Sources Speculate On 2010 iPod + Apple TV Family Changes

We’ve recently heard some interesting thoughts from well-informed people regarding the next-generation Apple TV and iPod shufflenano (err, iPod micro), and though they are purely speculation, we wanted to share them with you.

Between the sequential departures of three key iPod and iPhone chiefs—Jon Rubenstein, Tony Fadell, and then Mark Papermaster—and the internally unexpected wildfire success of the App Store, Apple has been in a state of flux regarding the correct direction to take the iPod family. At one point, the iPod lineup just made sense: an iPod for all your music, a smaller iPod for the gym, and an even smaller one for Walmart and ultra price-conscious customers, particularly outside the U.S. But over time, the nano’s price dropped, and Apple stopped caring about putting 100,000 songs (or, more realistically, your entire media library) in your pocket.

The laser-focus and clear successions of the product line became a little fuzzy, with the iPod classic left to stagnate and the shuffle becoming sort of crazy while the nano got every conceivable feature except for the kitchen sink.

At the same time, the iPod touch was a wildcard, starting as “training wheels for the iPhone” with limited software, a dicey screen, and little storage space at high prices. Then Apple started cleaning it up until it made sense, even famously trying but failing last year to give it a rear camera to match the nano. Thanks to the App Store and its pricing, the omission didn’t stop its momentum. iPod sales have flagged over the past couple of years, but they’re still awesome by almost any absolute standard, and touchscreen iPods have been doing better since Apple fixed the hardware and software problems with the original iPod touch.

Our sources are speculating that this year’s iPod lineup is going to resolve some of the long-standing “family” issues we’ve all been witnessing for a while.

The iPod touch will be made more compelling with photo, video, and FaceTime features that will vault it ahead of last year’s iPod nano. That iPod shufflenano/micro thing would become a $99 or $149 option, letting Apple pitch “the most affordable touchscreen iPod yet,” and giving it a way to run “micro apps” like, say, a new version of Apple’s conspicuously not-recently-updated Remote for Apple TV. This way, you could get your $99 next-gen Apple TV, but to use it, you’d really need an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or new Apple-branded $99 remote control that also just happens to do other stuff. Huge win for sales of iOS devices.

Again, all speculation.