similar to it.

In other words, make it as versatile as necessary to allow people to do what they want to do.
Posted by mattumanu (599 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PowerPoint presentation on iPod
Put PowerPoint presentations on iPod?
Who had imagined this?
Now <a href="http://www.ppt-to-dvd.com/powerpoint-to-ipod-overview.html">Wondershare PPT to iPod</a> can do this.
Really charming!
Posted by gaochuhan111 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The coolest thing Apple will never do.
This is getting closer and closer to something I started wanting when I watched the first Startrek movie.

Take something like the iPhone or the new iPod, put in a DAC and perhaps an ADC with an appropriate amp. You wind up with a software radio that has a full touchscreen interface that (if Apple were to open it up) could be programed to do anything you want.

I guess it would be the first step to a tricorder.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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