Editorial: iVideo, what we (and you) are expecting | iLounge Article

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Editorial: iVideo, what we (and you) are expecting

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Sunday, July 24, 2005
Articles Categories: Editorials

After years in the shadows, portable video is about to go mainstream: according to reports out this week from respected journalists, analysts, and columnists, Apple is rapidly preparing to sell digital video content and new portable devices that will play it. Since Apple has not publicly commented directly on its portable video plans, this editorial does not presume to speak definitively to what will happen, but suggests possible and likely outcomes based on the best information available.

On a side note, we acknowledge two things at the onset of this editorial: first, some of our readers - at least, for now - have said that they absolutely do not want to buy portable video players. And second, other readers have said that they will refuse to use anything smaller than a laptop screen to view video content.

As of today, these perspectives are well-established, and we have no desire to pick a fight with their proponents. Moreover, both crowds are essentially claiming to be satisfied by existing alternatives: buy nothing, or buy a laptop and watch DVDs. So if you’re in one of these two camps, be aware that the bulk of this editorial is aimed at a different audience, but we’ll address your interests directly at the end.

New Apple Portable Hardware in September?

Between these two extremes, there’s a significant middle ground that many people expect that Apple will exploit in time for the holidays this year. According to a Wall Street Journal report published earlier this week, Apple has been developing an iPod-like device for video content, and could unveil it as soon as September. The date is not trivial. Apple will host an Apple Expo in Paris in September, presumably an ideal place to unveil a significant new device, and highlight its anticipated international appeal.

Is an Apple Expo unveiling likely? iLounge’s Larry Angell suggests not, noting that the company has not unveiled significant full-sized iPods at trade shows: at best, Apple held special, invitation-only “music” events, but sometimes did so without any event at all. (The original iPod, and third-generation iPod and iTunes Music Store were introduced at special Apple events; the fourth-generation iPod debuted with a high-profile magazine cover story.) However, Apple has introduced several other iPods at trade shows: the iterative second-generation at 2002’s Apple Expo in Tokyo, the iPod mini at Macworld in 2004, and the iPod shuffle at Macworld in 2005. The latter two devices were arguably the most mainstream products developed by the company, and best suited to the huge surge of mainstream media attention Apple enjoys at trade shows.

Several fair questions, then, are whether: (a) the new device is anticipated to be a mainstream product, (b) what sorts of features it will offer, and (c) what it will need from a software perspective in order to succeed. We’ll look at each of these questions in turn below.

The Mainstream Apple Video Player?

Analysts and retailers have reported that the most popular iPods are - not surprisingly - the least expensive ones. iPod minis and 20GB iPods were top-sellers during the period in which they represented the lowest-cost offerings in the iPod family, and today iPod shuffles are estimated to account for 3 million of the 6 million iPods shipped each three months. If Apple was interested in quickly moving high volumes of portable video players, it seems logical that the company would aim for a price point in the consumer-friendly $300 range, give or take the standard $50 as an Apple luxury tax.

But history suggests that Apple will not do that - at least, this year. Last July, Apple introduced the fourth-generation iPod, and simultaneously shrunk the iPod family to omit a $499 model, focusing on $249-$399 models. In October, the company unveiled the 40GB iPod photo at $499 and 60GB iPod photo at $599, recreating its old price lineup and expanding it to include the most expensive iPod ever. A similar pricing shift has already taken place this year. Late last month, Apple dropped the price of its top-end 60GB iPod to $399, creating an identical vacancy at the family’s $499 point.

But there was a deeper reason for that move. According to many reports, the 60GB iPod photo was a comparatively poor performer at retail, a suggestion given credence by not just one, but two incredibly rapid price drops; the model fell by $200 in only eight months, dropping first by $150 after only four months. If $599 iPods don’t sell well, will Apple recreate the same pricing scenario this year with a new, high-end device, especially one that it hopes will rapidly achieve market success?

To place two portable video players at the $499 and apparently unpopular $599 marks would therefore be surprising, as would be the introduction of only one device at $499, denying consumers any choice of capacity. Moreover, Apple knows that Microsoft had very little success with last year’s introduction of $500 portable video players by Creative Labs and iRiver, despite the fact that they were significantly more powerful than the iPod photos unveiled at around the same time.

That leaves three major alternatives: (a) introduce the devices at $399 and $499, overlapping the current 60GB musical iPod with a 40GB video iPod; (b) introduce at $349 and $449, moving even more aggressively; or (c) let haters be damned and roll the device out just like last year’s iPod photo at $499 and $599. The latter approach would be old-school Apple strategy - the same sort of “we build the best products, even if only 4% of the market buys them” thinking that kept the iPod obscure for the first two years of its life. It remains to be seen whether the new Apple, committed as it appears to be to owning markets and developing huge pools of sellable digital content, will make the smarter choice to leverage musical iPod success to rapidly build a huge base of video consumers, as well.

Millions of current iPod customers could be converted, for instance, but probably not at $499 and $599 prices. iLounge’s Larry Angell predicts $349 (40GB) and $449 (60 or 80GB) price points, while our Jeremy Horwitz predicts $399 (40GB) and $499 (80GB) or higher, only because Apple so rarely surprises people with truly inexpensive technology. In light of the iPod shuffle’s aggressive introduction at $99, though, all of us hope that Apple will move equally aggressively in the video market, and avoid making the price mistakes that have dogged Microsoft and others.

What Will Be Inside?

The contours of an Apple portable video player can only be guessed at, but statements from the company, as well as outside reports, provide clues as to what might be in the offing.

The screen: Think bigger than iPod. Apple has pooh-poohed small screens for video several times in the past. For instance, CEO Steve Jobs told the New York Times in 2004 that three-inch video screens were unable to replicate a TV or theater-quality experience, unlike the concert-hall quality replication that headphones offer consumers. The company’s iPod product manager Stan Ng went further on this point in early 2005, telling Australia’s News.com that “for a player with a 3 1/2-inch screen, you have to wonder if it would be worthwhile.” Clearly, Apple dislikes the notion of screens smaller than four inches, but just what size screen is acceptable to consumers is open to question.

A widescreen display seems a foregone conclusion. Apple has gradually been shifting its monitors in that direction for years, and has focused attention this year on high-definition, theater-like video, always presenting movies in widescreen format. And there is now a well-regarded small widescreen LCD available: the 4.3” screen in Sony’s PlayStation Portable has received considerable praise. Whether there are enough of those screens available to supply Apple’s demands remains unclear, as does the question of whether the company would consider a larger (say, 7”) screen a wiser alternative. At this point, we would be quite surprised if that was the case, not just because of the price, but also for power consumption and other reasons.

What about the device’s innards? Following reports earlier this year that Apple had selected a chip from U.K.-based Alphamosaic, there has been speculation that an Apple portable video player would be based on a sophisticated, power-efficient BCM2702 or BCM2705 processor now owned by Broadcom. These chips are an order of magnitude more powerful than the PortalPlayer chips used in today’s iPods, and conceivably would enable both video and games to be played on the new device. They promise 30 frame per second, VGA-quality (640x480) playback, both specifications that we expect Apple would demand.

The chips are also capable of realtime MPEG-4 encoding, which is to say that Apple’s device could also record video, but it’s entirely possible that Apple would cripple that functionality to appease movie and TV companies. (It’s our view that such a move would be foolish, and quickly exploited by competitors; a wiser move would be to lock recorded content with DRM and limit (not preclude) its transfer to other devices.) An additional wildcard feature is the chips’ ability to capture 8-Megapixel digital still images, which suggests that it could be bundled with camera functionality if Apple wanted to do so. Depending on the company’s intended price point, this might be entirely impractical, or could just lead to a really interesting new accessory attachment. There is also the possibility that Apple won’t use an Alphamosaic chip at all, in which case all bets on functionality are off.

Regardless of the screen and chip inside, it is highly likely that Apple will employ two well-established technologies in the new device: its H.264 video compression codec and the same 1.8”-sized hard disk drives that are used in current full-sized iPods. H.264, or MPEG-4 Part 10, is capable of dramatically compressing video content, and can create portable-friendly movies that require around 1/10 the space of current DVDs. Alphamosaic’s chip supports H.264, as well as the advanced audio format AAC Plus. As a result, a 60GB hard drive could hold over 100 movies rather than the 10-15 it could hold with the older MPEG-2 compression used by DVDs, and four to eight times as many shorter TV shows. (Actual numbers will vary based on whether the user wants the video to be watchable only on a small screen, or viewable on a larger computer ot TV screen as well.) Our gut feeling is that a video-enabled device will be the first to feature the 80 GB hard disk announced late last year by Toshiba; such a large disk is best-suited to store the collected movie and music libraries of early adopters.

There are two other possibilities, each worth mentioning. Apple could introduce a screenless device that would serve as nothing more than a portable TiVo, connecting to whatever television you happen to be near. Though possible, we all discount this possibility, as it wouldn’t be anywhere near the breakthrough, useful everywhere product that an iPod was - especially on airplanes. The other possibility is that the device will have both a screen and video-out, like the current color-screened iPod, an option we think is more consistent with Apple design philosophy. Only one of the two Broadcom/Alphamosaic chips - the less expensive BCM2705 - supports video out. Regardless, we suspect that Apple may, like Microsoft, try to limit recording functionality to a Media Center-like piece of computer software (and possibly hardware), but hope that’s not the case, because competitors are and will be offering more flexible options.

Software: iVideo and the iVideo Store?

Over the last week, several publications have reported that Apple is currently in talks with music companies, movie studios, and media conglomerates, with plans to sell digital versions of everything from movies to television programs, music videos and Disney cartoons. In fact, music videos are already being sold through the iTunes Music Store, generally as special edition versions of $9.99 albums, repriced at $11.99 to reflect additional video content.

But does anyone really want to pay for and watch music videos, which have never cost a dime on MTV and have similarly only enjoyed limited file-sharing online? In our view, probably not. And we think Apple knows as much. It has barely promoted the music videos already sold through iTunes since version 4.8, and devoted significantly more promotional time and effort to its later-introduced support for free audio podcasts.

Why wait to promote videos that are already available? Columnist and pundit Robert Cringely has written that Apple is planning iVideo, under that name, as a download service for movies. If true, Apple is presumably waiting to get all of its pieces in place before launching a major video-focused publicity campaign. That’s probably a good idea.

But would it be enough for iVideo to simply serve as an iTunes Music Store for video content? In our opinion, the answer is no. People do not want to pay for all of the content they are loading on to portable media devices: they want to use existing content they own, and may be willing to buy more online thereafter.

So, just as with iTunes, Apple will need an application that serves at least three different purposes: downloading service, library management, and encoding tool. If integrated with a television, it might also incorporate Media Center/TiVo-like recording features, as well. There are reasons that iTunes as currently designed isn’t ideally situated to handling several of these tasks, but most of them could certainly be remedied in the upcoming version 5.0. These features could also be shifted into a separate application.

Converting Your Existing Video Library: Problems and Solutions

The key feature of any such program would be a means to convert one’s existing DVD library into digital video files viewable on the portable device. While consumers may be willing to purchase some videos online - “some” depending on the required download time, pricing, and ability they have to easily create an archival copy off of their computers - they are generally not interested in re-downloading their existing DVD collections, or paying for that privilege, even if the replacement movies are in high-definition. They also will be hesitant to pay for current television shows that they can record with a TiVo or other device for free. In the absence of the ability to play back these files without conversion, easy, free video conversion for existing files - like iTunes’ current integrated CD ripper - is therefore an absolute must.

Apple representatives have publicly gone on record to suggest that this is a more significant legal challenge than a technical one. iPod product manager Stan Ng, for example, noted earlier this year that “there is no legal way today of taking a DVD and making it viewable on a portable device.” While there are still questions on that point given consumers’ traditional “fair use” exceptions to copyright laws, say nothing of the fact that are are screened portable DVD players that can play back DVDs, the broader point is well-made: as self-appointed protector of the music industry’s presumed digital rights, Apple is unlikely to make any move perceived to facilitate piracy.

That leaves Apple with two alternatives, which could be executed separately or together. The safer one would be to seek permission from companies to allow their DVDs to be ripped by Apple’s software into DRM-wrapped files, subject to transfer limitations much like iTunes music files. Another option, preferable to many consumers, would be to enable the video player to play back open standard, DRM-less videos in addition to encoded ones. We strongly hope that Apple does both, and if the capabilities of QuickTime 7 and iTunes 4.8/4.9 are any guide, H.264 won’t be the only supported format - just the preferred one. Without support for open standard, DRM-less MP3 files, the iPod would have been an abject failure, receiving the same scorn that Sony’s ATRAC-only players were universally dogged by until only recently. If Apple believes otherwise, it will have legions of people to convince - including us.

The reasons underlying a player with support for at least some open standards is bigger than just DVD playback: consumers will also be strongly interested in watching their self-made movies, recorded by camcorders and digital cameras, on this portable device. Early adopters will be especially likely to have libraries of other existing digital movies, too, just as the iPod received support from people with existing MP3 collections - not AAC ones. We suspect that they will not want to have to encrypt or transcode all of their own movies just to watch them, just as few people were willing to re-encode all of their music files into ATRAC or AAC to enjoy them on Sony or Apple music players.

A related and important issue is that re-encoding movies - not just today’s TV- or DVD-quality films, but tomorrow’s high-definition ones - is a time- and processor-intensive task. Computers owned by “average” consumers today can encode low-resolution movies in certain formats at perhaps one-fourth their original run times: 20-30 minutes per movie, give or take. But other formats, such as H.264, are considerably more time-consuming, and may take hours depending on the computer you use. Hours will add up into days for users with large movie collections. (Better computers, of course, can run faster, but mainstream users don’t own them, and may in fact have significantly slower machines - especially outside the United States.) High-definition movies, such as ones recorded by the Sony HD camcorder touted by Apple at the National Association of Broadcasters conference earlier this year, will demand even more time and space to compress.

Consequently, we expect that Apple will begin a concerted drive to push superior consumer-level video encoding hardware and software in the near future. Thankfully, the company has all the experience necessary to pull off the software side of this feat quickly. It would make a lot of sense for Apple to leverage its existing moviemaking tools and expertise, starting with an easy-to-use version of its video transcoding tool Compressor 2. Included with the professional-grade application DVD Studio Pro, Compressor is a powerful conversion utility and supports H.264 encoding from many existing formats. The recent evolution of Apple’s iLife suite of movie, photo, and music tools - and their impending arrival on Intel-based machines - shouldn’t be overlooked either.

Good News for Everyone

At the beginning of this editorial, we noted that there are three different audiences out there: people who don’t want portable video players, people who only want large-screened (laptop-like) portables, and people who are interested in devices smaller than today’s laptops. From our perspective, there’s good news for everyone: Apple will continue to make music-only iPods for people who don’t want video devices, and they’ll likely become less expensive over time. It will also continue to sell laptop computers with various-sized screens for people who want larger portable digital movie experiences, and will likely enable future computers to connect with high-definition digital televisions.

Then, someplace in the middle will be the portable iVideo player - real name yet to be determined - smaller than a laptop but a bit larger than today’s iPods, with long-term plans for cellular phones and other H.264-equipped devices. As hinted by Apple earlier this year, H.264 will be the glue that binds all of Apple’s video-enabled desktop, laptop, and portable devices together. It’s already being used to compress movies and realtime, multi-person video chat on Apple’s computers, and the results are impressive. Just imagine how those technologies will look on a portable screen.

We’re excited, and hope you are too. Let us know your thoughts - positive or negative - in the comments box below.

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Comments

1

I think that the video content that they should be focusing on is content from television shows and sports highlights.  I might not have time to devote and hour or so for a movie when on the subway I would have the time to see yesterday’s sports highlights or a half hour show.

Shows like ESPN Sportscenter Comedy Central’s The Daily Show already offer free streaming video a Video iPod could charge 99 cents for yesterdays show. They could charge for something people get for free currently. I would love to own the short clips from the Dave Chappelle show.

This could be a on the go Tivo and watch television content when you wanted it.
Content where we want information ie news sports etc are a better fit than to try to re-create a big screen movie experience.

There is so much video content online on the web today why doesn’t Apple consolidate all of those wide ranging video streams into one location like it did for the podcast directory. Something like real players superpass but for downloadable content.

In this situation everyone wins the content providers are getting paid for something they were giving away for free (or free with the comericals) and consumers get content that they can keep and take with them on the go and they have more choices.

Posted by daveisatmcc on July 24, 2005 at 11:19 AM (PDT)

2

the next incarnation of the ipod or video ipod will be more of a home entertainment device, where you can download video content and then either stream or download the video to a device which connects to a tv/lcd/hdtv etc…  watch and see in september wink

Posted by me101 on July 24, 2005 at 6:15 PM (PDT)

3

Jeremy, nice article. You have covered the major points quite well.

But at the same time you seem to have gone overboard while speculating on features that video capable iPods might have. I mean, really, video recording? Large screen? This would increase battery drain. In that case I think Apple will stop at playback (no pun intended - really!).

Remember: iPod is a playback device, not a creation device. Media creation is what computers are for.

I’d be very happy watching short clips or 30min cartoon episodes on the current iPod screen sizes. But whatever Apple does it is likely to be done the right way and will make otherwise great devices like Cowon’s X5 (using XviD, a smart move) look half-hearted and confused.

Posted by Pikemann_Urge on July 25, 2005 at 2:43 AM (PDT)

4

The key issue is content. Steve Jobs made this plain last year in introducing the iPod Photo. He said that Apple were [for the moment] avoiding a video device as there currently was no content to provide - or sell.

That is changing. It is significant that the BBC is about to make its entire video library available for purchase via the internet. Arguably the biggest storehouse of television in the world this is an amazing offer, scarcely imaginable a year ago.

This week we have seen an announcment that Apple and Disney have made some arrangement for video content. The elements are falling into place for video to be “packaged” in the way that music/audio has with iTunes and the iPod.

Other vendors are also talking about video downloads for a fee. Apple wants to catch the wave at the right time. Watch its timing. It has a knack of catching the public taste just at the right moment.

BTW Microsoft hypes its media centre. Mac users already know this is catch-up. Apple is well into its digital hub strategy to place the Mac [or indeed PC with Apple software] at the centre of the home entertainment suite. iTunes, Airport Express, Quicktime and the new video device are all key elements of that strategy. It is a winning combination.

Posted by Aggedor in Melbourne, Australia on July 25, 2005 at 4:58 AM (PDT)

5

I remember seeing something about an Apple patent to use an iPod as a laptop controller. Maybe there is also a plan to use the laptop screen as a playback device for a video iPod?

Posted by JeffW in Texas on July 25, 2005 at 5:31 AM (PDT)

6

“And there is now a well-regarded small widescreen LCD available: the 4.3? screen in Sony’s PlayStation Portable has received considerable praise.” Uhm, really? Is it better by now? All I read was about rows and rows of dead pixels that somehow distracted from the visual quality of the screen.
Jeremy, I miss the idea of movie rentals in your article. The market for movies that you rent for home use must be several magnitudes bigger than the one for portable use. I have no desire to watch a movie on the go, but in high quality at home, and I would like this to be an “instant gratification” experience as the iTMS provides for music. Time limited streams (home) or downloads (portable) have lots of potential. Stream movies of your choice for a nice evening, or iTunes automatically download your favourite late night show & sync it to your portable device so you can take it with you in the morning. All expires after say 48 hours, price varies but is never more than you would pay at a brick & mortar video-rental. There could be a subscription for shows and single payments for movies. Why permanently download, pay high & waste masses of space for something you will likely not watch more than once or twice? (Many) Movies & Shows are not like music, they are one-way goods.

And yes, we’ll need a nice & well priced WiFi controller with a display, we need it even now just for music.

BTW: The *&%$! site keeps forgetting my registration unless I activate cookies, could you *please* turn that behavior OFF. NOW! It worked without cookies before, so please.

Posted by Bad Beaver on July 26, 2005 at 4:30 AM (PDT)

7

I belive that the iVideo will be a screen only add on - that will b connected to the ipod from the bottom (along with a stronger line of ipod that will be able to do the work fast)
so we’ll get a regular size ipod with a 7” screen on the go.
it will keep the price low (the screen as an addon will bring more money) it will be much more logic - since usualy we can only listn to music we’ll take the screen when we plan to watch movies - like flight and so on.

Just my toughts…..

Posted by LinkTree in IL on July 26, 2005 at 6:25 AM (PDT)

8

Nice idea LinkTree smile Sounds a wee bit cluttersome though, you’d still need processing power in the screen, and the cable would have to have to be split so one can still hook up the AC or other extras that rely on the DockConnector.
Nevertheless, if they sell it with a fold-out case (like a wallet) the cable could easily be hidden. Perfect!

Posted by Bad Beaver on July 26, 2005 at 6:57 AM (PDT)

9

Speaking as a Swede and European…I hope Apple will provide TV-shows from the US to us in the EU…As it is now we are dependent on what the buyers at our TV channels are buying to see content from the US, or having to wait a year or more for the TV episodes to be released on DVD (if they ARE released i.e.). Many don’t want to wait, say for the latest episode of Stargate SG1. Battlestar Galactica, The 4400. Lost, Six Feet Under or other great US shows, so they download them illegally, usually the day after they have been shown in the US…Now if Apple could step in and help make this thirst for US content legal, they would do a great service to both the users and companys… So current US TV content would be attractive for us in the EU…maybe some Euro TV content would be attractive for US viewers?...Apple please break down media borders.

Posted by sven svensson on July 26, 2005 at 8:49 AM (PDT)

10

I was actually hoping that Apple would *upgrade* current Photo models to play video.  Sometime back, I remember reading that the chip in the current 4G iPods was capable of full motion video.  This is my 3rd iPod and I am a little sick of chasing the Apple cart every year and dropping $300-$500 a shot. 

In any case though, I hope Apple signs up with Tivo to allow that content to be transcoded into the iVideo format.  Currently, only Windows media devices are allowd to play Tivo content and that just sucks.

The small screen on the current iPod would be fine for personal use.  I really think any screen smaller than 20” is worthless for viewing movies on.  So I guess I would hate to see the iVideo get any larger than the current iPod.  Then you start treading on portability.  Look at what happened to the Creative Media Center.  Great device, great screen, but too large to carry anywhere.

Posted by gubbas on July 26, 2005 at 2:17 PM (PDT)

11

Jeremy, that was a really fantastic article on the concept of ‘iVideo’. I am an Australian Creative Director working in the South East Asia and I gather than many of the feedbacks so far have been written by U.S consumers. The concept of playing TV shows seems remote? What if we don’t have that kind of input facility. Hooking up to your iPod or streaming from the laptop? Many Mac users I know own only a desktop. The iVideo concept shouldn’t be too far from the current laptop capabilities but it must be for playback only. Anything less or remotely different from what users are used to would kill the product and I speak as an International consumer. iVideo design should look like a cross between the iPod and Sony’s PSP with the functionalities of a Newton, so it can be viewed portrait and landscape orientation. I think the next generation of Macs would be in black based on how Tiger has been marketed. They have tried every other colour. So maybe a black iVideo. It’s easier on the eyes. It is truly exciting and I hope iVideo comes true. But whatever Apple comes up with, you know it’s going to be magic and you will feel very special owning their products.

Posted by dreamery on July 26, 2005 at 5:57 PM (PDT)

12

I only skimmed through this editorial, so forgive me if some of my ideas were already mentioned. That said, here’s how I think the iPod will shift to video.

First, I believe it will just be a color iPod with the software to play videos, and nothing more. As people get used to the idea of playing videos with the iPod, third-party accessory makers, and possibly even Apple itself, will begin releasing accessories such as a camcorder bridge, TV tuners/recorders, and AV-out.

From there, the iPod will gain a form factor more akin to Archos’ PMPs. The screen will be larger, wider, and with a higher resolution. The iPod’s control layout will be horizontal in relation to the screen, as opposed to vertical like that on the iPod generations released as of yet. Initially, this new iPod will be in its own family (like the iPod photo was). Within a few months, however, the main iPod line will merge with the iPod video line.

To fill the void left by that merger, the iPod mini will gain the full feature set of the vanilla-flavored iPod, including a color screen and audio recording capabilities. By then, the iPod mini will have around 10 gigs of storage space.

As the shifting tapers off, the iPod shuffle will branch out as well, with the new line gaining an OLED screen seamlessly blended into the case, and will gain a navigation stick to, well… navigate the screen. This would let Apple better compete with the latest offerings from Sony and Jens of Sweden. At the same time, the original iPod shuffle line will shrink considerably, both is physical size and in price.

Only time will tell if all that’s just a really nice dream or if anything will come true, but that seems like the logical flow of things to me.

Posted by Mylar on July 27, 2005 at 5:36 AM (PDT)

13

Until I see this device and it totally blows me away, im still planning on getting nyko’s video player…

Posted by demonic_bunny on July 27, 2005 at 7:47 PM (PDT)

14

Please don’t forget that the iPod is an end media device - iTunes and your desktop/laptop provide the content for portability.  The mac Mini is better suited as a repository for digital content or any other desktop/laptop/PC, whatever - hooked up to a large screen - will we need HDMI output on the Mini?

One point you made about AAC. MP3 and the Sony problem is pretty eroneous/misleading.  When the iPod first shipped it played MP3 and that was it.  It was the move forward in Quicktime and the various encoding formats that led to AAc and then DRM AAC.  The iPod was pretty popular in it’s first 2 years.  The breakthrough was larger HD capacity, lower pricing, better advertising & the iTMS, iTMS for Windows, star endorsement and the great design of the navigation syste (something other companies still can’t better).
Otherwise and informative article but I don’t see an video iPod as necessary tool for an iVideo store

Posted by Tim Dooley on July 27, 2005 at 9:06 PM (PDT)

15

As for form of the unit, I think a current sized ipod turned sideways, is an acceptable sized screen.  It is also widescreen.

Put the clickwheel on the bottom, and you have yourself an acceptably dimensioned unit that maintains the ipod idea.

Posted by genrlz on July 27, 2005 at 11:20 PM (PDT)

16

Brilliant article, everything covered. Most interesting i think is about some sort of DVD ripping program like iTunes that you talked about. I am excited to see how excactly Apple will eventually implicate this.
Keep up the great articles Jeremy.

Posted by ijerry in Glos, UK on July 28, 2005 at 2:23 AM (PDT)

17

I don’t know. But I like iPods like they are now, just music (I think the photo thing is not that necessary).

Posted by Hukes on July 28, 2005 at 7:26 PM (PDT)

18

LOL at all this speculation about what it might do….

Let’s look at some recent history:

iPod: FM radio, voice recorder, USB host etc etc?!?!

Shuffle: bloody anything?!?!

Apple seem to be the kings of giving you less and charging you more. Why would they decide to change that and give you a feature rich video device?

It’ll probably be the most featureLESS video device out there whilst costing more than the others. Heck, it’ll be WHITE though so that’s OK.

And I just (personally) can’t be interested in watching video on something less than say a 7” screen - which means the device is no longer “slign it in your bag and forget about it” portable…..

Posted by PugRallye on July 29, 2005 at 2:57 AM (PDT)

19

I’m also squarely in the “absolutely do not want to buy portable video players” camp.  But if one consequence of Apple moving into this market could be better and cheaper audio ipods, then by all means, Apple, go for it.

Posted by Downing on July 29, 2005 at 10:25 AM (PDT)

20

BadBeaver,

The PSP display IS a thing to behold. Yes, the dead pixel issue is a problem, but then Sony did push the envelope on the image quality of the LCD over all other displays that existed before. Once a person gets a unit that has all pixels working (which actually isn’t very hard these days), the display is indeed spectacular. Even the single dead pixel on my PSP is easy to ignore given the quality of the image.

Posted by flatline response on July 29, 2005 at 4:20 PM (PDT)

21

The price points brought up by Jeremy are quite valid points. At $599, it’s isn’t all that much more to get into a reasonably full-featured new XP notebook.  It’s hard for me to get excited about small, portable content devices that are on the other side of $500, no matter how good. When the Razr first came out, I simply could not understand why ANYONE would want to pay $500 for a phone, no matter how sleek and pretty it is.  Nine months later, cell providers now package the same device as a free toss-in with some of their plans.

I certainly hope Apple plans on being aggressive with pricing on their next generation of players, though I’m also not holding my breath, either. I know they make tons of money off these things, but hey, the consumer could use a break every once and awhile, too, especially for something that in a few months will probably be surpassed by upgraded models.

Posted by flatline response on July 29, 2005 at 4:30 PM (PDT)

22

I found this on engadget a couple of days ago - check it out.  I have the feeling that this could be strangely familiar in a couple of months…

http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000917052246/

Posted by bguise on July 29, 2005 at 6:57 PM (PDT)

23

The pieces are finally coming together for Apple to make portable video more of a reality than ever before. Very insightful article.

The technology is available to provide consumers with a product like “iSlate”. Of course only Apple could really do it right, although several other companies are attempting to create some variation of this device. Unfortunately many are too focused on video playback only, & not creating a true multi-function device that could be used at home, at the office, or on the road. This product would integrate well into the “Digital Lifestyle” philosophy & compliment existing Apple products.

It would provide a screen large enough to actually watch video & view photos, while still being small enough to be portable. It needs to be smaller than a notebook computer, but larger than a PDA. Granted, you can not put a device the size of a DVD case in your pocket, but something doesn’t have to fit in a pocket to be portable. This device could be used in so many different situations that it would have broad appeal in the market. I only pray that Apple is working on such a device & will release it in 2004. They have an opportunity to impact the industry with the iSlate & iVideo media Store as much as the iPod & iTMS will.

iSlate

New Apple mini-tablet –> PMA (portable media appliance)

Designed not to be a creative device like a desktop or laptop, but rather a sophisticated display device that communicates seamlessly with other devices via Rendezvous & 802.11, BT, GPRS, FireWire, etc.

Device Size:
8? x 5.0? x .65? (±15oz)
± 1/2 size of a 17? PowerBook
± 2x size of a Palm T5 or an iPod
± size of a DVD movie case
small enough to hold with one hand by the bezel (.5? bezel on the sides)

Screen:
±8? LCD (16:9 ratio) -> 800 x 480 pixels minimum (1024 x 600 ideally)
± 1/2 size of 17? PowerBook screen
± 2x size of a Palm T5 screen
able to display “640 x 480 material? & DVD (720x480) quality video natively

Battery:
6-9 hour Li-Ion battery (or some new battery technology)

Storage:
1.8? 40GB or 60GB hard drive (additional capacity can come from external devices)
256MB or 512MB RAM - fixed
SD slot (w/ adapter for xD & Smart Media)

Processor & OS ?:
Motorola 800 MHz G4 mobile w/ Mac OS X lite or
Intel 500 MHz XScale PXA27x w/ Mac OS Mobile?

Connectivity:
802.11 –> Desktop or Laptop, Stereo, Internet via Wi-Fi hotspots
Bluetooth –> Keyboard, Mouse, PDA, Wireless Headphones, Internet via GSM Phone
FireWire –> iPod, Computer, Hard Drive, DVD/CD writer, Video Camera, iSight
USB 2.0 –> Printer, PDA, Digital Still Camera
mini-DVI w/adapter for:
  -> ADC & VGA for larger monitor
  -> DVI for video projector or HDTV
  -> S-Video for video projector or TV
  -> Composite for video projector or TV
Stereo mini out
Stereo mini in
Rendezvous for seamless connectivity to other devices

Input:
Inkwell via touch screen &/or stylus
Keyboard & mouse via Bluetooth or USB
Microphone
Remote control via Bluetooth

Applications:
inkwell, iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, Safari, QuickTime, iSync, Rendezvous
Preview, Mail, iCal, Address Book, Sherlock, iChat AV
Keynote, FileMaker, Quicken, etc.

A/V Formats:
MPEG-4 (incl. H.264), MPEG-2, MPEG-1, AAC, MP3, WAV, AIFF, Audible, JPEG, TIFF, GIF

Accessories:
Charger, External Battery, Stand, clip for iSight, Portable folding BT keyboard, BT mouse
Headphone w/Microphone boom, quality stereo headphones

Price ??:
$699 to $999


Create a device that is bigger that the largest PDA or Archos type device, yet smaller than the average notebook or tablet computer. Imagine if you will, holding a device (about the size of a DVD case) away from you anywhere from 12” to 18”. Obviously a 4” screen would be inadequate, but a 7” to 9” diagonal widescreen would be more than acceptable. It could still be small enough to fit in a stack of books, a briefcase, a large purse, of any number of other carrying cases. It would be something that could be viewed in an office, at home, in a coffee shop, on an airplane or train, or even in the backseat of a car.  It could also connect to larger monitors/projectors.

The idea is not to see how much visual information one can cram into a small space (3” to 4” screens) or replace existing devices like the TV or Video Projector. The idea is to create a device that is a reasonable compromise between portability & “acceptable or pleasurable” viewing for multiple applications & that also complements existing devices.

Although a 4 lb, 12” notebook computer displays video beautifully (I use one everyday), it is too big for the situations I have described. Beyond the innumerable business applications it could fulfill, it could display video & photos on a screen that is much bigger than an Archos type device or PDA, & yet smaller than a notebook computer. It doesn’t need to carry everything all the time, so it doesn’t require a massive hard drive. The internal HD needs only to be large enough for the OS, applications & enough storage to carry material while you away from any connectivity to other devices or the internet.

From a strictly “video perspective?, a large part of its success would hinge upon Apple’s ability to distribute video clips through an online store much like iTMS. This store could provide educational content, business content, news content, & entertainment content beyond just movies. To be truly successful, it must integrate into Apple’s “Digital Lifestyle” strategy, & be truly portable (ubiquitous wireless connectivity & good battery life).

Originally Posted by: lajocaab on Feb 11, 04 | 11:05 pm

Posted by lajocaab on July 29, 2005 at 7:29 PM (PDT)

24

Everyone seems to be forgetting something VERY important. Screens get scratched easily. We’ve seen this in all iPods with exception to the shuffle and the mini (although it’s still totally possible to scratch the mini, just harder)

In the current iPod looking at the screen is important, but not vital. We can still hear the music with a scuffed screen, it may be annoying, and make it harder to find songs, but our experience doesn’t depend on screens.

The video player WILL depend on screens. Obviously. So what’s the solution? A laptop style flip open design? In a way this makes sense, but it kinda sucks. It’s too much like a mini laptop, or the current portable DVD players or one of those Nokia computer phone things, or any clam-shell styled phone, and not enough like the iPod we know and love.

It make sense to have the clam-shell style because it’d save the screen, but I really hope they don’t do that. It’d suck. And make me sad.

What do you guys think?

PS. We don’t have TiVo in Australia just yet, so any TV recording thing, whether its on the device itself or as a program on the computer, or even a TV capture hardware/software bundle would be pretty awesome.

Posted by Mondayne on July 30, 2005 at 5:41 AM (PDT)

25

From my expirience watching movies on the PSP is really fun… with a good set of earphones you can become really immerse in the movie…

I believe it is possible that Apple might simply upgrade the current line of ipods with video functionality…
After all… it has already been done with iPodlinux…
(http://www.ipodlinux.org/Video_Player)

But seeing how Apple treated old ipod users… may be it will simply create a new iPod with wider screen and bigger HD and ditch all the current users…

Posted by Or in Israel on July 30, 2005 at 11:26 AM (PDT)

26

As far as screens getting scratched, a simple design that implements a removeable/replaceable clear cover would solve that.

Posted by Kloan in Toronto, ON on July 31, 2005 at 12:11 AM (PDT)

27

Kloan: I think I disagree about the removable clear cover. That’s not very good design if they know it’s gonna get scratched and offer only a band-aid type solution to the problem. Surely there is a better method. The iPod mini’s reccessed screen was on the right track, but if the surface area is larger the reccess will need to be deeper to accomodate.

Simply covering up the problem causes more problems; Screen protectors are a constant expense that some feel is unjustified. Also there are some serious problem with those protectors, they bubble, they get scuffed and they’re slightly opaque. Which is fine for monochrome display in short bursts of use, but not so crash hot for longer veiwing times and color displays.

Yeah, so I might be making a minor issue into something larger, but it is a genuine concern of mine, that I’m sure others share.

Posted by Mondayne on July 31, 2005 at 4:56 AM (PDT)

28

Guys you really usually write better then this.
First off, you already can play videos on your ipods. Even on the grayscale versions.

http://ipodlinux.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1636&highlight=video

You should really follow IPL more.

Now this was done with reverse engineering, naturally the developers at apple who have full access can achieve better results. So as you can see for yourself newer and more powerful chips are not really required to get your ipods to playback video.

H.264 will probably require some more power, but I don’t see Apple moving away from PortablePlayer and their offerings. That relationship has been good to both.

So this is really a question of legality, software on the ipods, and good will. And when there is a will there is a way. If the almighty Steve decides he wants his ipods to play videos they will.

The only question here is screen size. In my opinion, and you heard it here first, all ipods with a screen will have video playing functionality added to them. You will notice that the whole line has color screens now; perhaps it will even come in the form of a software update and not a product refresh.

It will just be a feature added to the ipods, and the content will not be full length movies. Apple has a relationship with Disney (Pixar anyone?), thus you will be able to play on your ipods cartoons and ESPN content, like highlights of games and such.

I also believe that the video content that’s going to be sold thru itunes is going to have a subscription model instead of a fixed price per video.

The other possible content is talk shows, and the more popular TV shows and news programs. But that requires a bigger screen; hence a new ipod model will be introduced with a different form factor.

Wide screen in the middle and the click wheel smaller then it is now and on the side.

You will probably not be able to rip a DVD and play it back on the ipod, at least not at first, but you will however be able to download a movie and play it on your ipod AND rip it to a DVD.

Remember this post.


- Eugene

Posted by webby on August 1, 2005 at 4:15 AM (PDT)

29

Only issue I’m interested in is if apple reveals iVideo (or whatever the name) ¿will drop prices on regular iPod’s?. That will be fantastic since theres no 30 or 40 GB available and 60 is really too much.

Posted by mamerio on August 1, 2005 at 7:34 AM (PDT)

30

I can’t wait! What is the storage size of Sony UMD? I ask because if it’s small enough, which I guess that it is, you could store entire movies on your ipod. What would stop you from ripping the dvd and shrinking it down to the right format with some shareware program… or Cleaner… or Apple SW?

http://www.tigercompatible.com

Posted by krez on August 11, 2005 at 4:29 PM (PDT)

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