Apple video: it’s not about the iPod

As expected, Apple revamped the iPod range yesterday; however, the expected video iPod didn’t appear. Instead, Apple provided a sneak peek of a product due in early 2007 dubbed “iTV” – which, to me at least, is more important than a video iPod.

Portable music makes sense because it’s the soundtrack to whatever you’re doing, whether that’s jogging, sitting on a bus or mowing the lawn. Portable video, though, is a much trickier proposition. It needs your full attention or it’s pointless, and unless you’re doing serious travelling then there aren’t many times when you’ll sit and watch a film on a portable device. For most people, movies are things you watch from your sofa.

iTV (terrible name, which Jobs promises to change) is designed for sofa watching, and it acts as a bridge between iTunes and your TV. The idea makes sense to me – I’ve got a Mac Mini under the telly, which I use as a jukebox and a player for bittorrent videos of programmes I’ve forgotten to watch. But it makes sense for Apple’s movie ambitions too.

Video on iPods is a fairly minor business, but video on your TV is a much bigger opportunity. I suspect that’s why Apple announced the iTV early: the initial iTunes video line-up is Disney, Disney, Disney, and iPod-only video is a market the other film studios can afford to ignore. But if Apple can do serious business in living rooms then that changes the game considerably. If iTV is a success, it could enable Apple to pull off the iTunes trick a second time, with a video service so popular that the studios need to be part of it.

Will that happen? I’ve no idea. I’m not convinced by the pricing of Apple’s movie downloads and suspect the UK prices will be horrific, especially compared to the cost of a DVD in Tesco. Then again, I don’t buy music from iTunes because I don’t like the format, the price or the DRM, and that clearly makes me unusual among Mac owners. What I do know is that Apple’s taking a big gamble here, and it’s moves like this one that make it such an interesting company to watch.

As for the rest of the keynote: iTunes 7 is nifty, the incomprehensibly popular Shuffle is even smaller, the new Nanos are great and the combination of increased storage and reduced prices make the current iPods better value for money than ever.

11 thoughts on “Apple video: it’s not about the iPod

  1. Tony Kiernan says:

    As pointed out on O’Reilly, no recording.

    iTunes 7 is well nifty.

    I don’t think the Shiffle’s popularity is incomprehensible. Having sussed out how to get my Walman phone to play randomly, I tend to normally do so (and did most of the time when I had an iPod). OK, the lack of other functionality doesn’t suit me, but then I’m not the target market. It’s a cheap way to buy into the hip kudos that they currently still have. (I remember a youth group being completely astounded that my mate would buy a 50Gb mp3 player. “What are you going to put on that?” “My CD collection” “‘Sake! How many have you got?!?!?“)

  2. Gary says:

    Yeah, that’s a major downside – although it might be added, given it’s not out for aaaaages (very un-Apple, that).

    > It’s a cheap way to buy into the hip kudos that they currently still have.

    True, yeah. I still find it incomprehensible :)

  3. Gary says:

    A quick thought: given you need an iTMS account to download cover art for your existing CDs, reckon Apple’s logging what’s on your Mac?

  4. Stephen says:

    >given you need an iTMS account to download cover art for your existing CDs…

    Gary, is that in the new iTunes? Till now I’ve just dragged album covers into iTunes from Amazon, or just let Synergy do the same thing by itself, but if that’s the new regime I’ll take the update off my update list…

  5. Gary says:

    Sorry, I didn’t make that very clear. You need an iTMS account if you want to automatically download cover art from iTunes. You can still drag and drop from amazon (although have you noticed they’ve started going for low-res album art with a big white background to stop you doing that?) or any other source.

  6. Tony Kiernan says:

    Anyone suss out how to get it to do this retrospectively? The version at home happily grabbed everything, but the one here at work isn’t and I can’t find an option ot do it.

    Listening to the Engadget podcast of Jobs announcing all this. The audience seem completely underwhelmed.

  7. Gary says:

    Just right-click on a track from the album and choose “download album artwork”. It can be a bit unpredictable, though, and if an artist isn’t available on iTunes you can’t get it.

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