**Note: Obviously, since this was written, Apple introduced the iPod Touch. I would like to point out, however, that my dispelling of a number of these points still stands.
Two stories caught my eye this morning. The first mentions that an OS X-based, touch-screen iPod is coming soon. The second, from Appleinsider, indicates that there are going to be a number of OS X-based iPods released in a matter of weeks (!)
You’d think this would make people happy. Why is it going to result in another Great Apple Fan Implosion? Expectations. Simply put, they’re sky-high with a rumor like this. A casual glance at MacRumors forums shows the following features (and more) being actively advocated for this full-screen iPod:
- Mail/Safari support
- Touch-screen games
- 160 GB capacity
- The return of Firewire support (!)
- Complete OS X application support (including Keynote, Pages)
I hate to burst the proverbial bubble, but there will almost certainly be no iPhone-specific features in this touch-screen iPod. What do I mean? I mean no phone (obviously), but also no IM, no WiFi, and no internet. You will likely have very nice interfaces for managing all of the same information you already had on an iPod (i.e: contacts, videos, photos), but items that are internet-based or made their debut in the iPhone will likely stay that way. The iPhone is a cash cow, and even if they priced a high-capacity touch-screen iPod at $499 – never mind that such a device cries out for a more natural $399 or $349 price point – it would still eat into the iPhone sales.
Secondly, just because these devices are now touted to run OS X, doesn’t really mean much to the end user. Yes, it matters to developers (should Apple ever choose to get off its ass and properly support development in such an environment), but otherwise it’s mostly just semantics. It’s simply a nice modification to the bottom line, if Apple can do all software development in-house with the same people who already work for them.
And finally – and I can’t stress this enough – a touch-screen iPod is not a panacea! I have an iPhone. I love it. But as an iPod, it’s not perfect. It has some irritating playback bugs. It’s a bit large to easily navigate one-handed. Its lack of tactile feedback is occasionally annoying. It’s impossible to use while attempting to focus on something else. Are these deal-breakers? Absolutely not; the iPhone is a sexy beast, and a touch-screen iPod would be a similar animal. There will be those who love the idea of a touch-screen iPod, but when they actually use them, will find them somewhat clumsy and a little bit sluggish.
I’m not worried for Apple: it seems to do best in such situations – witness the introduction of the iPod, the iPod Mini and the Apple TV. I am, however, worried about the future of civil discussions around the Mac Web. Oh well – maybe I’ll just hang out in the iPod Shuffle forums for awhile…