iPod sales make plenty of money for Apple. But do Windows iPod users actually switch to Mac in significant numbers? A recent column in the Wall Street Journal explores that question, and finds some evidence of switchers.
If you buy the new U2 box set at the iTunes Music Store, you'll get a "digital booklet" along with all the music. The booklet is delivered as a PDF, and it goes right into your iTunes library, although it opens in Preview or Acrobat Reader. Kirk McElhearn has a discussion here about how iTunes 4.7 handles non-music files.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently printed a roundup of iPod accessories, including this tidbit:
"We think the accessories market is worth more than $200 million (a year), " said Brian Van Harlingen, senior technology manager at Belkin Corp., a Southern California firm that makes a range of tech accessories, from computer cables to Wi-Fi routers.
Recently there have been a lot of rumors and speculation that Apple is about to introduce flash-based iPods. But wait -- earlier this year Steve Jobs said that Apple wasn't interested in that business because most flash players "end up in a drawer".
Is there any way to reconcile these two opposing points of view? Let's start by thinking about why those flash players are in those drawers: capacity. With only a few songs in your player, most people soon get tired of dealing with the frequent hassle of updating -- who needs one more thing to do in their life? -- and the drawer beckons.
A 512Mb player holds about 125 songs using Apple's calculations, or about 8 hours of music. A 1Gb player gets you 250 songs, or about 16 hours of tunes. Depending on how much music you listen to, you might want to update your flash iPod as often as every day. Apple is all about making things easy. So if Apple could make a flash-based player that is somehow super-easy to update, it might be an interesting product.
You could make iPod updating painless with a two-part solution: a new version of iTunes, and updating over WiFi. With WiFi in the iPod, you wouldn't have to remember to dock it, or even have it in the same room as the computer. With such a small capacity, updating over WiFi wouldn't take insanely long. A new version of iTunes could add features to smart playlists and the iPod interface, like a timer that says how often to update the iPod -- like "every day, replace the songs I've listened to with fresh ones" -- and an assistant-type interface that makes it easier to build smart playlists for small capacity players. And just to make it even more drop-dead simple, we might not even have playlists on our flash-based iPod, just a music library.
With the updating problem solved, Apple's industrial design could really go crazy with a flash-based iPod. It could be smaller than a mini (click wheel + 2 or 3 line display, a la iTunes), thinner, and with better battery life. And if you think the mini is tiny-sexy, imagine the appeal of this one -- the iPod pocket. Let's make them in six great colors. At $199, even people who already have iPods would try to figure out how to justify buying an iPod pocket.
UPDATE 1/14/05: I review my own predictions (how quaint) here.