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Apple Businesses

6G iPod & Apple's Future 226

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the less-talk-more-iphone dept.
belsin_gordon writes "CNET rounds up what we're going to get from the next iPod and where Apple is heading as a company and as a business juggernaut. [They have the] 100GB widescreen video iPods, Wi-Fi-enabled iPods capable of on-the-fly movie downloads over the air, unlimited downloads from iTunes for a flat fee and the UK finally getting its content-hungry hands on movie downloads. Apple has dropped the 'Computer' from its company name, and is making significant advances into the media-distribution business. It's bringing video to everyone everywhere with iTunes movies and now Apple TV, and the rumours and speculation we've discussed promote the theory that Apple is setting itself up as a major player in the media-distribution industry."
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6G iPod & Apple's Future

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  • suure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesupermikey (220055) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:06AM (#18749879) Homepage Journal
    As totally hot as a wide screen ipod (more hopefully a phoneless iphone) makes me. I'll believe it when i see it.

    Rumors are only that, rumors, and we have been hearing these same rumors for months (if not years now).

    ml
  • by Albanach (527650) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:08AM (#18749913) Homepage
    I presume by 'unlimited downloads' they mean music subscriptions a la napster, rhapsody etc.

    I've always wondered why Apple have been slow to enter that market, but to do so now without opening up their DRM is surely asking for trouble. Real have been trying to get access to the iPod market for years. Apple have tried to stop them at every opportunity. If they now try and copy that distribution method, while refusing to allow anyone else the opportunity leaves them more open than ever to charges of anti competitive behaviour, especially in the EU.

    Of course it could also be an indication that Apple are about to open up their DRM? That would be great news for Real and Napster, but could be terminal for the smaller manufacturers of 'mp3' players.
  • Unlimited? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by giorgiofr (887762) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:08AM (#18749921)

    unlimited downloads from iTunes for a flat fee
    I hope they know what they're getting themselves into. And I bet that pretty soon we'll see some restrictions and limits on how much you can actually download.
  • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rabbit994 (686936) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:19AM (#18750053)
    For Majority of people who run Windows or Mac OS X, iPods are braindead to use. Plug into computer, let iTunes replicate all the playlist and music over along with any TV Shows you have downloaded. Unplug, walk around with those white headphones and look chill. Why would you find dragging and dropping from explorer easier? Something tells me Apple Engineering and Marketing Departments know their main audience better.

  • Re:Portable Video (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:20AM (#18750065) Homepage
    Archos seems to have a nice line up of players. I don't see why they aren't more popular. They are defintely better than the current offering of video iPods. There's also a couple other companies like Cowon and Creative that have pretty good offerings. My guess is that not a lot of people see much of a need for a portable video player, as you can't watch TV while doing something else. But the iPod is marketed as an audio player first, with the ability to play movies, which to most people seems like a much better idea.
  • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pq (42856) <rfc2324&yahoo,com> on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:24AM (#18750111) Homepage
    I just want it to show up as a thumb drive, drop songs on it from explorer, in any directories I choose, and have it play the music. I don't understand why they have to make everything more complicated.

    Well, good for you. There are a variety of other players out there, as you point out yourself, and you are welcome to them. Apple seems to be targeting the market segment that does want their music player to organize their music and keep track of things (import date, play counts, skip counts, last played, rating, etc) for them. Based on Apple's market share, compared to the rest of the market combined, it looks like they have a better idea of what will sell than you do. But feel free to vote with your wallet.

  • Re:Why (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:26AM (#18750145)
    Yay! More anti-ipod FUD!

    Is starting iTunes and then dragging and dropping files unto your ipod of choice really all that complex? Most people would say: no.

    Yes, every geek wants to control exactly where every file goes. But once you get over yourself and realize that you can make playlists (with drag and drop none-the-less) to simulate your "utlimate directory of ultimate tunes" and still be able to do other things like sort by album,artist,genre etc. without chewing up your battery life you start to appreciate a slightly more modern interface.

    Ipods are quite capable, despite what you believe, of surviving without ever purchasing things from iTMS. CD rips, your favorite illegal, quasi-legal, or legal mp3 sources can all be used to feed your ipod.
  • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 (985078) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:26AM (#18750149)

    That's something I never quite got, the iPod hate. A friend of mine recently introduced me to his Cowon D2, which is a very slick piece of hardware: 52h battery life on music, 10h on video, smaller than an iPod and has a touch screen to boot. Why wasn't I sold immediately?

    Because it meant the endless tedium of synchronizing my music with the god-awful "drag into Explorer" (or in my case, "drag into Finder") interface. The whole explorer drag-drop thing was fine when our music players were

    The D2 also promised great things like album covers and even lyrics (which actually is a sweet feature), but both of which required you to maintain your own music library with their proprietary software - a bit of an attempt at cloning iTunes, except the software wasn't nearly slick enough to take over as my primary media player app - which would mean I'd still have to maintain two parallel libraries.

    I keep explaining this to people: the secret of iPod's success is not only its marketing, but that it rolls the entire experience together from end to end. You play your music, download your music, play your videos, download your videos all from the same spot. The software provides all the features you need - album covers for example, and it also syncs automatically with your portable player. Slick.

    I enjoy the end-to-end experience so much that even a clearly superior piece of hardware like the Cowon D2 has not converted me.

  • by Heian-794 (834234) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:27AM (#18750157) Homepage
    TFA does indeed have six rumors about Apple, but they're all related to the iPod.

    Call me a stickler for accuracy, but "sixfold Apple rumour round-up" implies six different rumours (tidbits, what-have-you) about various things related to Apple. If all six were connected to the iPod, as all six do indeed turn out to be, a more meaningful headline would have bee "Apple iPod rumour round-up" or something similar -- the Slashdot summary title improves on it at least.

    There are several other reasons to be excited about Apple -- possible super-thin/light MacBooks, a new revision for the iMac, and of course the now-delayed Leopard. Updates on those much-anticipated items would also have been appreciated.
  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:37AM (#18750281)
    If BMW started releasing some cars in the $20,000 price range they could totally crush Toyota and GM.
  • Ipod wifi... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mockylock (1087585) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:53AM (#18750477) Homepage
    Jobs talked so much smack on the Zune's WiFi capability, that I doubt he'd throw wifi into an iPod that would have a stronger functionality and actually keep your battery from discharging on power-up. Granted, I wouldn't put it past Apple to innovate something clever as they've always done. But, if Apple went to WiFi, I'm quite certain Microsoft would enable a more complex access as well.

    Why haven't they already(ms)? Nobody has WiFi yet, why up the ante 2 full steps when nobody else even uses it at all? I'm sure that WiFi enabled (network/internet connectivity) iPods and Zunes would not only waste batteries in wholesale fashion, but they would also be pretty iffy when talking about security. Granted, movies and music being hacked into aren't a huge ordeal... but having millions of iPods roaming around with WiFi would have to be a pretty decent target for some type of exploitation. There are tons of other wifi-enabled objects floating around, yes.. But, I'm sure the platform they're running on is a bit more complex than a handheld jukebox.

    More power to them if they can pull it off... if they can, MS will follow as they always do.

    As for iTunes... screw iTunes and everything around it. I own an iPod Video, 20G iPod, nano and a zune. Once I grabbed the zune, I realized how much of a pain the iPods were... resetting, getting it to recognize, having to erase all my music when I installed a new OS or go to a new PC... clearing out all my music in any error, and starting over... every month. And the only thing they had over the zune was the click wheel... and that wasn't even a plus when you didn't lock it and put it in your pocket. Again, Apple is innovative and I dig 'em for throwing out great products... but, there are too many other products that have more features and have better and more reliable interfaces to work with than the iPod and iTunes nowadays. Now, it's just people buying a name as a status symbol. The ipod is now cliche.
  • by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:56AM (#18750527)
    Not all that many people care about expandability. Only the hardcore gamers and geeks who buy the latest-and-greatest cpus and graphics chips really have a use for the kind of expandability that you seem to want.

    Most people don't know how or don't feel secure swapping their own cpu or graphics card. Even for those who do, it is hard to justify taking out and throwing away a perfectly functional cpu just because it is too old. It doesn't make economic sense. Just like people who buy a new car every other year.

    The current Macs all have room to expand the RAM, and they can be bought with hard drives that are large enough for any normal consumer. As for the optical drives, the burners in Macs can write to any format that will be mainstream for the next several years.

    To put it simply: for the vast majority of the computer market, the benefits of having a small and quiet computer completely outweigh the downside of not being able to expand it with pcie cards or extra hard drives.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday April 16, 2007 @10:58AM (#18750557)

    It's nice to want things, but to me, it didn't seem that the author understood why things are the way they are. A lot of the article seems to dispel how difficult changes could be technically or practically.

    1. iTunes Subscription Service
    ...
    Music companies love these rental services, because they continually receive money without actually letting anyone do much with the music they buy. Why shouldn't iTunes offer a similar service? Well, maybe it will. It would certainly be a less agonising use for the DRM Apple is stripping from its library of tracks.

    Yes the media companies would love this, but there are far greater technical barriers to this than the current system. To do this, Apple would have to develop a different way of securing and authenticating the files. Roughlydrafted went into detail how FairPlay works [roughlydrafted.com] and why there is no subscription service. Besides technical reasons, Apple has always argued against it on principle as it was anti-consumer.

    2) UK iTunes Movie Downloads
    iTunes users in the US have had access to a mountain of downloadable TV shows and movies since 2005, but why hasn't the UK? It's no secret that British consumers pay through the nose for media, so why aren't we having our love of moving pictures exploited too?

    The main reasons are purely legal which translate into technical reasons. They don't have permission from the content providers. Groups like MPAA has always tried to maintain strict control of all aspects of release from time and location. DVD, HD-DVD, and BlueRay all have region encoding for a reason. FairPlay would have to match that. Now Apple has to devise a way to separate out all users based on location at the file level so that certain movies do not play for the users until the local release date. That makes things a lot more complicated for FairPlay. So the easiest solution is to limit purchases only to American users.

    3) Widescreen video iPod
    With our imminent access to movie downloads, Apple TV's recent availability and the iPhone's widescreen video talents, surely the ultra-desirable widescreen iPod should be right around the corner? All that video content being pushed and pulled around is just crying out for a better portable medium to enjoy it on and Apple knows how much everyone wants just such a device.

    The iPhone is Apple's first attempt at a widescreen. I would expect newer generations of iPods to do the same as Apple works out the kinks.

    4) Wi-Fi enabled video iPod
    Microsoft's Zune has Wi-Fi, but it's hopeless beyond hysterical. Give the iPod Wi-Fi capabilities, coupled with on-demand video and the phenomenally successful iTunes Store, and you'll find yourself with the most capable portable media device ever created.

    I suspect the main reason why no company has done it before MS was that it wasn't practical. They could have released wifi iPod but there would be a drastic difference in transfer rates. You and I might understand that 802.11g takes 10x as long as FireWire or USB2.0, but the average consumer might not and would hate it. "It takes hours to transfer my small collection. This sucks!" 802.11n is on the horizon. When that is in place, you will probably see a wifi iPod.

    5) Flash-based video iPod
    We've previously discussed the possibility of an all-flash video iPod before, but no further rumours or leaks have arisen since. Flash memory is significantly faster than the good old hard disk, but at a significant cost increase. We think Apple is going to focus on video this year, and video requires vast quantities of storage more than it needs flash read speeds. We expect a larger-capacity iPod long before any kind of all-flash version. Which brings us neatly to...

    Th

  • Re:Portable Video (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Monday April 16, 2007 @11:26AM (#18750959)

    Archos seems to have a nice line up of players. I don't see why they aren't more popular. They are defintely better than the current offering of video iPods. There's also a couple other companies like Cowon and Creative that have pretty good offerings. My guess is that not a lot of people see much of a need for a portable video player, as you can't watch TV while doing something else. But the iPod is marketed as an audio player first, with the ability to play movies, which to most people seems like a much better idea.


    Probably because of several factors.

    1) User interface. Until the 604WiFi was out, the UI has steadily deteriorated since the AV300 series (I have an AV420, which was probably the last model before they messed up the UI). These models had simplistic interfaces - you had a 5 way navigator, a back button, and three "soft" keys. And still could do everything. Now they took the same UI, and remapped everything differently - the softkeys now access some sub-menu thingy on the edge of the screen, settings are hidden either along the top bar or the edge buttons, and you still havigate the main icons via the 5 way navigator (+back). Exiting menus and going back doesn't quite seem so easy anymore. The iPod interface hasn't changed much the past 5 years - you use "Menu" for back, center ro select, wheel to choose... with the only things really braeking this are the iPod games you can buy off iTunes.

    2) Button placement - The AV300/400 had simple intuitive placement. The new 400/500/600/700 series put all the buttons in rectangular areas along the edge, with left and right doing different things. Not only are they hard to press, but the button layout makes you go WTF as they all feel alike.

    3) Size - Even the 404 is still very much bigger than an iPod... The only thing the 704 is missing is well... the DVD drive.

    4) Possibly DRM - if you record anything with Macrovision encoded in the signal, the Archos AV400 onwards put DRM on the video so only that unit can play it back. It also regenerates Macrovision on the TV-out. I'm not sure if the current ones store the video in the protection partition these days (since the disk is partitioned for both Windows Media DRM and general disk storage.

    Of these, I think #1 and #3 are the reason the Archos haven't really taken off - even after 5 minutes of playing with it I can't confidently say I can easily make my way around it. (I suppose the default wallpapers don't help by making it impossible to read...).
  • by bhunachchicken (834243) on Monday April 16, 2007 @12:12PM (#18751629) Homepage

    Just one thing and that is plugin support for extensions and add ons. It means that people could easily write things like cross faders, support for additional codecs, etc. There could be official unoffical community website for getting hold of these plugins, providing users with source code, etc. to minimise the chances of malicious code.

    Of course, there are probably some major security risks around stuff like that... But it would still be cool.

  • Re:Why (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alanoneil (749691) on Monday April 16, 2007 @12:51PM (#18752129) Homepage
    Actually, in order to optimise hard drive seek times on the iPod (seek time == battery wasted) it uses a highly efficient tree structure. The database in the iPod OS makes sure that when you choose a playlist, the iPod knows exactly which sectors to load into RAM, and therefore you increase battery life and decrease possible damage (iPod user jogging while listening == possible HD crash during heavy seek)
  • by AndersOSU (873247) on Monday April 16, 2007 @01:25PM (#18752587)

    Further, if you have a subscription model, then it basically means unlimited access to music that you can keep forever for a low monthly fee-- no content holders are going to like that idea.

    Which is really stupid. Unlimited downloads that I could keep forever and burn as I see fir for a low monthly fee would likely do it for me, and the many other people who's music buying habit has tapered off. If I could pay ~$20/month for unlimited downloads that would be about $15 more per month than the music industry is currently getting from me. I know I'm not exactly the bellwether for the music indusrty, but maybe their problem is they're asking the wrong question. Namely they ask why the people who buy music aren't buying more, rather than why the people who aren't buying aren't buying, or even why the people who stopped buying stopped buying.

    If such a model were to magic its way into existence Apple would be happy because I'd have to buy a bigger iPod.
  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Monday April 16, 2007 @01:29PM (#18752631)
    '' But Archos don't have 'status' appeal. Sad isn't it that conforming looks sell more. ''

    I don't know if it has so much to do with "conforming". The new iPod Shuffle does just look quite nice, and so does the Nano, and the iPhone. The other music stuff from Apple looks acceptable, but there is a lot of stuff out there that I wouldn't want to be seen with. Just my opinion.

    And yes, looks count. Buying an iPod because it says "iPod" on the package is stupid. Buying it because you like the way it works or because you trust the brandname isn't stupid. And buying it because it looks good isn't stupid either.
  • by gig (78408) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @07:03AM (#18795577)
    > Well that obviously isn't the case given the number of subscription services which already exist, typically based on MS-DRM

    Those services barely exist, and have no customers. They are not even on the level of the 8-track tape, they are less than a footnote in the history of recorded audio. Another attempt at subscription radio that failed miserably like all others.

    There is this massive hubris in the tech industry in which someone like Bill Gates thinks that because music is digital and PC crapware is digital therefore Bill Gates knows something about music. He does not. People were recording, selling, buying, collecting, mixing music way before Bill Gates started building typewriters.

    Nobody has ever made any money selling subscription content except maybe HBO and they have to generate a lot of original content to get this done. They have to have exclusive stuff that is not available anywhere else. People keep re-upping their HBO subscriptions to see the next season of the Sopranos when it is fresh. XM and Sirius have original content but they are trying to merge because the market for subscription audio is so small. And they are streaming dozens of channels to you in real-time by satellite, still people don't want to pay for radio.

    Where are you going to find the music artists who want to have all of their music be exclusive downloads at the Zune store? It is to laugh. And Microsoft is not even competent in their core business, where they have almost zero consumer customers, and have demonstrated their incompetence in music and audio at least twice with PlaysForSure and Zune, not to mention Windows Media. With Windows Media they copied MP3 so precisely that they infringed patents and had to pay billions and the irony is that MP3 was 10 years obsolete at that time, they should have licensed AAC like EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE WORLD and they would have had better audio quality, better compatibility, and it would have been much cheaper for their users, and they wouldn't have had to go to court yet again because they copied someone else's technology. So they are not just seen as incompetent in the music industry, but also as bozos. And nobody in music and audio needs them one bit.
  • by gig (78408) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @09:00AM (#18796439)
    > Just one thing and that is plugin support for extensions and add ons. It means that people could easily write things like cross faders,
    > support for additional codecs, etc.

    This exists one level down from iTunes, in OS X.

    You can add codecs through QuickTime. Once you add a codec to QuickTime it is available in all of your applications from both Apple and third-parties, both playback and authoring apps.

    The plug-in format for audio processing is called "Audio Units" ... it is part of CoreAudio. OS X ships with about 10 Audio Units, things like EQ and such. There are hundreds of third-party Audio Units, some are free, some are commercial. There are various plug-in hosts, you can pipe your iTunes output through there easily. These are professional tools, the highest quality.

    > Of course, there are probably some major security risks around stuff like that... But it would still be cool.

    Not if you build it in the right way, which Apple has obviously done because it's working great for audio and video content creators, these are the reasons why people buy Macs, to get this stuff.

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