iPod: Now with video

Apple’s announcement of a “new iPod with Video features”:http://news.com.com/Apple+unveils+video+iPod%2C+new+iMac/2100-1041_3-5893863.html?tag=nefd.lede is causing serious meltdown on some of the sites reporting it, including “Engadget’s live report”:http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000207062697/ and “Apple’s own site”:http://www.apple.com, both of which are taking forever to load right now.

This isn’t a big suprise, of course. 18 months ago, I was “skeptical, if not dismissive, about the idea”:http://www.geekfun.com/2004/01/07/movableleron-apple-keynote-thoughts/, but six months later, I was “convinced it was inevitable”:http://www.geekfun.com/2004/10/28/ipod-photo-the-idea-of-a-video-ipod/.

Apple is, of course, ready to go with video content for the new advice, delivered through iTunes6 and an update to the iTunes Music store. Initial offerings include music videos and recently broadcasted ABC TV shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”

I’m not sure I’m convinced about how compelling either of them will be. I think music videos are the right kind of content. They are short and they are the sort of things people would want to show to friends as a sort of conversation starter, but they are also something that has traditionally been free, and I’m skeptical about people laying down $2 for a conversation starter.

I think the price on the TV shows ($2) is also a bit high, but probably reasonable for something that could cost the networks viewers and ad revenue on highly rated shows, and not so much that a devoted viewer wouldn’t pay for it. The downside is that I think the number of people who want to keep up with their favorite 30 or 60 minute shows on a small screen doesn’t stretch too far beyond mass transit users in major metropolitan areas.

I think the TV shows would be a more attractive buy if they were higher quality, but my guess is that they are targeted at the QVGA screen of the new iPods. This is VHS quality, which is more than enough for such a small screen, and probably looks ok via the new iPod’s video out to a TV set, but these days, when people pay for stuff, they are used to DVD quality video and audio.

The new video capable iPods are clearly just an upgrade to the existing iPod line. The video capabilities come under the same name (just “iPod”) and price points as the older iPods with smaller hard disk capacities that they are replacing, but I think they could end up being revolutionary, but not as platforms for the sort of content Apple is launching with.

I think the new iPods will create a market and an audience for short form video content that people can share with one another at the water cooler. Now that the media landscape is so fractured, a portable video device can give people a way to establish common ground again. The new iPod’s aren’t quite there though. They don’t have a speaker that allows multiple viewers to listen to the associated audio, and they don’t let people swap clips without involving their computers.

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