Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The next iPod Touch

When it is announced next month, the iPod Touch 3.0 may very well be lost in the tidal wave of interest in the new Apple tablet. If rumors are correct, the iTablet (iPad) is a 10" touch-screen tablet that (as I expected) is based on the iPhone OS — and (more questionably) is being released this fall.

With or without an iPad, next month’s introduction of the new iPod Touch will be an important incremental product for Apple in spreading its platform more broadly. By my estimate, Apple’s iPhone OS has been shipping 60/40 between iPhone models and iPT models.

I’m expecting to buy the iPT 3.0. Why? The main reason is to get a Wi-Fi/Skype (and eventually Google Voice) communications device without the monthly AT&T contract. However, it will also allow access to the wide range of iPhone apps, allow a chance to do iPhone development, provide a handy-dandy PDA and (as a side benefit) replace my long-dead iPod.

What will be in it? I have no inside information, but many of the details are easy to predict.

From the previous iPhone/iPT pairings, the software story is obvious. (Or as we like to say in social science: inductively proved — “1, 2, … n”). The new iPod Touch will include the iPhone 3.1 software, which provides better copy/paste, better email and other tweaks. Most important for iPhone Lite users, the 3.x OS offers better Wi-Fi that will make the iPT a more practical substitute for a smartphone, when carried between home, work and other sources of handy (or free) Wi-Fi hotspots.

What about hardware features? This is educated guesswork:

  • Faster CPU? Yes
  • Stereo Bluetooth? Probably
  • Voice control? Maybe
  • Compass? Probably not
  • GPS? No
  • Camera? A month ago I would have said no way but rumors are that it will.
When will the iPT 3.0 be announced? That part is much clearer: September 9, the day after the old iPT is discontinued. As the Apple ad says:
Buy a Mac for college, and get a free iPod touch.
If you’re a student or a faculty or staff member, purchase an Apple computer and a qualifying iPod from May 27, 2009, through September 8, 2009 and receive a rebate up to $229.
However, like all iPhone (and iPT) users, the big downside will be that my app choices are at the mercy of Apple and its seemingly arbitrary application rejection process.

For example, if the iPT is my main holder of my music library, I’d like to play the music directly from the PDA rather than having to use my laptop or desktop. As it turns out, I own an AirPort Express, Apple’s low-end base station that supports AirTunes, streaming audio to external speakers. Apple allows streaming to AirTunes from a Mac or Windows running iTunes, but nothing else.

However, Rogue Amoeba (as have others) has done a good job of reverse-engineering how to stream arbitrary audio to AirTunes, and sell their Airfoil product is available for Max OS X and Windows. But since the only way to distribute this to iPT users is through the iPhone App Store — where Apple has made controversial decisions to ban key third party apps — I can’t see Apple ever allowing such an app. (Perhaps Apple will sometimes add this feature, but why do we have to wait for Apple?)

The other interesting thing is that the main thing holding back adoption of the iPhone OS jailbreak is the ATT threat of shutting down or otherwise retaliating against these phones. None of this applies to iPT owners, so the incentives for trying jailbreak is much higher for these owners. Would this be enough to create a market for jailbreak-only apps for iPT users?

1 comment:

Tim Meyer said...

The main problem with using IPT as a Skye/GV phone is the lack of a microphone. Carrying a tangle of headphone/mic wires around the home and office gets old pretty quick.

In fact, Apple seems rather unmotivated in making stereo BT in spite of the fact that they have huge margins in accessories. It is a mystery, though I venture they cannot come to a solution that is not geeky and yet elegant to use.

Finally, I think Apple is not too worried about cannibalizing iPhone as the core value prop of the iPhone is convergence. I am not sure how you hear the phone ring with headphones in your ears (with the IPT). Relying on vibration as an alert works sketchily in my experience.