10. 13. 2005
5th gen iPod, now with video
The iPod Nano, and the less-heralded “iTunes phone", the ROKR, were announced just a month ago, but Apple is on such a roll, with such a feverishly loyal following that I think the crazed fanfare would continue even if they announced new models every month. Last week, an invite to a press conference was sent, with the teaser, “one more thing...”. It turned out to be a few things, but first and foremost, the new iPod was introduced, and it's thinner, lighter, has better battery life, and oh yeah, supports video.
The video iPod has been rumored ever since the orignal iPod was introduced but was shot down by Steve Jobs who claimed Apple would never make a video version of their music player. Seemed odd since Steve Jobs is also the CEO of Pixar, which made the computer-animation classic Toy Story. Seems like a natural fit. But the popularity of the iPod is only half about the iPod itself- it's also about iTunes, which sells more than 70% of the music legally downloaded globally. If you want to use iTunes on an mp3 player with minimal hassle, you need an iPod. Apple's new iPod will now extend that symbiotic relationship to video, with music video downloads for $1.99, short films from Pixar, and episodes of television shows from ABC like Lost and Desperate Housewives.
This is the key, I believe, the easily downloadable content, even if you're paying for content that you can catch on tv for free. Even with a VCR and a DVR, I often am looking for episodes of shows I've missed and will wait through 3-day downloads to get them. There's only one show I watch on iTunes so far (I've never even heard of some of the "family" shows from ABC's mother ship Disney) but as the library grows, the more anxious I'll be to upgrade my iPod. I just downloaded the second season premiere episode of Desperate Housewives, which was 206 mb, looked and sounded great in a window the size of an iPod screen, but blown up to full screen, looked a pixelated mess. I never thought I'd get another portable media player because I was a way-too-early adopter of the now-primitive Archos Jukebox Multimedia and in order to load an hour-long episode of a show, it took about 3 hours of encoding. More recent models from Samsung, iRiver, and Creative, among others, haven't simplified the process much. Apple's made it easy and the $1.99 is, to me, well worth the savings in time. Smart too, that the content is focused on short, easily digestible clips like music videos. As much as the idea of having your entire movie collection in the palm of your hand sounds appealing, squinting at a 2.5” screen through the 251 minutes of Return of the King will probably change your mind. And adding your own video content isn't as easy as ripping your CDs. While all Quicktime video is supported by iTunes, there's no converter built in to turn your DVDs or other video files into a compatible format for carrying along on your iPod.
Apple isn't actually calling this the video iPod, it's just the new, improved iPod and should reign for at least a month.
The 30 GB iPod is $299, and will hold up to 75 hours of video, with 14 hours of music playback battery life or 2 hours of video. The 60 GB model goes for $399 for up to 150 hours of video and has 20 hours of battery life for music playback, 3 hours for video. Both models come in black and white and will be available next week.