Friday, 27 August 2010

The next iPod Nano?

Apple surprised people a few years back when they suddenly killed off the most successful iPod model at the time, the iPod Mini and replaced it with the iPod Nano. Now several years later, with its now traditional September music product launch event approaching, the Cupertino company is likely to have been once again thinking how to revamp its iPod line-up while continuing to differentiate the iPod Touch, Nano and Shuffle models.

In recent times, the Nano has preserved its form factor and simply gained new features such as video recording. This time, I am suggesting there may be a more substantial change. The way to make the Nano even smaller is to remove the click-wheel. However the user still needs a way to control the device. So why not make the current square'ish screen touch sensitive, and when the user needs to change something, superimpose a click-wheel (or tap-wheel) on the screen temporarily on the screen to effect the command. This substitution of the physical interface with a virtual graphical equivalent would mirror what they have already done with the telephone keypad and qwerty keyboard on the iPhone.

The next question is whether the iPod Classic will survive. I guess it depends how many of this last breed of hard disk based music players they are selling compared to the other models. The iPod Touch is already available with 64GB flash memory; doubling that to 128GB would get the song capacity close to the Classic model. The new Touch model is going to have a front facing camera to facilitate FaceTime video calls to iPhone 4's and it's clear that Apple will want to get as many FaceTime compatible devices out into the market as possible. Taking away the Classic option, and leaving the Touch as the highest capacity iPod for those that need it, would assist in this FaceTime strategy.

FInally there is the question of what materials the new iPod line-up will be made from. Apple has recently bought the exclusive rights to the use of a company called Liquid Metal in the consumer electronics space. It's not clear whether sufficient time has elapsed for this to be exploited this time around but it could just be another way that iPods continue to differentiate themselves from other devices.

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