August 30, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Will 'the beat go on' with a new iPod?

After more than two years of minor tweaks to its most popular product, it looks like Apple is ready for new iPods.

Several weeks of rumors about a pending iPod announcement were apparently confirmed late Tuesday afternoon, when Apple sent out an invitation to the media for an event on Wednesday in San Francisco. True to form, the company didn't explicitly say what was expected, but the white silhouette of a dancing iPod user didn't leave much to the imagination.

As the invite says, "the beat goes on" for Apple's iPod division. Almost six years after the debut of the iPod, Apple dominates the handheld music player market with 72.4 percent of the market in the first half of this year, according to research by The NPD Group. Even competitors such as SanDisk CEO Eli Harari have tipped their cap at Apple's run in the music player market, which shows no signs of slowing even though the company has made few changes to its iPod designs in two years.

News.com Poll

iPod wish list
Apple watchers figure the company will unveil new music players next week. What do you want in your next iPod?

More storage
Bigger, brighter screen
Wi-Fi
Touch-screen interface
Nothing. Just make it cheaper!
Forget the iPod; I want a Zune/Sansa/Zen.



View results

"They're very good," Harari said in a recent interview with CNET News.com. "You have to give credit where credit is due."

SanDisk recently unveiled the Sansa Clip in hopes of competing with the iPod Shuffle, but the company is currently focused more on the developing flash memory market for mobile phones than trying to develop an iPod killer.

Two years ago in September, CEO Steve Jobs upstaged the late arrival of Motorola's iTunes Rokr music phone with the introduction of the slim iPod Nano. Last year around this time, the company tweaked the Nano and the fifth-generation iPod with brighter screens and more capacity, but left the basic design of those two models alone while introducing a much smaller iPod Shuffle.

That clearly didn't hurt sales, as Apple moved 21 million iPods during its first quarter, which overlaps with the holiday shopping season. Now, Apple followers expect the company to make more radical changes that most likely involve improving the viewing experience on an iPod and introducing that capability to the iPod Nano.

Playing music on your iPod is old hat these days. After years of disdaining portable video players, Jobs gave in and a month after launching the iPod Nano introduced a video-player iPod along with making television shows available through the iTunes store. Last year, Apple expanded its offerings to include movies, but video downloads are still finding their place.

NPD surveyed 11,000 U.S. consumers older than age 13 earlier this year, and found that only 6.6 percent of respondents purchased a television show or movie online during the past six months. It's not clear how many folks are watching videos on their iPods as opposed to on their computers or TVs via Apple TV, but mobile video is still very much a niche experience at this point.

That's what Apple could be hoping to change on Wednesday. The most persistent rumors over the past couple of months have involved a redesign of both the current iPod video player as well as the smaller iPod Nano to provide a better viewing experience.

Only the fifth-generation iPod supports video playback at the moment, but it uses a 2.5-inch screen that after the launch of the iPhone looks impossibly small. Several Apple-oriented sites, as well as a few financial analysts, have gone on record predicting Apple will release an iPod with the same 3.5-inch widescreen display found on the iPhone but without the phone hardware.

iPod through the years

Many also expect Apple to have a new version of the iPod Nano that supports video playback. It's not clear at all how this might be accomplished while preserving the diminutive size of the iPod Nano.

The iPod Nano currently comes with a 1.5-inch screen. If Apple made a Nano with a larger screen, that would force some design tradeoffs. One site, 9to5mac.com, briefly published photos of a video-player iPod Nano that was shorter and wider than the current version in order to accommodate the larger screen. The site said Apple's legal department requested the removal of the images, which doesn't necessarily mean that design is legitimate but certainly doesn't rule it out, either.

Given that the slim profile of the iPod Nano is one of its biggest attributes, it might seem odd that Apple would mess with the design. But Apple was quite willing to shelve its most popular iPod in 2005--the iPod Mini--to make way for the iPod Nano, and there's no reason to think the company has lost confidence in its ability to pull off a similar transition.

CONTINUED: OS X on your iPod?…
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29 comments

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Add your comment
Zune what? who? when? where? how?
The line in this piece about the Zune sticks out like a sore thumb. It reads as if you think you had to make an obligatory positive mention of the also ran. The Zune's wireless feature has done it no good whatsoever. So, if Apple decides to add a wireless feature, it will not be to mimic the Zune. Heck. Larry Craig probably owns a Zune.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Larry Craig owns a Zune
I am sure he does, blends perfectly well with Minnesota's Airport Bathroom. ;-)
Posted by daveworld (123 comments )
Link Flag
Wireless a la Zune lol
Zune's wireless is crippled...so you can squirt a song that plays
for a very limited time and then turns into an ad on your player...
uh no thanks.

If Apple where to do wireless, it would not be "a la Zune" it would
be a real wireless option that would possibly download songs
directly from an iTunes client based on the iPod itself.
Posted by MaLvaDo39 (365 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Download via iTMS
That's exactly the way I would design something
like that... heck, with wireless, you could have
a simple SMS service run directly from the iPod,
if it were OSX based...
Posted by ben::zen (127 comments )
Link Flag
video
To create my digital media collection, I ripped my CD collection and added some stuff from the good old days of Napster. Even now I'll still buy a CD and rip it then put on the shelf as a backup. Movies on the other hand are ahuge PIA. I have ripped DVD's but it takes several programs. I know apple would not want to add easy functionality for this as it would take away $ from itunes. Easy DVD ripping would be the only feature that would push me to switch from Zen Vision W. Granted it is mostly a music player but the big video screen does come in handy. The kids love it in the car.
Posted by tgrenier (256 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Archos 604/605 does wifi with widescreen
Archos is first with all the features.

the 605 is 4.3" TFT touch screen, 800x480. plays music/photos/videos, can record videos with camera, can record from tv/dvd's with additioal dvr station.
Posted by basraw (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Archos? lol
Come on now. Archos is gross.. at least their industrial design part. 605 is bulky, plasticy, large unsightly navigation buttons.. Looks like something that was designed in 2001. Really doesn't come close to elegant iPod.

People want something more from their PMP than just the ability to playback 400 file formats.
Posted by hitekalex (2 comments )
Link Flag
Reality Distortion Field Generator
Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Field Generator is 100% operational, so when he announces the new ipods we will all drool at something we've already seen and already own, but we'll gladly buy an ipod (again) just to have the latest model. You got alot of people that bought an iphone, just because they thought it was the coolest ipod they've ever seen. Question: Other than a widescreen with multi-touch, and mac osx, what else can they cram into an ipod?
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
LASERS!!!!
We can have iPods with Lasers on their heads!
Posted by ben::zen (127 comments )
Link Flag
What have the Romans done for us?
Other than the roads, aquaduct, wine, peace, prosperity and so forth what have the Romans done for us? (See "Life of Brian" for the reference).
Posted by Steve Bryan (92 comments )
Link Flag
What more can they add....
How about a calendar with a to-do list.... etc. All sync'd to your desktop of course (since the ipod isn't really designed for such input).

I think a voice recorder/microphone would also be a feature some would be interested in. Some sort of integrated "Voice Notes" software/organizer....

What else.... what else....

I'd like it to automatically download my favorite webcasts every day at some time (assuming it's docked) so I can listen to them going to work...

Nothing else comes to mind atm....
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
How about a user replaceable battery?
Let's face it, the only complain about all the iGizmos that runs with build-in batteries is that you got to send it back to factory (or service) to have the battery replaced, and be deprived for a long time (or worst, but that's another story). Now, a user replaceable battery, that will be a nice development (after all, laptops and some PDA are made that way).
Posted by blueshore (58 comments )
Link Flag
Buy again?
I bought the iPhone because I knew it would work and play well
with my Mac and I knew it would be the coolest phone ever. I
was right.

I keep hearing from anti Mac people that people only buy Mac
products because they look cool, but don't do anything else.
What a crock of horse manure. Talk to anybody that actually
uses a Mac and they will tell you something else.

Before the iPhone I had to buy the Treo 650. I was told it doesn't
even work with a Mac. I had to purchase third party software to
get it to even sync up. When I did I ended up with two events for
every one in my calendar that had to be deleted. I was excited
that I was going to be able to play MP3s in it, but of course I
could never get that to work. The internet sucked on it and I quit
using that function altogether. I was alright with it because it
was the best I could get.

I got the iPhone, plugged it into my Mac at home and iTunes
sucked all of my info off my Mac automatically. When I turned it
on for the first time everything worked. My calendar was synced.
My contacts were in there. My Safari bookmarks from my
computer were in there. My iPod was filled with my music and
videos. My email was up and running and I didn't have to type in
any info to get it to work. The internet was the real internet and
not the stripped down version. It saw my wifi and connected
making the internet on the iPhone as fast as my computer. I
have over 5000 of my photos on the iPhone that loaded right in
and it views them fast and sleek. All of the things I wanted to
have worked flawlessly from the get go and that isn't fluff that is
function.

The fluff part came when you start using the iPhone and interact
with it. The touch screen is very cool and ahead of it's time. The
typing on the small keyboard takes a little to get used to, but I
can type about 2Xs faster now than I did with the Treo. Pushing
the hard to push Treo keys is hard and I ended up using my
fingernail to get it to work best. Lightly touching the vitual
keyboard of the iPhone takes the lightest touch. It reminds me
of Data of Star Trek Next Generation when he is typing on his
computer screen. Even when I miss a button it usually knows
what I was trying to type and spells it correctly for me giving me
the option to continue on without having to fix my error.

Those of you considering buying an iPhone I suggest you blow
off all of the pro and con hype and just go to the Apple store
and check one out for yourself. They have fully functioning ones
there. Play around with it for five minutes.

Make up your own mind.
Posted by Nodack (198 comments )
Link Flag
more fuel to the fire...
...in re: the Beatles catalog: they just added Ringo's back catalog to iTunes this week, too. One has to wonder if the Fab Four will finally join the rest of us in the 21st century (remember they were some of the last holdout's in the transition from analog tape to CD).
Posted by QuetzalcoatlUSA (120 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The iPod Mini
The article says that Apple wasn't afraid to ditch the design of its most popular player, the iPod mini, but what it doesn't say is that the current iPod nano basically *is* the iPod mini with a different name. While Apple may not have been afraid to ditch the mini at the time, they were forced to go back to the tougher mini design, ditching what made the nano so distinctive. All the current nano is is a flash-based iPod mini.

What that says to me is that it's just as likely that the lesson Apple took from the experience is not to mess with success. They could have just updated the mini line with flash and not had to deal with all the PR headaches they got from the first-gen nano, which now looks like a bastard child in the iPod timeline.

An iPhone-style iPod seems probable to me, but I doubt they're going to mess much with the rest of the line (other than adding features and streamlining).
Posted by badasscat (735 comments )
Reply Link Flag
iPod wish list
None of the options listed in the above survey appealed to me, except of course for BETTER BATTERY LIFE! Not surprisingly that was not listed.
Posted by Lara Jass (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Archos? lol
Come on now. Archos is gross.. at least their industrial design part. 605 is bulky, plasticy, large unsightly navigation buttons.. Looks like something that was designed in 2001. Really doesn't come close to elegant iPod.

People want something more from their PMP than just the ability to playback 400 file formats.
Posted by hitekalex (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Here's Another Clue for You All?
Remember back in January when Steve Jobs introduced the
iPhone? The first album art on the iPod he displayed was Sgt.
Pepper's. He played a little of "A little Help from My Friends" and
a little of "Lovely Rita". He continued on with the various features
of the iPhone and ends with the cover art for "Abbey Road".
None of it is sold on iTunes.

He makes a couple statements like, "this is the iPod" and "this is
the best iPod we have ever made". He also calls it a "Wide-Screen
iPod".

When he has almost completed introducing all of the iPhone
features, the three icons of the three devices appear on the big
screen with the caption. "All Together Now".

Since then Paul, John and Ringo's work has become available on
iTunes. The Beatle's catalog can't be far behind along with
George's.

Back to the "Wide-Screen iPod", is it possible that they will add a
Wide-Screen iPod fashioned after the iPhone and continue to sell
the exsisting line or at least part of it?

I have used Macs and, when forced to, Windows for 17 years and
from music to photography to design, Apple has made my life
richer and work easier. I don't doubt that their next
announcement will be a continuation of the same. Fanboy?
Maybe. But a happy fanboy just the same. And as far as this
whole Mac-Windows thing, just Let It Be. Bill Gates is a good
man doing good things in the world with the wealth he has
accumulated and he should be recognized for that.

Seeing "the best iPod ever" and then looking at my 30 GB iPod
photo is like "How ya gonna keep'em down on the farm after
they've seen Pariee".
Posted by HeyFriends (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
will the beat go on, hope so.
Isn't "the beat goes on" from a Sonny and Cher song, so maybe it
isn't a Beatles announcement at all but I've been expecting a
complete Beatles catalog since the iPhone, especially if the new
iPod copies the iPhone appearance, and Apple is also wrapping up
a carrier in the E.U. Together it all ought to be worth about a
Billion Dollars in sales by XMas.
Posted by xxxmaxximusxxx (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ipod will compete with... Ipod
Selling a new ipod to someone who is happy with their old one will be the primary competition. Apple will have to convince those people that their old ipod is no longer cool. Can it be done? I don't know. Just the simple mention that ipod isn't cool can cause a frenzied retort from many hardliners. Wait, I know... a commercial of an old ipod with a thermometer stuck in it..."Yep, it's reached room temperature. Time to replace it."
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Send in the Clones
We will already have an iPhone clone at the end of 2007 called the mini One:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.ubergizmo.com/15/archives/2007/08/emgeton_mini_one_windows_powered_iphone_clone.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.ubergizmo.com/15/archives/2007/08/emgeton_mini_one_windows_powered_iphone_clone.html</a>

How soon before the iPod clones come out?
Posted by Troll Hard (182 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Clones
We've already had several "clones" released prior to the iPhone.
Posted by DrtyDogg (3084 comments )
Link Flag
the Standalone MP3 player is almost extinct
in favor of cell phone based media players
Posted by gubbord (171 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sales?
The sales certainly bear that out. iPods are an endangered species.
Posted by nicmart (1829 comments )
Link Flag
Faster sync/transfer times for Nano, please
I recently picked up an 8GB Nano. It works well, sounds pretty good and the form factor is unbeatable. My only complaint: the transfer times for syncing music are *very* slow.

I have a 4GB high speed SD card that I use to play music from my Treo. Transferring music to this card over a USB 2.0 card reader takes 1/3 the time it does to sync music to the iPod Nano over the same USB 2.0 connection. It seems clear that Apple used slow SD memory in the Nano to keep costs down, but I would have paid a $20 premium to have faster memory.

Maybe they can offer a "redline" model with fast memory?

-Mister Winky
Posted by Mister Winky (301 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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