Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Bluetooth Killer App 

Apple just announced their newest iPods, the iPod U2 Special Edition and the iPod Photo. Personally, neither of these is particularly appealing to me. The U2 iPod looks alright, but I think the back looks funny still being silver, it doesn't quite work with the front as well as the white does. They probably didn't want to mess with it too much, though.

The iPod Photo similarly doesn't do anything for me. It was probably inevitable that they'd stick a color screen in there; it was going to happen sooner or later, whether it was them or their competitors leading the way. However, the idea of being able to view my photo collection on a little 2 inch diagonal screen doesn't really excite me that much (neither does its increased size and weight).

Still, I think this could be a good first step towards what the iPod can become: a personal portable hard drive. Obviously, the real usage scenario for iPod Photo is plugging it into your TV or computer to show the photos in a way that someone might actually want to see them. That's fine, but what I really want to be able to do is have an iPod in my pocket and have my digital camera automatically send my photos to it, like it's an outside-the-camera 40GB roll of film. Since I don't want to have to carry around a cable for every given type of device I might want to connect to, I'd also like it if the iPod would work wirelessly. Given its bandwidth and the proximity the user will usually have to the device being used, Bluetooth is probably a great match for the iPod.

Of course, then that begs the question of what else you can do if everyone is carrying around a wireless hard drive in their pocket. For one thing, it strikes me that my cellphone (a small Nokia) would fit entirely inside my iPod, if you took the case off. Most of that smaller piece is a battery and the screen. In a few generations, could the chips used in the iPod be small enough to include mobile phone chips and an antenna, so I don't have to haul around both my cell phone and iPod (obviously, the battery and screen would be shared)? Let us hope. A small redesign to the iPod headphones could include one of those dangling microphones on the wire. Or, Apple could use a Bluetooth headset, similar to what is currently available for Bluetooth phones. I'm sure Apple could work out a nice interface for dialing with the scrollwheel (although I find that I'm usually dialing out of my contacts list on my cellphone, which is what I'd prefer if I could). Plus, it could stop me from missing cell phone calls while I'm walking around listening to music, which must be amusing to bystanders every time I walk by oblivious to the ringing cell phone in my pocket.

I hate speculation pieces like this, because the writer always assumes that R&D and production are free. Of course I want a cheaper, faster iPod with more storage and a higher-res screen that does the work of any electronic appliance you could think of! That's not what I'm trying to say, because I understand that's not helpful. However, I think there's a very real opening here for Apple to create and own a potentially huge new market in the, well, personal hard drive/universal connector mark...the "digital pod" market. As a matter of fact, I think it's either very forward-thinking or fortunate that Apple gave the iPod such a vague name, when it could have called it something more music-centered.

Lead the way, Apple! Earn that $600!

now i wonder if they are going to port the iTunes visualizer to run on the color iPod screen...

i so want a u2 iPod now...
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