Thursday, January 05, 2006

And the next big thing for the iPod is...

So far this blog was used exclusively in order to make new release announcements and since these were also emailed, I doubt anyone was reading it. In an attempt to change that I am going to start sharing our views and analysis of the market, where it is going and how it is all related to TVersty. I am also going to allow comments to be posted to the blog so that you can tell provide some feedback.

Right now I am in Vegas waiting for Bill Gates keynote at CES, and so I finally have some time to do some blogging about … Apple. Yes, Apple the only company absent from CES, and yet the company that is able to generate more buzz than the entire CES show and all its exhibitors. I know I for one care about Apple plans for 2006 more than I care about Microsoft and Intel’s plans combined, simply because Apple is the only company that has been able to demonstrate the real meaning of convergence while others have been mainly talking about it and spending lots of marketing dollars with no real progress. Speaking of marketing, this CES is the beginning of a new marketing campaign for Intel, the VIIV campaign which was announced a while ago but is really starting only now (big billboards with VIIV and the new Intel logo, Leap Ahead, instead of Intel inside, were welcoming everyone at the airport at Las Vegas), I wonder if VIIV will catch on or not but this probably deserves its own post, so let’s get back to Apple.

It is well known that Apple is keeping its plans as a complete secret until an actual announcement is made by Steve Jobs, and this time, with Mac Expo just around the corner, is not going to be any different. Since it won’t be another week before Steve Jobs shares with us his company plans, I find it too tempting not to join others in the industry and use the time left till the show, to make some predictions about Apple’s plans for 2006. Now, I am a long-term guy so I have no intention to try and guess what will Steve Jobs talk about in this coming Mac Expo, however I am going to try and guess what he has in store for the iPod in 2006 as a whole. If past experience is any indication, there will be several press conferences this year in which Apple reveals just another piece of the puzzle so when the upcoming Steve Job’s speech in Mac Expo will seem to have nothing to do with what I am about to say, do not be too harsh with my predictions, wait till the end of 2006 and then make up your mind.

Without further delay let me get to the point, up until a few months ago when video support was added to the iPod, video was the hottest feature expected by the pundits with almost everyone agreeing that it is just matter of time till it’s added. Now that it is a done deal and the iPod can play video, it is time to come up with the next great frontier for the iPod and if we can all agree then we can all go back to speculating when it will be added instead of what it is. Of-course unlike video support there is nothing obvious that everyone is talking about and so I do not expect everyone to agree with my prediction and yet I think I can at least convince you not to discount this possibility and to give it serious thought. Clearly small improvements such as a bigger screen, longer battery life, thinner form factor, and a fresh design (cooler than ever), are all going to happen in 2006. But what is the next BIG thing, something that will turn the iPod into an even greater gadget, something so wonderful that it will make Microsoft spend even more money trying to buy the entire industry in an attempt to catch up with Apple.

And the Oscar goes to…wait a second I can’t seem to be able to open the envelope provided to me by the academy…ok, ok I know it’s enough going in circles so here it is, the Oscar goes to wireless networking. Whether it is bluetooth, WiFi, wireless USB or all of the above, the next big thing for the iPod in my opinion is to become a part of the network, the home network, the Internet and the all encompassing network of the entire universe – also known as the Ansible (oops this one is not yet invented, I guess it will be announced in CES 3006).

Now that I spilled it out and it’s out in the open, it is time to defend my prediction. So, why on earth does the iPod need to join the network? I mean isn’t it supposed to get a 120 Gigabyte hard drive this year and thus allow you to carry whatever you want, eliminating the need to be connected (expect when synchronizing). Well, the huge storage concept works great for audio but if you ask me it won’t work so well for video. You see, unlike many, I think that video like audio will be very successful for the iPod and like audio most of the media people store on their iPod won’t come from the iTunes store but rather will be things like recorded TV shows, DVDs, illegal downloads, etc. And for recorded TV shows, which will probably be the most important element in the success of the video functionality of the iPod, a wireless connection is very important since it will allow synchronization to happen automatically when the iPod is within range of the home network. This “minor” improvement is very important since newly recorded TV shows become available every day, where with music one needed to synchronize their iPod only once in the beginning and then when they bought a new CD or song (probably once a month for the average Joe and once a week for the music enthusiasts).

Of-course seemless synchronization while important cannot justify by itself adding WiFi support. The real great thing enabled by a wireless network connection is the ability to stream music and video from the home network or from the web, without needing to synchronize anything and to incorporate this streamed content with the iTunes store such that impulse contextual purchases can be made from the iPod without going through a computer. I can for example, visualize recording a TV show and while it is being recorded the show is also being streamed to my iPod in some other part of the world where I am enjoying coffee in some hotspot. With respect to music, I can visualize many new CD quality commercial free radio stations that are made available for the iPod for free simply because the iTunes store can now be accessed from the iPod and so impulse purchases can be made as one listens to the radio (yes Sirius and XM should be very worried since their business model is under a serious threat). And if all that is not compelling enough then what about all the video content available today freely on the Internet, I am not talking about vlogs (which are already integrated with the video iPod), I am talking about the networks and the studios webcasting lots of great stuff on the Net. This stuff is not downloadable so it can’t be used with the current video iPod but once the iPod is network enabled suddenly I can watch MTV or Bloomberg TV live on it from any part of the world (which also remind me of a prediction I read that satellite TV capability will be added to the iPod, once the iPod is network enabled who needs satellite TV?). Now I know you are going to say that the quality of this stuff is still not adequate, well this is the beauty of it all, the quality is not good enough for the big screen, but on the small iPod screen it will look like hi-definition TV!

So where is TVersity in all that? TVersity from its very inception has made it a goal to allow one to create her own personalized lineup of channels and to access it from TVs and from mobile devices. Yet, we do not support any mobile device yet, do we? The reason for that is the inability of most of these devices to access the home network or the Internet. Once this ability will be added, these devices just like digital media adapters will not be able to handle many of the media formats and of the streaming protocols out there and we intend to solve that problem for these devices just like we did for networked DVDs and DMAs. This will make our solution more complete as we will all get one step closer to having universal access to our media. Here is to the future and a happy 2006 to aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall!

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