What’s next for the iPod?

I just saw a post over on 37 signals blog asking whether the iPod is riding a wave of cool or a wave of usefulness.

… I’m wondering when the iPod will tip from cool to uncool. When everyone has something it begins to lose its luster. What can Apple do to ride the wave of coolness for as long as possible? Or is this product somehow immune because of its unique combination of coolness, usefulness, and stylishness? I wonder if the wave Apple is riding isn’t the “cool” wave afterall, but the “useful” wave masquerading as cool? Does anyone ever get tired of useful?

I see it like this: iPods are filling a gap that needed to be filled. People needed a portable way to listen to all those mp3s they downloaded from Napster, and the iPod was (and still is) the best way to do that.

However, I think the lives of all portable audio players are limited because cell phones are going to catch up soon. Why carry an iPod and a cellphone when you can plug some headphones into your phone and have all your music right there? Most new cell phones already play mp3 files, the only problem is storage, and that problem is becoming less and less every day as flash memory gets cheaper and bigger.

After that, we’ll see better digital cameras included in the phones. I’m not talking about replacing high end cameras, but have you noticed the flood of tiny cameras on the market? Nearly everyone I know has a tiny camera they carry around with them everywhere (not even including the cameras on their phones). Once these camera phones catch up to the little digital cameras, you have no reason to carry both gadgets.

Next comes the most interesting part: You start using your phone to download music directly from the iTunes store. Apple has already announced the partnership with Motorola, and I’m sure they understand that the life of the iPod is running out. Motorolapod Shuffle, anyone?

Now back to the camera: tons of people are already taking pictures with thier camera phones and e-mailing them directly to their friends, or posting them on the internet with sites like Flickr.

Why would I buy three different gadgets and fill up my pockets when I could combine them all into one? It’s only a matter of time before phone manufacturers add in more storage space for your mp3s, and hopefully they will stop blindly adding in mega pixels to their cameras and put some better lenses and CCD technology into the camera part of the phone.

UPDATE (02-14-2005): Sony Ericsson seems to agree with me, at least about the music part.

Sirius + iPod?

I just saw this rumor that Apple might be teaming up with Sirius to add satellite reception into new iPods.

Now to me, this seems a little strange, since XM Radio already has an iPod-like receiver, and to me seems to be more ‘Apple-like’ than Sirius. XM’s music is a more eclectic mix, while Sirius seems to play more pop music geared towards a younger audience (Eminem even has his own show on Sirius). Apple has in the past aligned themselves with the older geek chic crowd (U2 iPod, anyone?) rather than the young pop loving crowd. Or maybe I’m just giving U2 more credit than they deserve, and they are nothing more than a gateway for Apple to get out of their geek cult status and into the pop culture arena.

There’s also a ton of other reasons why we probably won’t see satellite radio (either flavor) in iPods anytime soon:

  1. Apple won’t do anything to make the iPod bigger. Have you seen portable satellite radios? They are huge.
  2. Recording. XM just released a little portable player that has a Tivo-like feature, but right now there is no way to get those recordings off of the player. If you could record radio onto your iPod hackers would surely find a quick and easy way to take those recordings off, which makes the RIAA very angry. Without recording capabilities, why bog down your iPod with a service that most users won’t even pay to use?
  3. You have to pay for satellite radio. Will Apple really bundle a feature you have to pay for with something like the iPod? Maybe if Apple got a cut of the profits, or owned the service (like .mac)

So unless there is some major announcement from Sirius that includes a very tiny new portable player, I don’t see iPods with satellite reception any time soon.

UPDATE (02-09-2005): Apple says ‘hell no’ to putting a satellite radio in their box.

OS X + Flash player tip of the day

Since buying my first Mac about a year ago, the biggest thing I’ve missed is being able to run as many Flash movies as I want in my open browser windows and not have to put up with choppy playback. Anyone who has used a Mac has probably noticed this behavior: open more than one Flash movie at a time (although sometimes it only takes one) and they get very very choppy and slow.

Well, until we get that long awaited update to the Netscape plugin architecture, you can try this: When you see a Flash movie start to slow down or get choppy, try clicking and holding your mouse down somewhere inside the movie. It should play at normal speed as long as you hold down the mouse button.

UPDATE: Of course, the same day I post this, Colin Moock posts a video from a Flash conference in Tokyo with a demo of the next version of the Flash player.

UPDATE (11-30-2005): With the release of Firefox 1.5 they have fixed a bug that has been in Firefox since 2001, so the ‘hold your mouse button down to get good performance’ trick is no longer neccesary.