Backstage: Naming the next iPod

Just when the iPod rumor mill seemed ready to die down until 2005, someone had to go and discover two open Apple job listings for hardware engineers familiar with various video and wireless data technologies. Normally, of course, Apple Computer‘s attempts to hire such people would not surprise anyone. But the fact that the positions were listed specifically for the company’s iPod division raised some eyebrows, and deservedly so. If “it’s the music, stupid,” we get the 802.11x stuff, but what is all this video and GSM phone hoo-hah about?

Answer: the future. In my mind, the question has never been whether Apple would release a more versatile portable device than the iPod – they will. Specs aside, the question is really limited to whether they will call it an iPod, or something else.

Evidence that they’ll call it an iPod: Way back in my Future Pods article (February 2004), I noted that even if Apple released what we predicted would be the “iPod 2” (a thinner, iterative 3G iPod with better battery life (yes, yes), maybe a Click Wheel (yes), and a removable battery (bzzzt)), they probably wouldn’t use that name – they’d again call it the iPod (ding ding). And then there’s the fact that they named their new division the “iPod” group rather than the “advanced portable consumer electronics” group or something more nebulous. The company clearly loves the iPod brand name, and since “Pod” isn’t a strictly music word per se, most signs suggest that Apple’s future portable devices will play on that name. We still think that Apple should go with an iPod AV name rather than, say, a vPod or an iVid, but…

Evidence that they’ll call it something else: Apple recently moved to trademark the word “Pod” sans the i, and fans have been guessing that the company might do something goofy and create a PowerPod and an iPod to parallel the PowerBook and iBook. This would be a bad idea from a branding standpoint, and my instincts are that Apple’s only doing this to prevent companies from selling aPods, bPods, and cPods. (Or, for that matter, HomePods and Dvx-Pods.) But then there’s the other theory. Having moved recently to secure a European design patent for a small tablet computer, Apple may be thinking of releasing the convergence fanatics’ dream machine: an “iPad” that uses OS X at the core of a super PDA that plays movies, recognizes handwriting for office applications, and interfaces wirelessly with networks for communications. To call such a device an “iPod” would be stretching it… but something similar wouldn’t be bad, right?

I’m casting my vote for iPod AV anyway. 🙂 Your thoughts?

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