Video iPod Imminent?

May 11, 2005

Apparently the iTunes 4.8 update wasn’t quite the yawner it first appeared to be.

iTunes 4.8 users can now purchase and download music videos with select albums from iTunes Music Store. This has led to some fairly rampant speculation about whether a Video iPod is in the wings.

Well, maybe…

Certainly it’s likely that the iPod will eventually go there, in order to remain in the high-end of the portable player market, if nothing else.

I think it’s likely we’ll see some Apple encroachment on the living room first, however. Apple wants to widen its base as the premier provider of downloadable content as fast as possible, and let’s face it, if you’re going to peddle downloadable video, the 10 foot market is a lot bigger than the portable video market.

For that reason, I tend to agree with Slashdot’s resident Apple rumormeister, “As Seen On TV“, that a video-enabled descendant of the Airport Express is a lot more likely to hit the streets before a Video iPod does.

If the form factor can be kept to the current Airport Express’ “hang off the outlet and plug into media player” format, it’d make a great alternative for those who don’t want yet another large set-top box (even if it’s an X-Box 360), and who’d like to leverage their existing microcomputer investment right where it is — back in the den or home office — while watching from the couch.

It’ll take more sophistication than we’ve seen so far, however. It’s one thing to start a music playlist and live with not being able to control it from the playing end (actually, I use a Keyspan Express Remote with my Airport Express, but that’s another article), but watching video, you want to be able to pause, fast-forward, etc. right from the couch.

Perhaps more importantly, if you want to peddle downloadable/on-demand video, you want people to be able to sample trailers, read reviews, and order up content right from their easy chair.

This is going to require a real “10-foot” user interface and remote (not just an interfaceless remote like the Keyspan), which might be a bit more challenging to fit into the Airport Express type form factor and price.

Anything less than that is just going to be an alternative to cabling the desktop directly to the TV, and there are plenty of options for that that people ignoring in droves today.

Update —

Could this be the missing “Video Airport” interface? On the surface, this certainly does seem to be a patent for an Apple Tablet PC (which Jobs has denied several times as being in the works, not that that means much), but Apple is well known for obfuscating patents as much as possible — it’s possible that device will really surface (if it ever does) as a smart display-and-touch screen remote for a video-enabled Airport Express.

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