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Thursday, October 13, 2005

BBC NEWS | Technology | Apple iPod sets sights on video

BBC NEWS | Technology | Apple iPod sets sights on video Apple iPod sets sights on video
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Apple has set its sights on conquering the world of portable video with the launch of a sound and vision version of its iconic iPod.

It is looking to build on the success of its digital music player, having sold 28 million music-playing iPods since 2001.

"Because millions of people around the world will buy this new iPod to play music, it will quickly become the most popular portable video player in history," said Apple boss Steve Jobs at the launch of the device.

But the computer maker is coming late to the world of video on the go. There are several media players available from Microsoft and its hardware partners, as well as gadgets from rivals Creative and Archos.

And the Japanese electronic giant Sony recently entered the fray with its PlayStation Portable (PSP), which sports a large screen to play films on its UMD discs.

"Sony has the design skills to match its devices and, the PSP, with its added gaming appeal, could rival Apple," said Salman Momen, technology analyst at Capgemini.

Question of content

So far, portable video players have failed to make much of an impact. Many of the devices have been bulky and getting TV shows or films onto them has often proved frustrating.

While there are dozens of legitimate online music services, finding portable video is another story. Most video online is streaming media which means it cannot be downloaded, and copy protection on DVDs makes it hard to transfer the content to a portable player.

This is video as a feature on an iPod. When Apple are ready to do video, you will see something more complete and more video-focused
Nate Elliott, Jupiter Research
Instead many have turned to illegal file-sharing sites, where thousands trade copies of popular TV shows and Hollywood blockbusters.

Apple is addressing some of these shortcomings by providing more than 2,000 music videos through its popular iTunes online music store.

The deal with ABC and Disney means it can offer legal downloads in the US of TV hits like Lost and Desperate Housewives for $1.99 a day after the shows air.

"This is a learning process for Apple," said Nate Elliott, digital home analyst at Jupiter Research. "There is no mass market for portable video today and they understand that.

"That market will exist at some point in the future. It is never a bad idea to start learning about the technology and how consumers want to use video on the go, and start the relationships with the content providers."

"This isn't a video device," insisted Mr Elliott. "This is video as a feature on an iPod. When Apple are ready to do video, you will see something more complete and more video-focused. "

Familiar feel

The new iPod is thinner than previous models and sports a 2.5 inch (6.35cm) colour screen that is 320 by 240 pixels in size.

In the UK the 30GB version should cost £219 ($299 in the US) and the 60GB version £299 ($399).

"It is the first step towards what will become a proper portable video player but it is not there yet," said Graham Barlow, editor of MacFormat magazine.

"Ideally I would have liked a screen the size of the PSP. But Apple have kept the look and feel of the iPod and the screen is big enough to watch TV programmes on."

"As soon as you hold it, you have this feeling 'I want one of these', especially with the black one. The next step is to come out with different colours, especially for the female market," said Mr Barlow.

As well as launching the new iPod, Apple has also unveiled a new iMac G5 computer. It comes with a remote control and a software package called Front Row to let people use the machine as a digital entertainment hub in the home.

"For the iPod generation, the flexibility of being able to watch TV programmes on their own terms means broadcasters need to rethink what we do," said the BBC's head of new media, Ashley Highfield.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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