Heir to Walkman’s Throne | iLounge Article

Article

Heir to Walkman’s Throne

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Monday, March 29, 2004
Articles Categories: Editorials

An iLounge Exclusive: Apple, Microsoft, and other contenders perceive themselves as potential heirs to Sony’s Walkman dynasty. But Sony isn’t ready to abandon its title quite yet.

March 29, 2004
By Jeremy Horwitz

If Apple’s recent success with the iPod caught your attention, you’re not alone: After almost twenty-five years without a legitimate challenge to the Walkman product line, Sony now finds itself scrambling to produce a portable entertainment product that will win over today’s more demanding consumers.

And music isn’t necessarily the answer. For years, Sony openly admitted that it wanted to own the portable games market created by Nintendo, but still managed to shock with its announcement last May that the “Walkman of the Future” - release date 2004 - would play music, movies, and games on a single device.

Now Microsoft is putting both Sony and Apple in its crosshairs. Working with five strategic partners, the software giant plans an “iPod killer” device for 2004 that will play music, movies, and digital photos - not games - with color screens and iPod-like hard drives.

Despite the marked differences in their products, each of these three major consumer electronics manufacturers believes that its concept will be this generation’s Walkman, and is willing to spend millions of dollars - perhaps billions - popularizing its devices. In anticipation of the holiday 2004 battle to come, iLounge wanted to take a look at each of the key players, their relevant past products, and the new devices they’ll market as the heir to Walkman’s throne. We hope you’ll share your comments and perspectives after reading this article.

Background: The Dynasty Sony Built


 
Corporate Profile: Sony Corporation Claims to Fame: Inventor of Walkman and PlayStation hardware, owner of major movie, music and game development companies. Key Failures: Several controversial or unpopular Walkman follow-ups, failed proprietary video and audio standards (Betamax, ATRAC). Market Capitalization: $38.35 billion Liquid Assets on Hand: $7.59 billion (last filing 3-31-03)
 

Few companies have created products so unique and well-known that their trademarked names become synonymous with specific ideas, but like Xerox, Sony manages that feat with the original Walkman. Introduced to Japanese consumers in July 1979, the first Walkman sold for 33,000 yen (approximately $152 at then-current exchange rates) and introduced the concept of portable, personal audio to the world: before the Walkman, no one used headphones or pocket-sized battery-powered cassette tape players.

Within several years, the Walkman was globally successful, and by 1995, Sony alone had sold over 150 million Walkmen across 300 different models. Numerous smaller competitors similarly sold untold hundreds of millions of Walkman clones.

But apart from the Discman, a CD-based version of the Walkman, Sony has stumbled several times with subsequent portable entertainment innovations. In 1989, the company released its first Video Walkman (the GV-8), combining an LCD screen with a portable 8-millimeter video cassette deck at a premium price. For fifteen years, Sony has continued to sell Video Walkman-branded models in obscurity, maintaining price levels of $700-1200 while competitors have released superior products. Panasonic beat Sony to the punch with portable LCD-based DVD players, and Sony fumbled after waiting three years to enter that market.

Sony has also had portable audio-related misfires in recent years, trying unsuccessfully to popularize the MiniDisc (later MD Walkman) format outside of Asia, and most recently flopping in 1999 with its Network Walkman, a premium-priced portable audio player built around proprietary Sony encryption technologies and solid state memory. The device was plagued by digital rights management problems - initially, Sony’s requirement that all audio be converted into its proprietary and unpopular ATRAC format for playback - compounded by poor interface software and hardware reliability issues. Needless to say, none of Sony’s post-Walkman or Discman-series portable entertainment devices has achieved popularity comparable to Apple’s iPod.

Sony Presses Play Again

That hasn’t stopped Sony from dreaming. Slightly less than a year ago, Sony surprised journalists at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles by unveiling plans for a device touted as “the Walkman of the future” - not an audio player, but rather an all-in-one portable entertainment device that goes far beyond headphones and even music.

Enter the PlayStation Portable, commonly abbreviated PSP. In the wake of Apple’s success, Sony has suggested that portable audio alone is no longer exciting enough for a global television, movie, game, music and electronics company such as itself, or for today’s consumers. From the perspective of Sony Computer Entertainment - a small but increasingly important division of parent company Sony - the ideal device to popularize would play music, movies, and interactive software, not just one medium or another.

Unlike prior Sony flops, the PSP will be loaded with premium technology. With a 4.5” widescreen LCD display, proprietary 1.8GB optical Universal Media Discs (UMD) for storage and - of course - joypads and buttons, the PSP can display movies in MPEG-4 format, use Dolby 7.1 channel surround sound output and the MP3 format for music, and play games roughly equivalent to today’s PlayStation 2 software. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery is expected to power 4-5 hours of continuous game-playing, with more or less battery life for non-gaming purposes depending on whether the screen and optical disc are continuously being accessed.


Sony PlayStation Portable

Sony’s first official mock-up of the PlayStation Portable is unquestionably slick, with a black plastic and transparent Lucite case that could as easily be the iPod’s evil bigger brother. A chrome plate divides the unit in two halves, extending past the front and back shells to include a metal hole for a hand strap, and a hard plastic rear with a pop-open door for the UMD discs. Though the production model is expected to vary from Sony’s mock-up, the current unit’s resemblance to the better design features of the third-generation iPod is significant.

Confronted with the PSP’s specifications, even Nintendo has shied away from direct competition with the device, preferring instead to focus only on gaming hardware. And while smaller companies have developed PDAs with gaming and audio abilities, none touches the PSP’s robust feature set.

Therefore, if you consider video, audio, and interactive software to be the dominant media of our age, Sony is the only major consumer electronics manufacturer planning to offer a true do-it-all portable player in the immediate future. Its only weaknesses relative to the iPod: it doesn’t contain a hard disk, and though it uses Memory Sticks and discs, Sony hasn’t guaranteed yet that it will play user-recorded music. But it likely will.

Over eighty developers are already creating original game content for the PSP, and Sony has suggested that its movie and music discs will appear on the machine, as well. The PSP is planned for launch in Japan by the end of this year, with a United States launch in early 2005. Though some developers are optimistic that Sony will deliver the PSP at a price point at or under $200, insiders suggest that Sony continues to debate $249.95-$299.95 price points, comparable to low-end iPods.

Whither Microsoft?


 
Corporate Profile: Microsoft Corporation Claims to Fame: Inventor of Windows operating systems and Windows Media audio and video standards, designer of Pocket PC and Xbox hardware, possessor of $50+ billion war chest. Key Failures: Non-PC products generally fail to achieve majority or dominant market share, current WMA music business squeezed by Apple’s iTunes Market Capitalization: $270.18 billion Liquid Assets on Hand: $52.78 billion (last filing 12-31-03)
 

Some years ago, Microsoft decided strategically to stay almost entirely out of the hardware business, preferring instead to develop software that powered devices made by others. That strategy worked remarkably well, and through its partnerships with hardware manufacturers, Windows DNA spread to PCs, PDAs, cellular phones and even Sega’s Dreamcast game console - with almost no risk to Microsoft’s bottom line.

Yet when the company switched strategies to self-manufacture the Xbox, its prior wisdom was confirmed: roughly $2 billion in losses later - perhaps considerably more based on wider measurements - the console is still a very distant second to Sony’s PlayStations. Ever ambitious, Microsoft isn’t close to declaring the Xbox a lost cause, and even plans a superior follow-up. With over $50 billion in liquid financial reserves - more money on hand right now than most companies will ever make, combined - it can easily afford to take more losses if necessary.

But upon deeper examination, each of Microsoft’s other recent ventures - from its Pocket PC PDAs to Ultimate TV and its attempts to popularize Windows Media Audio as the premier format for downloadable music - has fallen short of its potential, despite significant Microsoft expenditures. In each case, the problem hasn’t been the technology, but rather Microsoft’s relative lack of compelling content by comparison with established competitors. It has often been accused, perhaps correctly, of creating hardware and solutions in search of a need, rather than products consumers have yearned for.

Microsoft’s “iPod Killer”

Now Microsoft’s ready to try something new: portable entertainment. But it’s not sinking its money into Xbox-style hardware manufacturing or games at all this time: instead, it’s sticking with a concept that brought its Pocket PC format surprisingly close to conquering the PDA market dominated by Palm. After developing a hardware and software reference design codenamed Media2Go - a successor to its Windows CE and Pocket PC formats - Microsoft has decided to let other companies assume most of the risks of manufacturing, marketing, and developing content for the devices.

Recently renamed Portable Media Centers, the Media2Go units will come in several variations, but they all have one thing in common: Microsoft reportedly believes they’ll be an “iPod Killer.” If specs were everything, we might agree: each Portable Media Center will include a hard drive with either 20GB or 40GB capacity, a 3.5” or larger color LCD screen, a simple user interface and the ability to play back re-recorded music in MP3 or WMA formats, movies and TV shows in WMV format, and digital photographs in JPEG or TIFF format. Some models will include AV outputs for connection to televisions.

Not surprisingly, these devices will interface with Windows PCs, turning home computers into docking stations for Portable Media Center satellites. If you have the right hardware and software, you’ll be able to record audio and video content on the PC for transferring over to the Portable Media Center.


Creative Labs Portable media Center


iRiver PMC-100

Creative Labs, iRiver, Samsung, Sanyo and Viewsonic have already signed on to manufacture Portable Media Centers, and while the list may look like a who’s who of unsuccessful iPod challengers, there’s definitely talent in the pool. Samsung and Sanyo are among the world’s top LCD makers, and happen to be supplying screens for Sony and Nintendo’s next portable consoles. Creative Labs and iRiver have enjoyed disproportionate success in the audio arena, developing impressive (if not iPod-level) followings for their flash- and hard drive-based MP3 players.

Whether consumers will view the Portable Media Centers as 21st Century Walkman replacements is still an open question, but they definitely have some weaknesses relative to the iPod: they’re physically larger, more expensive to produce, and depend largely on proprietary Microsoft content formats - WMA and WMV - which have not yet matured. Battery capacity is also a question mark. As devices to play back MP3s and JPEG-format digital photographs, they’ll be fine, but it’s unclear whether users will want to use WMV-format video files.

Current plans call for the Portable Media Centers to release in North America in the second half of 2004, most likely starting in September, at price points ranging upwards of $500 depending upon hard drive capacity and vendor. Content for the media centers can be created by consumers or purchased from companies including Disney, EMI Music, Microsoft, and Napster.

Where Does This Leave Apple?


 
Corporate Profile: Apple Computer Inc. Claims to Fame: Inventor of Macintosh computers, iPod digital audio players, QuickTime audio and video standards, and the iTunes Music Store. Key Failures: Prior to iPod, none of company’s products directly achieved “mainstream” status, best features often stolen and exploited by lower-priced competitors. Market Capitalization: $10.00 billion Liquid Assets on Hand: $4.79 billion (last filing 12-27-03)
 

With two major competitors ready to nip at its heels, Apple has only three things to be thankful for: first, it has a multi-year lead; second, Sony and Microsoft’s products are also going to compete against each other, rather than combining forces against Apple; and third, it will in any case remain the world’s most popular dedicated digital music player. But while each of these factors is legitimate, Apple will be in for a rude awakening if it begins to believe that any of them are decisively important.

A multi-year lead can be squandered. Sony blew eight years of experience developing and selling Video Walkmen when portable LCD-DVD players emerged, somehow waiting three years to compete in a newer and bigger market it could clearly have dominated. Apple’s not immune to myopia: it once had the graphical user interface operating system market all to itself. True, the iPod’s sold well to date, but it’s not yet approaching the 150 million Walkmen Sony sold in the first 16 years of that device’s lifespan. While Apple has momentum on its side, its lead at this point is hardly insurmountable, and if a competing technology has a strong chance of success, Apple risks irrelevance by falling too far behind the curve.

Sony and Microsoft’s marketing dollars won’t cancel each other out or directly attack Apple, yet they will contribute to broad consumer awareness and comparisons of new portable entertainment technologies. With tens of millions of dollars earmarked for holiday 2004 marketing of these new devices, it’s highly likely that increased adoption of portable electronics will be a consequence. But the average consumer - the mainstreamer, not early adopter - may only be able to afford one of these devices, not two or all three. Value-conscious consumers will ask which device or devices have the best features and pricing, and at the moment, Apple may not be on the better end of either measure. With a low price and lots of features, Sony in particular might have a compelling iPod alternative for younger buyers.

Finally, while there’s something to be said for the corporate strategy of narrowly defining a product so that nothing else apparently competes with it - saying, for example, that the iPod will forever remain a premium-priced music player, nothing more - that’s almost always a company’s first step towards irrelevance. Nintendo tried the same strategy with two successive game consoles, and Apple previously tried that strategy by paradoxically positioning the Macintosh as the “computer for the rest of us,” available only at elite buyers’ price points. Both companies were utterly dominated by inferior competing hardware. If Apple stubbornly focuses solely on music playback and the iTunes Music Store rather than thinking bigger, it may be destined to repeat this mistake again.

Recent rumors have suggested that Apple’s next iPod will include a color screen for displaying digital photographs, and there have been numerous hints that Apple’s considering a video-enabled iPod as a later successor. Publicly, Apple has remained coy about its plans, and despite Microsoft and Sony’s looming threats has apparently focused most of its efforts on developing bigger music and personal computer sales. It’s hard to know what Apple’s planning, but if its competitors act quickly enough, perhaps mainstream customers won’t want to wait to find out.

Admittedly, when we ask the question, “which device will emerge as the Walkman of the Future?,” we know there isn’t necessarily one answer. Some companies will certainly evolve the original Walkman concept, while others will revolutionize it for a new generation of consumers. At iLounge, we still get excited almost every time Apple announces a new product. We only hope, for the sake of our beloved iPods, that Apple has an insanely great plan for what’s about to come next.

What do you think? Add your comments using the form below!

Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school -ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.

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Comments

1

I think that Sony and Microsoft are taking steps in the right direction, but I am not so sure about having an all-in-one device.  They both “missed” out on the portable mp3 market, so they are trying to “catch up” with the competition by putting together an all-in-one device.  This could be a good thing, but I am not so sure that it will captivate the portable audio audience.  Whether it will be successful in the future is yet to be seen.

I think that Apple has some tricks up it’s sleeve when it comes to the iPod and the mini.  I think that Apple will continue with the development of this highly successful unit and pack on additional features with each subsequent release to include photo viewing, and even possibly playing video files.  I just hope that they can continue the great customer service as the customer base continues to grow.

Posted by Nam on March 29, 2004 at 9:12 AM (PDT)

2

I agree with Nam

I reckon the 4 or 5th gen pods will have video playback

ipods are made in Taiwan

Posted by milo on March 29, 2004 at 9:22 AM (PDT)

3

I wouldn’t mind a Sony-Apple alignment for entertainment-related hardware/software production. Both companies pay great attention to detail and quality. Sony offers experience in the market and a successful lead, while Apple offers innovation unlike any other. Instead of fighting against eachother, they can shut Gates out of the industry.

I swear by Sony and I swear by Apple for obvious reasons. I wouldn’t be opposed to an agreement at all. We just need both companies to lose the pride and get along.

Posted by Wolf on March 29, 2004 at 9:29 AM (PDT)

4

I think video playback on a small device is a problem given that people would rather watch a movie on a big screen rather than a tiny tiny one which puts a lot of stress on one’s eyesight. So it is not an ideal medium for miniaturisation, unlike the iPod which is very small (big selling point) and yet delivers great sound and allows you to manage your entire music library in most cases. Small screen does not offer a great visual experience and I cannot see myself toting around a small box just to watch my favorite show. It just won’t cut it. For me the absolute small screen for watching a movie is that of a 15” laptop, no less (I am getting on with age and my vision is not getting any better). Also, people do not watch a movie or a show over and over again, unlike a piece of music. So what is the point of carrying your movie collection with you? There are TV and HDTV screen for this and they are gaining in popularity. The more I think about it the more uncompelling this so called iPod killer is beginning to look.

Posted by Viviana Wong on March 29, 2004 at 10:13 AM (PDT)

5

Without a Hard Drive the Sony offering will not even be a serious contender to the iPod. These are different devices for a different market. The people who bought 150 million Sony Walkmans is what Apple must remain focused on. They have the money to buy iPods.

Apple must not allow itself to be distracted by red herring such as these convergance devices. Fact is that small screen TV playback has been around for a long time and those devices did not approach 150 million sales. This is another one of Microsoft’s development for a need that is not there and I can only hope they bankrupt themselves investing in it.

Can someone please expain to me what marketing data shows demand for a video playback device? Numbers not wild speculation please. Apple is heading in the right direction with the iPod Mini. It must not sacrificing battery life (which is actually where Apple should focus development dollars) or size over what is by comparison non-existent demand for video playback devices.

The big picture is selling 150 million iPods while letting Microsoft and Sony spend millions on development and raising awareness. Apple will then be in a position to take its intalled base of millions and introduce accessories for video playback that can serve as gaming consoles, vedeo playback, picture viewing and what not and totally trump it’s compettitors.

Posted by Edwin on March 29, 2004 at 10:17 AM (PDT)

6

I agree with Viviana.
These video bricks are more hype than reality. And, there really isn’t anything new there except throwing a bunch of multimedia modes into one device.
Loosers any way you look at them. I might just as well carry around a small laptop with all the capabilities and more.

Posted by George on March 29, 2004 at 10:30 AM (PDT)

7

I find it difficult to credit a review favourably when it fails to mention some of the existing video devices, especially the current market leaders: the Lyra and the Archos.

I mean, Archos are on their 3rd generation video player these days!

Also, I notice that on iPodlounge I see Google adverts for the ZVue, the $150 video player. That’s kind of ironic - they must have bought the keyword for ipod or something?

Posted by No Archos?!? on March 29, 2004 at 11:19 AM (PDT)

8

One touted feature of the PSP that I really like: 7.1 channel audio output. What exactly is the point of having a portable device (that presumably comes with stereo headphones) output to 7 channels and a subwoofer? Either Sony is in the process of developing the fanciest headphones the world has ever seen, or this is one of the many useless bells and whistles so common in would-be “iPod-killers”.

The is probably useless trolling, but those PMC mockups are just hideous. They would actually look better with all the redundant buttons that most iPod knock-offs have.

One last rant. If M$ is going to beat Apple in the portable market, they’re going to have to beat them with marketing. “Portable Media Center”? Come on. I really can’t imagine carrying a “Center” around in the coin pocket of my jeans (where my iPod lives). These bricks are going to be more luggable, maybe even packable, than portable.

Posted by Big Jim on March 29, 2004 at 12:01 PM (PDT)

9

Here are more of the portable video players. All of them seem to have limited battery life and most lack Firewire. What’s the point of video without Firewire?

http://www.hotmp3gear.com/Multimediacomparison.htm

Posted by more of them on March 29, 2004 at 12:08 PM (PDT)

10

You might notice that the article (a) is on the long side and (b) deals only with Sony, Microsoft, and Apple. Hence the omission of numerous smaller players like Archos and RCA. Regardless of whether you like what they’ve done, no one has (yet) suggested that either Archos’ or RCA’s product is about to become the Walkman of the future.

As a footnote to the piece above, I personally think Archos has had the right idea with their players for a long time, however, there can be little doubt that they possess neither the marketing nor manufacturing muscle to compare with Microsoft’s new suite of devices.

Regarding RCA and the Lyra, if ever there has been a consumer electronics product that completely defied all earlier predictions of its success, the video Lyra is that product - primarily because of firmware/software, quality control, and other issues. But it had a lot of promise.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on March 29, 2004 at 12:20 PM (PDT)

11

The iPodmini is the “iPod killer”. Cool, tiny, light, easy to use, and desirable. The best device for what people want. Music to go! An all in one media device might have some appeal, and the iPod senior might even morph into that, but the mini will supply a proven market, ie: portable music player.
As far as watching video on a 3 inch screen? The pitchfork waving mob outside is demanding large screen TVs, so how big can this new mini screen market be?
Just more landfill!

Posted by ilk on March 29, 2004 at 12:23 PM (PDT)

12

And to make one other brief point for anyone who is thinking of adding to the “who cares about video and photo convergence devices” comments, please be sure to indicate whether you would refuse to buy one if Apple was selling it for $500 as the “iPod AV” or something similar.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on March 29, 2004 at 12:25 PM (PDT)

13

“only with Sony, Microsoft, and Apple.”

I’ll readily accept Sony and Apple being in there but really, M$ has a long, long, long history of announcing vapor products and imaginary platforms.

I still rmember when Go started to do their excellent little PDA back in the late 1980s and M$ basically killed it dead by pre-announcing “Pen Windows”. That died a death. I see Tablet PCs going the same way.

Of course, out of the ruble of Go came the kernal for the teams that developed the Palm and the Newton, but M$‘s hamfisted multi-year vapor trailing delayed the PDA market by several years. Instead of working with the existing devices in the market, consumers and VCs and developers waited for M$ to deliver. And waited. And waited…

Not every standard that M$ develops turns to gold: MSX.

And yeah, judging from the user reports on hte Lyra RCA have screwed that one up incredibly badly.

Posted by VaporWare on March 29, 2004 at 12:46 PM (PDT)

14

$200-$249 price point for the PSP…EXTREMELY doubtful…not even a fair guesstimate.

Posted by Jay Bailey on March 29, 2004 at 12:48 PM (PDT)

15

With the iPod you can get a new “fix” -i.e. a new song you like, for 99 cents. Are the providers of content for these video players going to sell highly compressed versions of movies for small screens? If they did, and the price was low, say $1.99, then they would sell. The screen would have to be larger than a business card and 16 x 9. Special versions of movies could be made with more close-ups, fewer long shots.

Posted by Zato on March 29, 2004 at 12:53 PM (PDT)

16

“Are the providers of content for these video players going to sell highly compressed versions of movies for small screens?”

I provide most of the content for my own video player. Mostly clips from The Daily Show or SNL, and a bunch of music videos and Simpsons and Futurama episodes (converted from DVD).

As many people have noted, it’s a bit of a PITA to watch a 2-hour movie on one of these, but for small clips, sight gag jokes, and animations, they are ideal. But they are also a good way to watch a movie if you are visiting someone - just plug them into the composite/SVideo input on a big screen and you are ready! Saves carrying over DVDs anyway.

Posted by Video Content on March 29, 2004 at 1:34 PM (PDT)

17

I think it would be a great addition to an iPod if it could record video through a firewire card, this way you could hook it up to your video camera and have 20- 40 Gb of video say good bye to video tapes and all compatibility problems with DVD camera’s and it would kick but aggainst these wanna be copies with limited storage size from sony.. it would also be great if it had a RCA/firewire output, that way the screen size is irrelevant as you could watch the vid’s on your TV…

Posted by El Gato in Australia-Melbourne on March 29, 2004 at 2:35 PM (PDT)

18

I think there would have to be a “something for nothing” factor to get large quantities of these expensive players in use. The Walkman was $50.00. The iPod average sale is $360.00. But if you can D/L songs for free…. This is the original driving motor of the iPod and competitors sales. And is now being replaced by reasonably priced good quality legal D/L’s.

Posted by Zato on March 29, 2004 at 2:41 PM (PDT)

19

my 2 cents worth: human behaviour

the easiest thing about an iPod is that I can use it whilst doing other activities at the same time.

all these other devices contain functionalities that require you to interact with the device constantly, therefore requiring you to dedicate some of your time that you may have to get from stopping to do some other activity.

the only other feature that i would like to get from my iPod is a carry around photo album. this way I don’t have to take my powerbook to show mum and dad my mates wedding photos.

i would simply take my iPod.

and…..

if there is a video screen, why not open source the code a bit so we developers can start knocking out some cool games?

Posted by Steve Davies on March 29, 2004 at 3:26 PM (PDT)

20

“The Walkman was $50.00.”

When first released the Walkman cost $200 (1979). That’s equal to over $500 in today’s dollars. I think Apple have made a reasonable effort in lowering the entry level cost for their players, but they need to lower the cost to below $99 for the iPod brand to achieve anything like the same ubiquity of the original Walkman.

Of course, Sony-branded Walkman products always carried (and still carry) a price premium. It’s the no-name Chinese knock-offs that retail for around $10 today.

Posted by Walkman Price on March 29, 2004 at 3:48 PM (PDT)

21

Just wanted to add that my figures (from Sony press release) say that between 1979-1999 they sold 186 million Walkmans. That’s around 9 million a year. I think Apple is managing around 1 million iPods annually - maybe those sales will pickup with the Mini?

All the mp3 sales are still small potatoes compared to the sales of mobile phones. I think phones are where the real threat to the iPod, other mp3 players, and PDAs comes from. All the non-phone markets sturggle for funding, purchasers, and revenue streams. But the mobile phone companies and operators have huge, growing, essential, and revenue rich operations. This leverage lets them constantly expand the capabilities of their devices.

I think that mobiles will soon swallow much of the market for lower-end point and click digital cameras. Then they will move into streamed and stored audio, swallowing up much of the mp3 player market. Simultaneously, they are adding gaming and video features - their efforts here may let them take a sizable chunk of the handheld and video market.

Mobiles are real “enemy” for the iPod in the long run - not personal video players.

Posted by Walkman Sales on March 29, 2004 at 3:59 PM (PDT)

22

I think the real thing about iPods is their storage size ant the fact that you can use them as a portable hd. This makes them way more attractive than a mobile with a little camera useless for anithing other than making a folder icon, and a memory that at best holds three songs.If you own an ipod it means that you oviously looked at the competition and decided to go for a Hd over limited ram and that is something i don’t see mobiles developing soon..

Posted by El Gato in Australia-Melbourne on March 29, 2004 at 4:09 PM (PDT)

23

To start with a comment in the beginning, “what’s the point of video without firewire?”  Not everyone has a mac, I don’t.  USB 2.0 is becomming more popular everyday.  The iPod is the only hard drive music player that does not come with USB 2.0 support (unless you buy the cord).  USB 2.0 is more universal than firewire.  If these portable video devices are compatible with USB 2.0 or firewire then that would be great.  iPod is the only portable music device that is compatible with both USB 2.0 and firewire, you just have to buy the chord.  Apple needs to evolve to the rest of the world instead of everybody changing around them.  They need to adapt to USB 2.0 (I am not sure if they have yet).  The poblem I see with these all-in-one devices is that they are too bulky.  The iPod in its entirety is about the same size as most of the LCD screens for these devices.  If Apple keeps the size of the 3rd gen iPod but makes the screen color and video compatible, then that would truly be amazing.  Even though the screen is small is would be ultraportable.  Apple would have to keep the battery cappacity to 8 hours.  My pocket PC has an 8 hour capacity when it plays movies (I have a 512 SD card and play movies in the WMV format).  I think Apple will own the portable music device section for a long time.  No one has been able to come up with a worthy component to the iPod.  Rio, Philips, and Archos have come close.  Rio’s Karma is nice, it is 1/2 the height of the iPod but is 1.5” thick, which means that it is technically bigger than the iPod.  Apple has come up with the smallest hard drive based portable music player.  They will remain on top.  The iPod has made Apple alot of money and I don’t see Apple stepping down any time soon.

Posted by iPod'sarethebest on March 29, 2004 at 5:14 PM (PDT)

24

A few things: 

a) I would like to point out that Nintendo has not pursued this market b/c they wish only to focus on one thing—games—rather than try to be a do-it-all company like Sony.  I do not think that this is a result of shying away from the specs of the PSP, but rather the result of an overall philosophy:  do one thing, and do it well.  Remember that Nintendo develops software—the real money maker—and not just hardware.

b)More on-topic:  I do not understand the desire for these video players.  As others have mentioned, Music can be played while doing numerous other tasks.  Videos cannot—the user must be focused on the screen.  I have a Pocket PC in addition to my iPod, and I do store a few videos on it.  But for the most part, I find it pointless to have portable video.  I do not deny that there is a market:  people with long bus/rail commutes or children that need something to do on trips, as well as the tech people that have everything; I’m sure there are a few I missed.  Regardless of this market niche, I don’t think a video player will ever catch on with the masses.

c) I don’t see why the next iPod has to have a color screen.  Color screens eat battery life.  I think Apple should do ONE thing and do it well with the iPod—make a music player.  Not a photo album, not a video player, and not a PDA.  I think that is what is going to capture the market—simplicity.

Posted by Cameron Talley on March 29, 2004 at 6:21 PM (PDT)

25

“I think the real thing about iPods is their storage size ant the fact that you can use them as a portable hd. This makes them way more attractive than a mobile with a little camera useless for anithing other than making a folder icon, and a memory that at best holds three songs.”

What’s to stop one of the mobile phone people putting in one of the iPod Mini drives, or even using the smaller 1.5GB Cornice drives?

And even if they choose not to build-in the drive to the phone, they could add it as an external option. There are some phones now with the SD slot that takes 512MB and 1GB cards - that’s a fair bit of storage. But if they had a CF2 slot they could fit the 4GB drives as an option.

I think your point of ruling out phones now because they have no storage is not valid. You might go back to the birth of the portable digital music player back in 1997. I think the first RIOs had like 32MB or something. People then said “What’s the point? You can only fit 4 or 5 songs”. Within 3-4 years the first hard disk mp3 players came along and suddenly with 10-20GB they were real contenders. Today you can buy mobile phones with 64MB built-in as standard - phones with large capacity hard disks are just a matter of time.

Posted by Hard Disk on March 29, 2004 at 7:19 PM (PDT)

26

In my opinion:

I don’t think there is much of a market for small video players. The screen is way too small. However, I do think there are some things Apple can do to the iPod to make it even better:

1) Firewire 800. Twice the speed of USB 2 and Firewire, and it’s available in G5s and PowerBooks today. So figure out how much time it takes to load a CD onto your iPod, then divide by two.
2) Picture support. I know I said there’s no market for PVPs, and it’s because you have to keep staring at the screen for hours. It’s really tiring on the eyes. Pictures, however, are looked at for 5-10 seconds max., causing much less strain. Make the picture iPod w/ a color screen, but keep the B&W one around too. Not everyone will want to pay up for a color screen and picture support on a music player.
3) Click wheel in big iPod. The click wheel has rendered the 3G iPod buttons obsolete. Make a bigger click wheel and incorporate it into the bigger iPod.
4) Extra perks for Mac users. I know right now Apple’s been pushing the same-experience regardless thing, but they make a lot more money on Macs. Sure there’s iSync, but Apple should add more Mac-only perks. People fall in love with iPod. Apple could take advantage of this; it might attract people to Macs.
5) Open Fairplay to anyone if iTunes stops doing extremely (yes, extremely) well. Apple will lose its hold on the top if it forces users into a vertical scheme they can’t escape. Right now it works fine, but what happens when the users want a subscription and download service in one?

Posted by Kenneth Lay on March 29, 2004 at 7:32 PM (PDT)

27

“Right now it works fine, but what happens when the users want a subscription and download service in one?”

Apple could easily incorporate this into the iTunes music store, am i not right?

Posted by Cesar Vega on March 29, 2004 at 8:48 PM (PDT)

28

I’d like to see the PSP at 200 dollars with high quality buttons (they don’t look too functional in the concept), built from durable materials and good SQ to boot.  I can see how using UMD will work just like mini-discs did in order to get songs onto the thing, hopefully they can design a durable, funtional portable at a reasonable price.  I honestly don’t see how this can be a mainstream product given that the price will most likely be greater than 200 dollars though.

Posted by Mr.Sneis on March 29, 2004 at 10:49 PM (PDT)

29

“USB 2.0 is more universal than firewire.”

But not as flexible. USB on devices is a slave protocol, which means that you need a master device to suck the data from the slave. So if you wanted to transfer data from a USB camera to an iPod you couldn’t through USB - you’d need an intermediate master device. Radio Shack sell them and they work, but they’re clunky.

By comparison Firewire is a true peer-to-peer procol, both in hardware and software. You can network any Firewire device to any oth Firewire device and transfer files across, bi-directionally. There is less gadget clutter!

That’s why you could easily copy data across Firewire from a camera to a firewire video device. Also, DV format plays nicely with Firewire, but not as happily with USB due to immaturity there.

Posted by Firewire! on March 29, 2004 at 10:49 PM (PDT)

30

Perhaps the PSP will carve out its niche. But from a gaming standpoint it’s going to be playing the portable gamer’s role of the XBox, trying to play catch-up to Nintendo’s well-established library of titles for the GBA. There are already excellent portable DVD machines on the market; all it takes is one manufacturer—Panasonic, for example—to decide to add a hard drive and connectivity to a computer to handle personal recorded video on-the-go.  Then of course there’s the music; but then there’s already a smorgasboard of portable offerings on the market, and nearly all will have a size advantage that a video-capable device can’t hope to beat.

And then there’s that factor of Sony reliabilty; as sexy as an all-in-one sounds, if one function goes down, is the entire device toast?  At the VERY least, the user will be deprived of all when the thing is sent back to Sony for repairs/replacement.  So now three toys are unavailable: doesn’t seem like such a good deal to me.

Given the direction the PSP is heading, Sony must have already figured that a gaming-only PSP won’t cut enough of a market against the likes of GBA.  But as Nokia’s N-Gage has already shown, compromised combos don’t necessarily find a place, either.

Posted by Eternal Pessimist on March 30, 2004 at 12:07 AM (PDT)

31

Whatever Apple does, they need to keep the iPod unchanged.
The iPod is an icon, the iPod is bigger than itself right now… I mean unchanged in concept.

See, if Apple had added colors to the iPod (instead of making the iPod mini) people would have gone wild, because they love the iPod as it is. So Apple needs to expand the line, but not change one model from one functionality to the other.
So I can see an “iPod AV”... I wouldn’t be interested in buying one, but maybe many people would.

iPod AV
iPod
iPod mini

This could possibly be the line of products. I don’t see the advantage of the iPod AV, but Apple can’t stay behind… At the same time, though, this iPod killer approach another market. I have two iPods, but I wouldn’t buy an iPod AV… I don’t need videos in my pocket, not do I need pictures. I like more the idea of transferring pictures and video from one place to the other… but not watching it there.

There’s no need for an iPod AV, I think this is all marketing from those companies that make “iPod killers” saying that we NEED, people ASK for these products… Judging from other people’s opinions here, it seems that more people don’t care about portable video. In my opinion, Apple should stick to making the best MP3 player, expand the line with different colors and flavors. They already have a winner, and these other products won’t compete with iPods

Posted by SsnMx on March 30, 2004 at 7:21 AM (PDT)

32

Any new device is going to have to cater to the live music recording crowd and incorporate a line in option.

Posted by JST on March 30, 2004 at 7:26 AM (PDT)

33

I don’t have a DVD player/burner on my computer.  The only DVD player I have is one that picked up from Wal-Mart for $45.  This works fine for me as I only own maybe 10 of my favorite movies on DVD and don’t watch much TV anyway.  When I DO watch a movie though, I want to actually SEE it.  That is why I also have a very large TV.  The reason I don’t watch many TV shows or movies is because I just don’t allow myself the time for it.  I work at a computer for 8+ hours and when I’m finished, I explore the internet for anything from digital art to the origin of a certain word and most of all, studying up on new music artists.  All the while I’ve got my iPod on, and playing some of the contents of my 30.51 GB and growing music collection.  I would have no use for watching movies on my iPod because as it has already be stated, that would require me to use my full attention on that.  Games would too.  I wish I could get rid of the games on my iPod right now.  Being that I’m dabbling in digital photograpy, I would find it quite useful to be able store pictures, but viewing would be as useful as it already is on my camera.  The only thing that would be of use to me that would demand my whole attention would be the ability to easily read eBooks from the iPod or iPod-like device. Given the type of person I am and the needs I have, storage is everything.  Having the ability to store all of these medias would be quite useful and if Apple or any other company made a device as well made and user friendly as the iPod that could be used to be plugged into a TV to watch movies and look at pictures, and yes, even play games, I would be one of the first to buy it.  I wonder how many others there are like me?

Posted by Lindan in Las Vegas on March 30, 2004 at 7:55 AM (PDT)

34

Like some others have said, I really don’t see myself using video on a portable player unless I could watch full length films. But, that doesn’t seem plausible with the offerings available to us now. If Apple were to make a video player, they should have an application similar to iTunes where you can download low quality films to play on the pod. (I know that’s been mentioned before. Was it here?) Otherwise, I wouldn’t have any use for a color screen at all and I may just stick to the minis, which will probably continue to be soley music players if the iPod turns into a multi-purpose machine. I just have need for a small, intuitive device that will play music.

Posted by grandmasterfunk on March 30, 2004 at 8:58 AM (PDT)

35

” Having the ability to store all of these medias would be quite useful and if Apple or any other company made a device as well made and user friendly as the iPod that could be used to be plugged into a TV to watch movies and look at pictures, and yes, even play games, I would be one of the first to buy it”

Hey youre on my wavelength thats exactly what i mean. if you havd a player that like that it dosent matter what the screen size is…
and it would make it way more versitile and still use its strong points like the massive storage and its portability due to its small size.

Posted by El Gato in Australia-Melbourne on March 30, 2004 at 9:10 AM (PDT)

36

I agree with Lindan that these portable entertainment products would be massively useful if we could somehow use it as an intermediate device—no one’s gonna watch Lord of the Rings on a measly credit-card sized screen. However if I can bring it to my friend’s place and hook it up to his 45 inch tv that’s quite another thing. Unless it’s porn.

It’s been the leading edge of all technology—from the internet to the video industry. Now THAT I believe is something people would spend their money on…portable porn. Think about it! A picture and video viewer that you can acess ANYTIME. You won’t watch LOTR on credit card sized screens but a short clip from Sports Illustrated, anyone?

Another point I’d like to bring up is the importance of interaction between devices. I’m sure every product will have their staunch supporters and none more rabid than Apple’s! But from a mainstream consumer’s POV who only wants—and needs—one device only, the product which all his other friends and colleagues are using and sharing will be a HUGE plus. Think about it. Would the PDA have taken off if no one was able to share their information with another PDA instantaneously through infrared or swapping memory devices? One thing my friends and I wish to see on the next iPod is the ability to beam songs to each other. Although I admit the legality of that prospect would be extremely questionable, it’d be the same as if I had gone home, burned the song into a cd, given it to a friend, have him rip it and load it into his iPod.

I believe the first firm which bravely steps up to the fore and equips their devices with Bluetooth or something similar will likely be the winner.

Posted by whang on March 30, 2004 at 9:17 AM (PDT)

37

“I believe the first firm which bravely steps up to the fore and equips their devices with Bluetooth or something similar will likely be the winner.”

I think Bluetooth is indeed the key - but for video it has limited bandwidth. Anyway, I see bluetooth as the way for these newfangled mobile phones to add features. Everyone knows that the existing video players are bulky. Take a look at the newer, slimmed-down Archos - it’s only slightly smaller than its predecessors and I’ve seen them in Best Buy and svelte they are not:

http://www.mobilemag.com/content/images/2626_large.jpg

The Archos above is fine for whippiung out in someone’s house to plug into the TV and watch a movie, but a pain to carry while jogging or something. So it’s ruled out for casual audio use.

My point is that by using bluetooth, the mobile phone people could keep something around this size and use it to add more storage, PDA, etc to it. But for phone use or audio use you could stash it in your bag or around your waist or something. Think of how convenient the iPod would be with no cord required for the ear buds and a wireless remote! The only visible sign would be the tiny white ear buds!

Once the storage and CPU of a personal media device is freed from reliance on a single box through a wireless interface then you can add viewing and listening peripherals that are very slimmed down. You don’t have to concentrate on dropping hardware features and slimming down the battery to annoying levels like Apple has done with the Ipod. And in a few years OLEDs and then polymer screens will make for very thin, long-life, and flexible displays anyway!

And of course, as with today’s models, if you are sitting down or in someone’s house then you can always take out the main unit and plug it into the HDTV or whatever.

So I think that Bluetooth is the Trojan Horse for the phone companies to take over our lives!

Posted by Bluetooth on March 30, 2004 at 10:12 AM (PDT)

38

It seems as if all portable electronics are beginning to merge into one unit.  For instance, cellular phones were just phones when they first came out.  Then they mixed with PDA software.  Now they have camera phones that have PDA and play MP3s.

It seems that electronic giants such as Sony & Microsoft really see a profitable future in this market.  They think the next biggest thing to hit the market will be that all-inclusive all-in-one media device.

I don’t know if I personally agree with their outlook on this specific topic (all-in-one) devices.  There will always be a need for a small portable music player that people will wear when they are running, jogging, lifting weights, or doing something active where they cannot watch a movie and look at pictures.  As for an all-inclusive media device, I think that product will not do very well in the long term.

Posted by Asian_N02 on March 30, 2004 at 10:45 AM (PDT)

39

MS and Sony try to hard to group together pairings they think consumers need. It’s like the auto industry adding horsepower to cars and touting it as a huge benefit. Many people don’t need or want a fast car. Plus, a car with 300 horsepower is often slower and more cumversome than one with 230.

I think the next move for Apple is this: add picture and small video capability (QuickTime format since it’s essentially built-in due to the audio-video integration of the QuickTime format with AAC).

However, will consumers watch movies on an iPod device? No way. It’s impractical. I have a Palm that plays videos. I might add a few small clips here and there but it’s too small.

So, why add video?

Music videos.

Think, Apple saves the music industry, then helps it to drastically increase in size. They begin offering short videos compressed to the size of a video file. They give the consumer the option to purchase music videos from iTunes for 1.99.

Now the music industry can sell videos to more than VH1 and MTV and use it, not just as a means to promote artists, but as an additional profit center.

The picture funtion would allow users to store and view pictures (with the possibility of an integrated camera). This could also use QuickTime technology.

The iPod is about a music experience. I don’t see that changing. Enhancing, yet. But changing to full video and video gaming? Nah.

I’ll expect royalty checks from Apple in 2005.

You heard it here first.

RJM

Posted by Ryan Moore on March 30, 2004 at 12:01 PM (PDT)

40

Hi
I still think iPod is going to be a winner for
a long tme. The other units out there are too big.
I sell iPod’s and other digital player’s for a
living. One cannot believe how many iPod’s
we sell.I am always ordering more from
Apple. As for iPodmini’s,almost every other
question is for one. My biggest seller is the
15gb. I love using them in the store.
You cannot beat the ipod’s.
Steve Leopold
J&R Computer World
NYC

Posted by steve leopold on March 31, 2004 at 9:29 AM (PDT)

41

iTunes/iPod is THE solution for portable audio. It’s fast and intuitive and there is no better feeling than ripping your hundreds (or thousands) of cd’s and transferring them into that svelte little box without having to call tech support (in most cases).
Somehow, I just don’t see a company like Microsoft being able to introduce a solution to portable media that matches the experience that we all have with the iPod. It would require a media managing app that makes the process of encoding/tranferring/purchasing/managing content quick and painless - something Microsoft hasn’t been able to do since….well, I’m not quite sure smile
In order for these next-gen devices to reach the mainstream…they must offer a SOLUTION and not just be a piece of a complex puzzle. Remember, no one cared about mp3 players until Apple made them accessible…and damn pretty!

Posted by Steven on March 31, 2004 at 12:13 PM (PDT)

42

While I value the iPod’s ease of use, don’t overlook some of the simple USB-based portable audio drives that show up on your desktop as simple external drives.

Use any preferred ripping program, and then copying audio across is as simple as either dragging or dropping, or using any of several dozen synchronizing programs if you want to automate the process.

There’s definitely something to be said for simple, direct device access instead of iTunes’ rather indirect access methodology.

Otherwise, why would there be things like Anapod and Media Center for the iPod? Not everyone wants their hand held by iTunes.

Posted by Ease of Use on March 31, 2004 at 2:14 PM (PDT)

43

Adding my 2 cents:

The only thing about this product that I like is the fact that you can carry and view your photos on it.  Other than that I don’t need to have the games since I only play them at home on my PC occassionally and as for movies I prefer my laptop w/ a 14” screen or my TV w/ a 19” screen. 

Anyway I think Apple will come out with new software to allow iPoders to view photos on the iPod screen - I hope.  I already have some of my photos on my iPod hard drive but found out that I can not view them on the screen. Right now this is the main thing I want from Apple. Well one of the main things.  I would also like to be able to read ebooks on the iPod screen since I want to be able to read the bible on the iPod and not just listen to it only.

Also I seen one of the newer players in the Sunday paper and it looks to large for my taste especially compared to the iPod.  I would not purchase any other player larger than the iPod.  Plus the iPod looks better and no other player would fit into my inMotion speakers but the iPod.

Love my iPod. I’ve named her Honey B and she’ll be a year old on July 26, 2004.  I have almost 5,000 songs on it and it is my radio and stereo replacement.  The only thing I will need is a larger HD in the near future.  I’m finding more and more that I can store a lot of information in a small space - the iPod.  So far this so called new device is a no sale for me.  They don’t offer anything new to make me buy it and give my iPod. Not happening.

Posted by iPodite on March 31, 2004 at 2:42 PM (PDT)

44

I’m a student and a portable gaming or video player would never be allowed in class or anything, When i’m doing my work I like to listen to music and my teachers know that so they usually let me.

Posted by Minh on March 31, 2004 at 5:39 PM (PDT)

45

is it really necessary to be able to watch TV or Movies on little tiny screens?  I mean it would open opportunities to people in the entertainment industry as people who might be producing entertainment for those with a very mobile lifestyle, but is the cost really really worth it?

Posted by Rachel on March 31, 2004 at 7:24 PM (PDT)

46

> is it really necessary to be able to watch TV or Movies on little tiny screens?

I had one of the old Archos video players and the 1.5” screen was virtually unwatchable. Unless you were near a TV to plug into it was nothing more than novelty. But it did cost less than my 20GB iPod so it was a nice-to-have and the kids liked it.

But the newer ones with bigger screens are nearly 4” wide with very high pixel density and their quality is very good. I can’t afford to get one but I’d sure like to!

At the very least, think of these devices as proofs of concept. Within a few years, honestly!, we will have flexible organic LED screens that can be rolled or folded up. So if you want you will able to unroll a 10"x4” screen from a device only 4” wide. That changes everything!

Looking a little further out (like, try 10-15 years), the possibility of small device DLP projection systems is exciting. Using only a tiny emitter little larger than a big LED, you will be able to “paint” an image across the viewer’s retinas, producing both a completely immersive and 3-dimensional image. People out of the direct beam will see only a slight glow streaming from the LED to your eyes but will be unable to see what you are “looking” at so your privacy is assured.

So I think the future for full immersion audio *and* video devices looks good. The technology is still slightly clunky but there are smart people working on good solutions and some brave companies bringing products to market for the way-ahead-of-the-curve consumers.

I think nearly 5 years or half a decade passed from the launch of the first digital audio players before a large company like Apple decided to release a mass market, well-realized item like the iPod so don’t judge videoplayers on what they look like now, but think of where they will be in 5 or 10 years!

Posted by Small Screens Big Ideas on March 31, 2004 at 7:51 PM (PDT)

47

Here are some images of current and future OLED-based video devices. As you can see, they are flexible, their resolution is crisp, their colors bright, and they consume only around 20% of the energy of current LCDs. Light emitting Polymers, or LEPs, are also one to watch…

http://www.ammagazine.com/AM/FILES/IMAGES/77580.jpg
http://www.polymervision.nl/images/home3.jpg
http://pc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/2003/0305/pma205.jpg
http://www.ananova.com/images/web/53318.jpg
http://common.ziffdavisinternet.com/util_get_image/2/0,3363,sz=1&i=25496,00.jpg
http://164.67.164.88/images/OLED_TV.gif
http://www.osram-os.com/news/pics/OLED_Displays1.jpg
http://akiba.sorobangeeks.com/news/031010/7.jpg
http://www.elektro.be/images/Reports/oleddualemission.jpg
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.04/images/sp_futfetish_4_1.jpg
http://www.ixbt.com/editorial/images/itogi/itogi2k2-may/img2101.jpg

Posted by OLEDs on March 31, 2004 at 8:16 PM (PDT)

48

It’s going to be ackward for a bit as companies try to do too much with these all-in-one devices… but technology will catch up. I envision a device the size of an ipod, with the entire front being a crisp color screen, that is as powerful as any computer, can connect to the internet anywhere and has a huge hard drive, a phone, a camera, voice recognition, etc…

These devices will change the world eventually. It’s just a matter of allowing technology to catch up to the vision. These upcoming devices from Sony and Microsoft will be overpriced rubbish. But 10-15 years from now we will be enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Posted by ort on March 31, 2004 at 9:24 PM (PDT)

49

I think a good option for future iPods would be to include a DAB tuner, this will increase the amount of available media, even let it do timed records. There is some text outputs that go with some DAB radio stations especially the BBC, this text could be stored and displayed, to give the user some latest news/sports results.
The other feature I would like to see on iPods is wifi or bluetooth, to allow swapping of music files in public places, although either of these features would be seriously detrimental to the already prescious battery .

Posted by Andrew on April 1, 2004 at 9:39 AM (PDT)

50

Video on the go just does not make sense. It takes your full attention to view video, you can do many things while listening to audio. Transporting video is one thing, whick iPod’s can already do, giving iPos’s video output to a large screen would be the way for Apple to go. MS is jumping off the edge of unknown waters without looking for rocks! The poratable media centres will flop just like the tablet PC’s, MS just dosn’t seem to have a feel for what consumers want, they are just sticking all the tech. they can at them and hoping for the best - poor fools.

Posted by Dude#9 on April 1, 2004 at 10:05 PM (PDT)

51

I agree with all the ‘stick with audio’ comments.  That’s what the ipod does, it is what has led to it’s success, and should continue to be it’s focus.<br /><br />My little dream would be to incorporate an XM reciever.  I haven’t made the XM jump because I would want to listen to it in places other than my car (and don’t want to buy multiple recievers).  But put that thing in an ipod, and you’ve got something.

Posted by p-r on April 2, 2004 at 9:25 AM (PDT)

52

“stick with audio’ comments. That’s what the ipod does”

I disagree. I don;t think you should bulk up and iPod now, but in a few years when it is trivial to add video features and color screens and all that why resist it?

THink about it: how many mobile phones do you see today that do not have color screens and do not play jingles and come with PDA functions and all that.

The nature of computer technology is that it continually adds features as the hardware cst declines.

I think APple may indeed keep an audio-only iPod at the very low end, but they have to always be thinking about expanding the product.

Posted by future shock on April 2, 2004 at 9:45 AM (PDT)

53

How many accesories does iPod have going nowadays? Hard to match that when you keep everything closed up from the open-source market.

Posted by Mike W. on April 3, 2004 at 7:37 AM (PDT)

54

“One touted feature of the PSP that I really like: 7.1 channel audio output. What exactly is the point of having a portable device (that presumably comes with stereo headphones) output to 7 channels and a subwoofer? Either Sony is in the process of developing the fanciest headphones the world has ever seen, or this is one of the many useless bells and whistles so common in would-be “iPod-killers”.”
By Big Jim on Mar 29, 04 1:01 pm


actually, there are already headphones with surround sound. not sure about 7.1, but there are 6 channel ones at least, with 3 speakers in each ear. 7.1 headphones would not be as fanciful as you might think.

also, you are forgetting the use of such a device as a portable media player to be hooked up to other peoples gear. bring it to your friends house, and hook it up to their 7.1 channel hi-fi. just like have an s-video or video out on a digital camera or other portable device…

or even just line-out on a portable music player…by your argument, line-out is useless because the headphones they give you require amplified output…


but yeah, ill stick to the music myself. video would be nice to watch downloaded tv shows that dont really matter about watching on a small screen (ie. drama/sitcom shows), but my main use is music.

Posted by caprimulgus on April 3, 2004 at 10:47 AM (PDT)

55

Sony lost the walkman market when other companies were able to manufacture it with ease. This is not presently the case with the iPod. The iPod is truly the heir to the walkman in that there is a ready-made market of those who are tied to their personal music players. I, for one, have had dozens of walkmans, CD players, CD MP3 players, and flash players. CD players were, on one level, a step back from the size and battery-life of the walkman. Flash players were a step back from MP3 CD players in terms of storage.

The iPod is far from perfect. The mini is about ideal as far a size goes—a longer-lived replaceable battery, a screen that displays the album, and storage capacity on par with the regular iPod—get to this point first before adding extras, or you will lose the walkman crowd to a player that has these features.

Posted by Questioner on April 3, 2004 at 2:41 PM (PDT)

56

“Sony lost the walkman market when other companies were able to manufacture it with ease. This is not presently the case with the iPod.”

Why is this so? Apple does not have an exclusive deal with PortalPlayer - they are free to license their portable audio platform to anyone. The latest Samsung player uses PortalPlayer and when I used it it honestly felt like I was using some weird cousin of the iPod… it’s *that* similar.

Posted by exclusive not on April 3, 2004 at 5:20 PM (PDT)

57

Just wanted to point out that the iPod mini *does* come standard with a USB 2.0 cable (along with an included FireWire cable).

Posted by elo on April 4, 2004 at 8:11 AM (PDT)

58

Portable video players are just silly.  No, the idea is stupid.  Video is trending *bigger,* not smaller.  27” was big for TV, then 32” then 50” and on.  Now it’s HDTV and flat panels.  Nobody wants to watch video on a 5” monitor, sorry.  Were someone desperate to watch a DVD on the airplane, someone would simply fire up his laptop. 

No, portable is for audio.  Maybe games.  But not video.  Let Sony and MS spend big bux developing this stuff, but I believe Apple/Jobs has figured this out already.

Posted by James Patterson on April 4, 2004 at 10:47 PM (PDT)

59

Regardless of the physical design of the new iPod, it should definitely have the ability to view photos.

I’d never buy anything but an iPod (or Apple equivalent).  I’m very loyal to Apple, and they haven’t let me down yet . . .

I named my iPod “Highlander” (as in “Immortal”) and I’m about 300MB from being full (a 40GB 3g). 

Can’t wait to see what Sony and Apple release - I could care less what MS releases . . .

Posted by Jhart71 on April 5, 2004 at 12:43 PM (PDT)

60

To be honest, I just bought my iPod, and yes I like Apples products even though this is the first time I actually own anything they made.
Overall, I think they should open up both their computersystems, which I’ve worked with alot, and their iPods for some opensource. Their biggest flaw is that what their designer thinks seem to be the final word when it comes to software development. iTunes is a joke, I shudder everytime I open it. If this is their final word on a program that I’m supposed to manage my music collection on, when there’s a load of applications that have much niftyer features and doesn’t eat unnecessary CPU, memory and space on my drive, then I feel truly sorry for them. The same goes for Quicktime, they just seem to make their software as slow as possible while keeping the features on a minimal level.
So after stating that I’m not one of those Apple fanatics in here except for their industrial design department, I can say that as long as thay keep on updating and fixing the known problems with their problem I don’t see much competition coming from watching video or portable videogames.
Honestly, how many of you have even considered buying a portable DVD player, and don’t consider the price issue, but what actual value is there in watching a movie crammed up in a train, a bus, while taking a walk or all those situations where you appreciate your iPod the most?
And how many people over 15 did you think bought a gameboy or it’s newer equivalents? Sure, gameboy was a hit, no doubt about it. In the same way I’m sure Sony’s product will be a hit with the kids whose parents are buying them 300$ toys to run around town with. Is it just me or do you think we’ll see the biggest youth crimewave in history when all those 10 year olds running around with 300$ toys?

Posted by Petter Egnell on April 5, 2004 at 4:32 PM (PDT)

61

Anyway, when I bought my iPod I wanted a new source of portable music since my discman died a tragic death a month ago. With it fresh in mind I was looking for something that didn’t have all the downsides my old discman did, it was clumpsy, you had to carry a big cd-case with it since I’m quite a consumer of music, and you had to change cd’s all the f—king time.
My basic need was portable music, no doubt about the fact that the iPod have met that. And at the moment I didn’t see any serious competition. But when (and we all know it’s a question of when) my iPod goes to the grave, I’ll be looking for a product which is; portable, good design on both outside and the software side, has long batterylife, quite a bit of storage, high soundquality and I wouldn’t mind if it worked as a portable HDD as the iPod does.
So the product that equals my iPod on all of these and beats it and the competition the most on these topics will be my next purchase.

I don’t wan’t to watch either films or MTV on the bus or anywhere on a 3” screen, I wan’t to watch films in the movies and well to be honest I can live without MTV. Since I can’t be arsed to pay 10$ and get crammed up with 500 others too often most films I see on a large screen TV relaxing on a couch. Even though I enjoy videogames a lot, the same goes there, the game graphics today are way beyond 3” screens.

I just can’t see why anyone (well except for kids and their videogames) buying something that is a lot worse than what they already have just because they can watch/play it while away from their comfortable couch.

But then again, I never saw the point on surfing the internet on a 1,5” display on your cellphone either, and obvioulsy people expect it to be such a hit that they’re investing billions all over the world in 3G.


He who lives will see, I just hope that some manufacturer sees it the way I do and supply me with the next ultimate source of portable music when my iPod goes to the grave.


errm. got kind of long this one.. wink

Posted by Petter Egnell on April 5, 2004 at 4:34 PM (PDT)

62

  The portable video market is small and is either shrinking or remaining flat. Apple, should stay on course and devote R&D on how to prolong the iPods pathetic battery life and tame that high beam back light—that thing could pull double duty as a coal miner’s light grin

By the way, how many people walk around with pictures in digital formats. Dayum, imagine having to say “awh she’s precious” to a few hundred of your bosses favorite pictures of his little angel.

Keep it simple Apple

Posted by Anacondastan on April 6, 2004 at 10:07 AM (PDT)

63

You really have a complaint about the backlight? I think it is a plus, and I do use it as a light—at the movie theater, for example.

iTunes a joke? Why buy an iPod then? Makes no sense.

Posted by Questioner on April 6, 2004 at 8:33 PM (PDT)

64

There are a lot of good comments here. The comments that resonate with me are the points people make about the lack of real marketing research. I mean, does everyone here really think an all-in-one device is the wave of the future?

I have a smartphone. I like it because I can keep my phone numbers and schedules in the same place, and can interface with my enterprise-wide company scheduling software. What does this have to do with the subject you ask?

Because, as you all know, smartphones haven’t really caught on - in the U.S. at least. Americans (one of the large targets for these devices) prefer simple (cheap) mobile phone solutions. Now, if we Americans like our devices simple, why would we spend $$ on an all-in-one media player when an iPod does the job more elegantly? Why would we sacrifice storage space and screen size for convenience? I ask you.

Posted by Durandal on April 7, 2004 at 10:34 AM (PDT)

65

I think the comments about a video ipod having too small of a screen miss the mark a little. The iPod is also about portability and connectivity.

Lots of people listen to ipods in their cars and through their home stereos in addition to using headphones. The same would hold true of an ipod with a video screen. The small screen wouldn’t be the best way but it’d just be one way.

The next big thing is the convergence of ipods with ReplayTV and Tivo(PVR’s). Both come with 40gb HD’s. There’s no reason a tivo box has to be big and shaped like traditional A/V components. It could be in an ipod. The only difference is software.

You could record all the shows you don’t have time to catch when they’re on air, and slip them into your pocket for when you do have time to watch them.
Whether you just carry the shows from room to room, take them with you to watch on tvs at hotels or a friends house….portability is the way to go!

Posted by sirdonic on April 7, 2004 at 12:46 PM (PDT)

66

To be quite frank, there are no ‘leaders’ in the personal audio/walkman industry, altho sony are undoubtedly the leader with there *range* of products, people continue to buy other companys products, as they are better than sonys, and people continue to weigh up sonys products against sonys products, the fact is, that unlike the console wars, there is no compatability issues, its just all about how much you can spend, and what features you will want - this is where apple’s problem comes in - we all know that apple’s products are pricey, and therefore the amount you pay for an ipod, could be the same amount you would be paying for a sony player (whatever the hell theyll come out with) with higher specs.
The other way to look at this is - People will still just want an audio player, so if apple bring out an improved ipod - aka better battery etc, then people will still buy this, however, this could be why they brought out the ipod mini…

Posted by Fredi on April 11, 2004 at 2:22 AM (PDT)

67

I’m a gadget freak and I don’t think i would spend my money on one of these “all-in-one” devices. The idea and concept is great but anything bigger than a Walkman or cd player is alone to big of a hassel to carry around. Apple has designed a product that is just perfect. Furthermore the idea of an all in one device doesn’t, to me atleast, seem like that great of an idea. The price will be through the roof, it’ll be to large and wtf wants to watch a movie on a 3- 4.5” LCD. I don’t even like playing video games on a gameboy or the like and i’m sure there are others who would wait untill they got home to play on a larger screen.
Last, if you’re that hard up to be watching a movie by yourself on a 3 - 4.5” LCD you really need to get a life.

Posted by stefan on April 12, 2004 at 5:17 PM (PDT)

68

Combine my cellphone with my ipod and I am complete.

Apart from my wallet (and ipod), my cellphone is the only other thing I feel like I need to carry around all the time, and no doubt, eventually I’ll be able to purchase most things using cell technology (can do for some things already) so combining these things seems to me to be the killer-ap.

I’ve been designing this next gen iPod in my head. I can picture being gently notified through my headphones of an incoming call, having an invisible mic in the headphone cord and the call answered when I speak (or squeeze the cord or something).  The ipod interface (wheel and menu system) is already perfectly suited to cellphone navigation. I haven’t quite worked out how to manage the number buttons, but perhaps a (larger) touch screen (I don’t want more buttons getting in the way of the scroll wheel, and integrating buttons into a click wheel a la ipod mini would be fiddly and unintuitive).

Man that would be a sweet device, bugger portable video, that’s as lame and gimmicky an idea as cellphone cameras.  A 20-40gig ipod the size of the mini with a discrete cellphone embedded into it.

Oh and I just thought, cellular file sharing?! Using the next gen ipod/iphone: “Hey have you heard this sweet new track? I’ve just downloaded it to my ipod, I’ll send a preview through….”

Aaargh, future freak-out!!!

Posted by Ginga Ninja on April 14, 2004 at 12:13 PM (PDT)

69

Contrary to what many of us would love to believe, we are talking about two of the most powerful companies on the face of the earth. Let’s not kid ourselves regarding Sony and Microsoft’s ability. Sony does not enter a market and give up on it very easily. They have learned their lesson (or should have) with the Betamax machine, and undoubtedly have invested some market sampling with a video/audio/game player. I think they should probably join forces (Apple/Sony/Microsoft), but then that would limit competition. As long as consumers get something out of it, I’m for anything they can create.

Posted by Will on April 15, 2004 at 1:14 PM (PDT)

70

Agreed on the points about portable video - Pocket PCs already exist, portable DVD players with built in screens already exist, pocket LCD TVs have been cheap for years - but none have really caught on massively.

I think Sony’s device will do well as there’s a market for people who want something more powerful than a GBA, but I don’t see it hurting Apple.

My wife will get a PSP when it comes out for that reason, but she wants an iPod mini because it’s even smaller and slimline than my iPod - something no useful video player could be. (Apple have done really well in realising that people wanted a smaller device with LESS storage).

I would love an Ipod with a DAB tuner - what I’d especially love would be a DAB version of a Tivo.

Suggestions - a clamshell or fliptop ipod with the screen and dial on the inside, and a tough case, so that it could be chucked in a handbag with a set of keys - like people do with mobiles. And get that HD technology into a palm computer before any rivals do.

Posted by Jules on April 18, 2004 at 2:58 AM (PDT)

71

I should state from the outset that I don’t own an ipod. I do own an HD based MP3 player, but it is “another brand”.

Which brings me to my first point - I know that we’re all brand aware and sometimes it’s not easy to avoid being being completely won over by slick multi-million dollar marketing campaigns when that is exactly what this money is spent for - to make you say “i want one of those. that’s the product for me”.

But too many people make these decisions without doing the research. When i bought my MP3 player many people said to me “why didn’t you just buy an ipod?”. This is fine if you’ve done the research and believe that the ipod is the right product for you, but i did the research and found a product that had similar capacity and functionality more competitively priced, and I made the decision that this product, and not the ipod, was the right one for me.

Too many people are sucked in by this tidal wave of marketing hype, and believe that if their preferred brand are moving in one direction then that’s the right direction for the market to move, without giving enough credit to what the competitors are doing. Competition is the best thing for this market, as the diversity of products will increase, and the prices will decrease, so we should all be embracing the fact that the big entertainment companies are taking on the ipod.

This leads on to my next point ... whilst it’s not my preferred product, i definitely give Apple the credit they’re due for the complete coup they executed with their slick marketing machine in relation to the ipod. Apparently they have sold more ipods in the short time since their release than they’ve sold computers in the last 10 years. And they’ve achieved this because they’ve completely cornered this market. ipod has become a household name, a name that has become more than just a brand, but synonymous with the class of product. BUT ...

(continued ...)

Posted by paul on April 21, 2004 at 7:47 AM (PDT)

72

... this market is about to be broken wide open. Completely leaving the all-in-one video-playing games-console capabilities aside, there are 2 points about the personal audio market that were not mentioned in the article. The first is Sony’s latest product launch, the Sony Hi-MD.

This has taken the Mini Disc technology (which has been popular in the UK for a long time now) to a whole new level. Each disc will have the capacity of storing up to 1GB of compressed music, plus of course the ability to store data, text and video files, etc. And with each disc costing about $2, this gives you an almost unlimited supply of mini hard discs. Somebody posted a note above suggesting that perhaps one of the phone manufacturers may introduce this sort of capacity with discs or memory sticks - well, now Sony have done it.

Secondly (admittedly, I have this only on hear-say), I believe that Apple has sold (or leased) the rights to the ipod technology to HP. HP will undoubtedly knock out their own version and market the hell out of it, instantly positioning themselves as a major competitor to the ipod. And given the lower margins they could accept through sheer volume, and the fact that their many other successful and profitable product lines and divisions will allow them to subsidise lower margins from their portable audio device, this should allow them to enter the market at a price significantly lower than the ipod.

(continued - again ...)

Posted by paul on April 21, 2004 at 7:49 AM (PDT)

73

But coming back to the crux of this article, questioning what will be the “walkman of the future”, why is it that video and gaming consoles don’t have a shot at this title? Take a look at mobile phones. Everyone here in the UK who buys or upgrades to a new mobile phone will undoubtedly buy one with a built in camera, and picture-messaging is huge here. Taking that further, the high-end phones are essentially PDA’s anyway. Similarly, nearly every digital camera currently on the market worth it’s salt has digital video capabilities. So why do so many people replying to this article think it unfeasable that the market will go for an audio device with video capabilities?

Think a little bit outside the box - you don’t need to use it to watch an entire feature-length film. Think about the other products that are currently gaining popularity, and how all these devices could work together. Think about it - you’re on holidays and you free up the memory stick on your digital camera by downloading all your photos and video of today’s siteseeing directly onto your brand new sexy little all-encompassing super-duper total-media type gadget. And the best thing is that you then view the photos, or watch the video on the nifty screen provided, or plug it into the tv. And you can take a whole memory stick’s worth or photos tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that.

Obviously that is a very basic application, but I’m sure if you had the device and the technology at your fingertips, or in your pocket, you could use it for dozens of similar applications.

I think we should be encouraging this increased competition, not try to second guess what other consumers en-masse will go for and what they won’t. We should see what these big companies can come up with, and not just dismiss something out of hand because it’s “the wrong brand”.

(i’m finished now!)

Posted by paul on April 21, 2004 at 7:50 AM (PDT)

74

I’m from Riovolution.com, and I really don’t want to flame, but you shouldn’t all be so uptight and scared that something may overtake the iPod (despite it’s many failures… :p kidding!). The iPod is the be-all-and-end-all of portable music - tha fact that some of you worry that it’ll be overtaken measn you care more about having an iPod for status than for functionality, which is worrying. You should be happy that there will be more alternatives - variety is the spice of life!

Xavier

Posted by Xavier on April 24, 2004 at 12:21 PM (PDT)

75

the reason i bought my ipod, was for music.
if i want to watch video , i’ll use my powerbook. The revolutionary thing about ipod is the digital aspect. CD’s are great but the i pod is better. My entire music collection on my hip, whenever, wherever. That to me is the great thing about ipod.

Posted by dave on April 27, 2004 at 8:29 AM (PDT)

76

“The poratable media centres will flop just like the tablet PC’s, MS just dosn’t seem to have a feel for what consumers want, they are just sticking all the tech. they can at them and hoping for the best - poor fools. “

Sir, they are not “poor fools” Microsoft has as much money as apple and sony put together. 
————————————————————————
Bah you people are just too stubborn about your ipods lol grin . I see many of you are worried that the ipod that you spent hundreds of dollars might drop down to second best or lower when a larger company such as microsoft makes this “ipod killer device” .(WOW! did you see its money difference from apple and sony!? LOL its got like 50.8 billion to use and 270 in total!? :|). Anyways, I think the idea for the psp model looks amazing with the keychainy look and I like microsofts approach on the portable video component. I’ve seen that many people here don’t like the video idea but face it-portable video is on the rise whether you like it or not and Microsoft or Sony is going to cater to these demands (have you noticed the amount of new portable dvd players?).

The only thing that I expect from microsoft or Sony that would make me spend my new earnings on their device insted of apples would be improving the battery so that it won’t die out like the ipods within a year or two (blah it made me so mad when it died within 1 year and they told me to screw off and buy another ipod)

IMO it looks like apples in some hot water if they don’t step up and make their screens colour or do another neat feature etc. and if the psp’s price is at 200-300$ (which seems weird !?), apple better be willing to drop their prices a bit too to compete. I like the ipod, no questions… but I don’t hate microsoft or sony and call them poor fools. Their direction looks promising but we’ll all see when the concepts are done.

Posted by LOL on May 3, 2004 at 5:22 PM (PDT)

77

features the ipod misses:

1. BLUETOOTH (or at least infrared)
2. av-output (divx only to tv not on the ipod)
3. replaceable battery (like mobile phones)
4. replaceable harddrive (upgradeable)
5. lowered price (hell, make a big ipod 99$ with a low-end battery (approx 1-2 hours) and a 1GB harddrive. if it’s upgradeable then i can’t see no reason to not doing it)

Posted by david on May 5, 2004 at 4:46 AM (PDT)

78

If Apple really are considering the PVP/gaming idea, then i dont think they should alter the iPod to suit these functions.
They should keep the iPod how it is, small and unobtrusive, and develop a new product… let’s call it the gPod (g for gamer)... this gPod can fulfill the role of *all-in-one*ness that people “apparently” need or will need in the future, while those consumers who love the smallness and portability will not be forced to upgrade to a bulkier, less portable device.

I like the idea of Apple and Sony combining forces for a device like this, they could call it the psPod (lol).

Microsoft once again is trying to copy other companies forward thinking and intuition.

POWER TO THE POD PEOPLE

evolvedboy

Posted by evolvedboy on May 13, 2004 at 2:57 AM (PDT)

79

hello i hate u

Posted by miT on June 30, 2004 at 3:39 AM (PDT)

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