Friday, October 28, 2005

Column from PC Magazine: Apple iPod's Amazing Video Feat

Column from PC Magazine: Apple iPod's Amazing Video Feat

Portable media players have been trying to take off for awhile now. With Apple packing this it has a better chance of hitting main stream.

The biggest problem I see is the cost per episode through iTunes. $2/episode pushes the cost of the episodes on DVD. Hopefully half-hour shows will will be less than the shows I have seen. Granted you get the shows commericial free without having to skip through them!

What will really break this open is being able to transfer shows from your DVR (like TiVo) onto the players. It would be great if you could have it automatically load on a show that you did not get a chance to watch. With gas prices going up more and more people will be commuting and that time would be great to catch last night's show(s). The device would then also have to talk to your DVR to relay back what has been watched. That two way communication seems to be missing on some of the MP3 players.

I figure as people start replacing machines they are going to start getting Media Center systems, which eliminates the needs for TiVo. People are not looking to pirate films, just be able to play them back when they get a chance to watch them. TiVo has shown that time shifting shows is desired. PMPs take that to another level.

This is getting to to reevaluate my position on multi function units. Based on what I have seen on Apple's & Creative Lab's sites, a 30 gig unit will hold up to 15,000 songs, 120 hours of video or 25,000 pictures. If you divide that into thirds you could easily fit 5,000 songs, 40 hours of video. Let's throw in an eBook reader (the screens are getting bigger and easier to read) and some PDA capabilities and the system really begins to take on some serious shape. Let's say we set 3 gig aside for eBooks and PDA info. Given that many PDAs now are in the 128 meg range it seems more than generous. And keep in mind that some functions of the PDA would be taken by functions of the PMP. That would still leave plenty of room for music, videos & photos.

The problem is still one of cost. Most multi function units I have seen to date tend to cost almost as much as the combined cost of all the replacement units. Why? The bulk of the cost is in the memory. Given that most PDAs already do most (actually all) of what PMPs do, we should be able to combine these fairly easily and, more importantly, cheaply.

I still think that cell phones should remain separate. I hate to say it, but combining PDAs and cell phones result in too many compromises in form on one or the other. Cell phone MP3 or video players may make sense, but if you are going to try and combine PDA functionality you really need two units to have good form & functionality between the two.

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