Sunday, October 16, 2005

Vingles or Vodcasts, or how Apple finally got me on board.

There's alot of talk online about the release of Apple's video based iPod last week. A lot of the talk has revolved around the discussion of whether the video iPod will be a success for Apple, and whether they can do for video, what they've done for music.

I'll be the first to say, I don't think the video capability of the Ipod will catch mindshare anything like the .99 music singles of iTunes. But, then again, Apple doesn't need it to do so right now. As it stands the Ipod is now, basically, the best(or at least most popular) portable music player available, and it just so happens to play music.

What I happen to think is interesting about the Ipod right now is the accelerated release schedule that Apple's been following with it. I'm not sure what else they've got in the release pipeline for the Ipod, but pure speculation would lead to at least the following:

  • Networked/Wifi based Ipod. This seems to be the favorite speculation of the technorati, but knowing Apple, they won't release it until they feel they have the interface correct, which could take awile. Perhaps another 6 months, but who knows. I imagine a networked Ipod that allows for easy, integrated social behavior would be a popular release around Christmas time for kids, etc., but that would be a very aggressive schedule.
  • Nanos w/more space. Nano's are very popular still, but they're still a bit expensive compared to other models. I suspect will see an increase in storage as Flash prices continue to drop, meanwhile, I'm guessing Apple won't budge on the price.
  • Smaller, thinner, standard Ipods with more space. These will continue to be a big seller for Apple, and as demand video grows over time, they'll need to keep pace by offering more storage.
  • Finally, I think most people expect Apple will eventually release a true mobile phone Ipod, one that they design inhouse, and that is manufactured by a 3rd party. I'll put the odds of this at 50/50, as I suspect that they might forgo cellular technology altogether and skip straight to internet based communications. It would be great to see Apple team up with Google to enable a wifi based, video ipod that allowed you to use Gtalk, or any other Jabber type client for an internet based Ipod phone with built in video chat.

As for the success of Vingles (video singles), I hope they pick up, but am not terribly optimistic. It's strange, because I'm not terribly fond of buying music on iTunes, and I can count on one hand the number of songs I've purchased through the software (and no, I don't pirate music). Coming to an awareness on this inconsistency bothered me, and I thought I'd try to figure it out. I basically came down to the following:

  • My interests in music are eclectic, and fairly substantial. I also happen to enjoy getting a bit of the packaging when I pay for music. Paying .99 per song that comes in mp3, without any of the artwork, lyrics, etc just doesn't seem attractive.
  • I came to the realization awhile ago that I really enjoy the subscription model offered by Real Rhapsody, and the ability it offers me to enjoy literally hundreds of songs throughout a month for just $9.99. I've realized that as long as it's always available to me, I don't care whether I own the music or not, so paying a continuing fee doesn't bother me. It's much like paying for service such as XM Radio (not something I'm personally interested in), but with much greater control over contenet.
  • Prior to paying $10 a month for Rhapsody, I was averaged buying close to 200-250 CDs a year for the 2 years prior, which has been brought down to under 5 this year. That's a massive savings on my part, a savings which iTunes cannot offer.
All of that explains my disinterest in iTunes for music, but it doesn't explain my interest in video distributed in iTunes. That can be explained with the following:

  • Living and working in the city (and as a Laptop Nomad), I spend an inordinate amount of time in front of my laptop. Much more than anywhere else, infact. And as much as my interest in music is fairly vast and eclectic, my taste in TV runs fairly limited. When I have the time, I basically watch The Daily Show, Real Time w/Bill Maher, Iron Chef America, and maybe Meet the Press. I'll watch more if I'm bored, but honestly, I'd rather be in front of my laptop than my TV. $1.99 per TV show is a steal considering the convenience.
So, perhaps I make up a strange demographic, and one certainly not large enough to have the kind of positive effects that music did for Apple, but I think it's a demographic that will certainly grow over time.

In the meantime, I'm very happy to have a legitimate way to buy TV shows online that I can watch while I'm working outside the house. Perhaps it's just a side effect of having roommates, but I'm really prefering to work outside the house in the comfort of Starbucks, which right now has a fireplace lit keeping me warm.

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