At Tuesday's unveiling of the iPod Photo, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs once again repeated his contention that the iPod is the "wrong place" for video. I doubt he'll be saying that a year from now.
In explaining his position, Jobs said "no one has any video content to put on them, and even if they did, the screens are much too small." For the co-founder of a company that "ignited the personal computer revolution," created the first commercial PC with a graphical user interface, gambled on the PDA with the Newton and pushed Wi-Fi and USB well ahead of the PC pack, his stance on video seems short-sighted. Yes, watching portable video now is a kluge exercise, but Apple can fix that.
Firstly, people who have thousands of photos to share are likely to also have a few videos of the kids--the content that Jobs said doesn't exist. Apple's own pitch for iMovie states it is "one of those rare applications that actually changes people's lives." Further, it says iMovie "has single-handedly made cinematographers out of parents, grandparents, students, teachers, small-business owners and many other people just like you who, before iMovie, never imagined themselves producing a movie."
On Jobs' second point, the iPod screen is too small to make extended viewing comfortable. But that's true for photos as well, and that's why Apple added the capability to connect to a TV. "Use the included AV cable to connect iPod Photo to a projector or TV. You can mesmerize friends and family with a glorious multimedia experience, offering them a breathtaking slideshow accompanied by the music you already have on your iPod Photo." Slideshows are mesmerizing, but home videos aren't?
So the content does exist, and an acceptable viewing environment is available. What's needed?
I hope Apple is working on building TiVo-like capabilities into the Mac and beefing up iMovie to easily transfer that content to the iPod, or a similar device. (Here's an informative and humorous write-up on the difficulty of handling broadcast video on the Mac.) This would allow two scenarios that could spur more demand for the iPod as it runs into more competition: the ability to easily bring home videos to grandma's house, along with all those photos, and to record TV shows overnight that can be transferred to the iPod in the morning with a single mouse click. I don't need a big screen to watch Nightline while riding the train to work.
After all, I'd prefer to think that Apple is simply being cagey about its plans--that Apple is actually looking ahead a couple of years and pushing the market toward its vision--as it has throughout its history--rather than sitting back and being paralyzed by the present.