'Bout Sound And Vision (10/7/04)

And finally it comes to pass-- sort of. Rumors of the iPod getting tricked out with a color screen and a video-out port have been clinging to the grapevine for ages, now, and there's certainly been more than enough hints that one's coming sooner rather than later. When the fourth-generation iPods were unveiled in July, most people complained that Apple had dropped the low-end model and cheapened up the mid-range and high-end ones, but as we pointed out at the time, Apple had really boosted the specs of the Bobby and Peter Brady units while keeping their prices the same; it was the top-of-the-line Greg model that had really been cut from the line-up. Add to that Toshiba's blabbing to the press about Apple having ordered a slew of 60 GB iPod-size hard drives for delivery in Septemberish and the luxuriant wiggle room in Greg Joswiak's denial of 60 GB iPods in the works ("no plans in regard to announcing 60 GB models," said he, not "we're not working on one"-- oooh, tricky), and you've got plenty enough circumstantial evidence to believe that a 60 GB high-end 'Pod would return to fill the vacated $499 slot once Toshiba made the drives available.

How does the video-out port figure into all of this, you ask? Well, faithful viewer Brad informs us that Think Secret is citing "highly reliable sources" who claim that a $499 60 GB iPod is due to appear "within the next 30 to 60 days" (there were "delays from Toshiba in delivering its new 60 GB drive," see), and it'll be that model that first boasts the long-conjectured video-out port and iPhoto synchronization we were yakking about last December. We're assuming it'll come with a cable that'll connect to its video and audio ports and allow you to wire it up to the ubiquitous yellow-red-white RCA inputs on any suitably non-ancient TV; once you do that, "a slideshow feature will provide transitions with user-specified background music, similar to iPhoto." And with 60 GB of storage, only a very few people couldn't sync their entire iTunes and iPhoto libraries to take with them wherever they go.

Reportedly this new lil' powerhouse will be about two millimeters thicker than the other 4G iPods-- so, roughly the size of the original 5 GB models-- in part because it's also going to pack a high-res color screen that'll allow photo viewing right on the 'Pod itself and will also show album cover art when the iPod plays a song that includes it. (What, no Visualizer?) While early rumors made much of the fact that the next-generation iPod chip from PortalPlayer included "basic editing" capabilities for digital photos, reportedly the new iPod will include "only rudimentary built-in software for viewing photos, with no editing tools." Not that we'd expect to run Photoshop with a 2-inch screen and a Click Wheel, of course, but it'd be nice to have some sort of access to "rotating, cropping, and red-eye correction" on the iPod itself for the folks who plan to load images in the field via a Belkin iPod Media Reader and do TV slideshows without ever getting to iPhoto first. Nothing kills a slideshow like telling your audience to tilt their heads for the sideways snapshots.

So will it sell? Probably. But noticeably absent from Think Secret's report is any mention whatsoever of movie capabilities, which we'd personally consider to be a lot more useful than the whole photo-out thing, especially since even our over-three-years-old Canon digital camera has its own video-out port. (Okay, so it can't play music during a slideshow. At least it can rotate individual photos 90° for display.) Now, being able to sync this new iPod to a subfolder of Movies on the Mac (one populated with a new "Export for iPod" option in iMovie that would spit out appropriately compressed footage) would really give that 60 GB a run for the money. Watching TV shows on a 2-inch screen may be a less-than-compelling experience, and home movies in your pocket may be an "eh" selling point for those Portable Media Center thingies that Microsoft's pushing, but make it part of the seamless Mac-plus-iMovie-plus-iPod experience so that showing edited footage of the kids on Grandma's TV becomes a total no-brainer and we bet people would kill or maim for a better spot in line. But maybe that's just us.

SceneLink (4966)
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The above scene was taken from the 10/7/04 episode:

October 7, 2004: A new report claims that 60 GB iPods will surface in a month or two-- with color screens, video ports, and iPhoto synchronization. Meanwhile, a recent analyst survey shows the iPod's popularity among teenagers is clear off the charts, and Apple gets sued by Honeywell for allegedly infringing a ten-year-old LCD patent...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4967: More Popular Than Skynyrd (10/7/04)   While our Inner Geeks are looking forward to the whole color-screen-iPod-photos-out-to-TV thing (and it's nice that they have something to look forward to, because it's probably really dark and cramped in there), part of us can't help but wonder whether this morphing of the iPod into more of an all-purpose media bank might detract from its single greatest appeal: simplicity...

  • 4968: Buy One, Get One Free (10/7/04)   Why, our cup runneth over! Just yesterday we dished up a dollop of sweet legal drama when we noted reports that Apple had fired its British lawyers in its trade mark tussle with the Beatles; that implied that a settlement was unlikely and we can look forward to actual courtroom histrionics coming our way...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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