New iPod lineup poses more questions than it provides answers
When Apple revealed its new iPod lineup for fall on September 5th 2007, I was hoping for more clarity on the future of the ubiquitous digital player. Since its introductions six years ago, the iPod family has normally gone through a major product refresh every other year and this was the year that major changes were due for the full size iPod and the Nano. However, minor facelifts, sparse feature enhancements, and mere color updates lead one to believe that the iPod family is in a transition phase this year perhaps largely due to other product commitments namely the iPhone and the newly released Leopard OS. The iPod does command a division of its own but, in order to drive iPhone and Leopard towards completion, Apple has had to count on help from all of its developers at times. So this year, instead of a clear vision for where the iPod is headed, there’re more questions on its future. Here’s a breakdown of the major questions marks by product category:
Shuffle – Introduced in MacWorld 2005 and refreshed in fall 2006, the Shuffle gets new colors but otherwise, it’s the same player as a year ago. With other digital player manufacturers such as Creative and Sandisk introducing competitive 1-2 GB players with more features, can Apple continue to offer a screen-less 1GB player at $79 and hope to maintain market share?
Nano – Gets a new high pixel density screen, form factor, and firmware but top capacity remains the same as last year at 8 GB. While I was expecting more, Apple has devoted more time to developing the new Nano than the other family members and its shows. It’s the star of the lineup in terms of sales and offers the cheapest iPod with a screen at the $150 price point. With memory prices dropping very quickly and competing players maxing at 16 GB, will there be a necessity for a mid cycle top capacity refresh?
Classic – Nowhere is the transition phase more evident than with the Classic. Gets a new metal top, chromed back returns and firmware is update. Otherwise, it’s more or less the same player as the original 5G two years ago. Why? Is the name ‘Classic’ itself a prelude to the end of the HDD based iPod with a click wheel? Will the physical interface change to an all touch screen and if not, what new innovations can Apple offer on the same interface?
Touch – Even though this is an all new player from Apple, it borrows the iPhone interface and in terms of features and user experience, it does not get the ‘best iPod’ to date label. Will Apple begin to introduce new media features exclusively on the Touch or will it continue to play second best to the iPhone? Will there be a HDD version with a 80-160 GB top capacity or will Apple continue to stick with flash memory? And finally, now that we know a SDK for the Touch/iPhone platform is coming, will there continue to be a deliberate lock out of unofficial third party software?
Watch this space for some very interesting answers to these questions coming soon.