iPod Photo & the idea of a video iPod

The new photo iPod is interesting.

40GB is more than I’d need for my music collection, so new features to make use of the storage would certainly be welcome.

I even like the idea of being able to easily carry and display my collection of digital photos anywhere I take my iPod. As it is in the past week, I’ve pulled out my camera to show two different people two different sets of photos I still have on it. I’ve also pulled out my camera once or twice in the past week to kill a few minutes while waiting (in line, on elevator, in traffic) by looking at the photos I’ve taken lately.

That said, the pricing on this thing sucks. It’s $100 more than an ordinary 40GB iPod, which is itself $100 more than the 20GB model which has pretty much all the storage I can imagine wanting for at least the next couple of years.

By my estimate, as $/GB for small hard disks continues dropping, adding features that leverage that cheaper storage are going to be necessary to keep people buying and upgrading at the existing pricepoints. Expecting people to buy in at a higher pricepoint seems foolish.

Which brings me to the idea of a Video iPod. I thought the idea was stupid — audio is pervasive, people have radios on all day. Sure, some people have the TV on all day, but most of the time, they are using it like a a radio tuned to a talk station. I doubt they are going to bother loading a bunch of video onto a portable player whose battery life suffers dramatically when playing video and listen to it with headphones just to watch the few minutes of video that catches their interest. Steve Jobs said the same thing, and so of course, I felt validated.

I’m not so sure any more. Russell Beattie thinks that Jobs is being myopic because of his association with the movie industry. He also notes that people are thrilled to see the low quality video of Finding Nemo he has on his smartphone, and that crummy expensive mobile video is drawing interest and some revenue in the mobile phone business.

I’m not sure the 150,000 people paying sprint $10/month extra for their video service really counts as the beginnings of a mass market. I think the novelty factor has to be pretty high and is going to pass. On the other hand, I think their is a market for novelty with respect to video. Think about all the vid clips you see linked from blogs. They are the sort of thing someone might want to look at to amuse themselves while waiting in line somewhere, and they are the sort of thing you might want to pull out and show a friend over coffee or a colleage at the water cooler.

My gut feeling is that this could be a bigger deal than podcasting. I see a lot more links to interesting video than to interesting audio.

The real question is what is a reasonable price for video capability. As I said above, I think in the long run, video is just going to be a way to sell higher storage capacities and drive upgrades. In the short run, it can command a premium, but Apple would be wise to set that premium low enough that it can leverage its dominant audio marketshare into dominant video marketshare. Pricing photo support at a level near where competitors are offering video support seems completely foolish.