Tag Archives: Ipod

Forget the iPhone, unchain the iPod

Dear Mr. Jobs,

If you really want to own the hand-held device market, forget about the iPhone, just add some real functionality to the iPod Touch. As I’ve stated numerous times, I’ll never switch to AT&T, and approximately two-third of Americans are with me on that. Even you can sway us. You see, we still need our phones to make calls.

Just yesterday I was out and about with my iPod and clicked the Safari button to see what would happen. There was a WiFi network available, and that’s becoming more common every day. So why not ditch this phone thing, get in with Google on the bandwidth buying spree and go with VOIP?

Look you don’t play well with others — especially those old-school blue chips. Remember Motorola? You can’t tell me that the AT&T story will end any differently.

So here’s what you do for total hand-held domination:

  • Put an email client on the iPod. Web-based email — excepting .Mac of course — sucks. Everyone hates it.
  • Get Skype working on the iPod. How hard can that be? You’ve done a hell of a job with YouTube. In fact, just buy Skype and make it less dorky. I hear the honeymoon at eBay is over. They’ll part with it.
  • Fix Safari. We can understand why you don’t love Flash, but the rest of the world does.

AT&T web site
Now you have a hand-held device that’s better than the iPhone because AT&T is out of the picture. I mean, look at them, they’re selling refurbished PDAs for $30 next to your lovely iPhone. Mr. Jobs, they are not worthy. Move on before they embarass you further.

Sure, AT&T is going to sue you, but Apple lawyer’s are pretty good in court. And it’s pretty easy to renege on a deal with them. NASCAR screwed them pretty good and got away with it.

I’d make Apple my carrier tomorrow. I bet the other two thirds of Americans might too.

Compressor 2 video iPod settings

Though I haven’t been able to figure a way to get an H.264 encoded file out of Compressor 2 that will load onto the video capable iPods, I have been able to encode valid MPEG-4 files that work. I’ve found that 512 Kbps works well on the iPod. This setting doesn’t look as crisp as H.264 encoded material, but is passable on the small screen. I don’t consider it acceptable for NTSC display.

Pictured are the settings I use. Don’t forget to resize the material to 320×240 in the format tab (circled).

It’s surprising Apple hasn’t released an update to Compressor 2 to address the H.264 shortcoming. I would expect one shortly.

Video iPod arrived today

Oddly FedEx didn’t make me sign for it. In fact the driver left it on my front step. Considering I had to sign for the $17 cable that arrived last week, and the $25 remote a few days after that, it seemed odd the $300 iPod was left on the stoop. So be it.

I had some video material waiting for it. I had purchased a U2 music video from iTunes and also compressed some client material and a bunch of stuff I captured from my DVR. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the user experience viewing video on the iPod. The image looked much better than I expected a 2.5″ image to look. The real test was hooking the iPod up to an NTSC monitor. Some had posited that the 320×240 image would look like VHS because due to the similar vertical resolution. It didn’t quite get there. The was blockier, but still acceptable for many uses. As expected full screen images shot with a locked down camera looked better than handheld material.

Cruising around the video section of the iTunes store I happened upon a Sub-Zero/Wolf cooking series. In iTunes the video looked like not very well compressed MPEG-4. The video wouldn’t transfer to the iPod because it wasn’t a valid .m4v file, though the Get Info window stated it was H.264. The content was available in the podcast section, but what good is a podcast that won’t play on a pod. At first I thought it was a terrible screw up Wolf’s part, but I’m not sure that’s their fault. Apple’s published specs don’t seem to be correct. It doesn’t appear that anything but 320×240 .m4v files gets uploaded to the iPod via iTunes. Maybe a future version of iTunes or iPod software will address this, Wolf should recompress it anyway. It looks terrible as it is.

It’s a shame. Here was content I was interested in having in a portable format. I could have the iPod with me at the grocery store, in the kitchen, or I could peruse recipes in the family room during half time during Patriots games. The one place I’m definitely not going to watch cooking podcasts is on my Mac or PC in the office.

The Sub-Zero content was subpar. The product tie-ins were exceptionally painful. “Now place the steaks in your Wolf broiling pan.” The stuff played like it was right out of Madison Avenue circa 1954. The company charges $6,000 for a fridge. It can afford a good media development firm. But somewhere I guarantee some analyst will herald this as the future of advertising. It’s not. The future of advertising is far more engaging. Madison and Vine is my favorite book on the topic.

Of course I had a discussion with a client about podcasting this morning. Since the Apple announcement I’ve approached babies in strollers to extol the virtues of video podcasting. Anyway, this client is an NPR producer who refuses to let his content be podcast. His case against NPR’s podcasting model boiled down to his belief that free podcasts lower the value of his content. He can’t repeat it as frequently, and it discourages listeners from tuning in to the broadcast. (What does it matter where they listen to it and when? As long as the underwriter gets its name out there everyone should be happy.)

My counterpoint was that in the age of TiVo and iPods and PSPs, people want content where and when they want it, and that he’s limiting his audience substantially. Ironically he brought up Desperate Housewives. “Folks have to watch it on Sunday so they can talk about it on Monday.” Of course, those who need to can catch up on Monday for $1.99 via iTunes, and watch it while on the treadmill at the gym. ABC seems to have decided that a podcast the day after air isn’t going to hurt ratings or future DVD sales.

We could have gone back and forth on this for a while, but I realized I ran the risk sounding like those arrogant dot-com kids in the 90s declaring, “You just don’t get it.” It turned out a lot of those old guys did get it. Maybe my client’s right, but somehow I can’t imagine that PSPs and iPods and phones aren’t going to change the media landscape forever.

More on IP[od]TV

From vnunet.com: Apple poised to ignite mobile video

Apple’s offering, however, is far from complete, warned Michael McGuire, research director at Gartner. The introduction of a video iPod has only solved the technology side of the problem of how to create a market for digital media.

The amount of video content being offered needs to greatly increase, McGuire pointed out, before portable video becomes a viable business.

What doesn’t get mentioned in the article is that Apple has solved the chicken and egg problem. It’s introduced a technology that makes it worthwhile to create the content, something Akimbo, Dave, and Brightcove haven’t done. The cool thing is that Apple has essentially guaranteed an ongoing platform for portable video. Every new full-sized iPod going forward is video capable. Apple’s going to sell boatloads of the things anyway because Christmas is coming and the MP3 player market isn’t saturated yet. So Apple makes money while waiting for portable video to take off, and makes money even if it doesn’t.

I have no idea what the incremental cost of adding video to an iPod is, but I’m sure it’s a relatively small investment considering the upside potential. Also, Apple’s saving money on this generation by dropping Firewire compatibility for USB, so it’s probably very close to a breakeven proposition with little risk.

One guy who totally gets it and is a pleasure to read about this stuff is Fortune’s Peter Lewis. He loves the new iMac as an answer to Microsoft’s Medi[ocrity] Center and hates the ROKR.

Still, no one summed up the ROKR better than my friend Jon Alper who noted that an iPod nano duct-taped to a standard mobile phone delivers both a superior form factor and user experience. What can one expect from a product named for a homophobic relief pitcher? The ROKR also illustrates the complete idiocy of big media’s DRM and pricing policies. A ROKR user can buy a song from iTunes but can’t use that song as a ringtone. That song from iTunes costs $0.99 while the ringtone costs $2.99.

While I’m on the subject of pricing… iTunes charges $1.99 for music videos, further illustrating the absurdity of the wireless carriers’ pricing models. A music video on Verizon’s V Cast costs $3.99. It looks worse and can’t be played on anything but that little phone, and requires a $15 per month subscription to access. And I can’t move the video to a PC or TV. In fact, if I upgrade my phone I can’t move the video to my new phone.

V Cast will survive. It’s a pretty decent package of mobile data services that just needs a better pricing scheme. But you can start making funeral arrangements for MobiTV. At first glance it has lined up a compelling roster of content providers. The case can be made for a broadcast TV model for news, weather, and sports. That stuff needs to be live. An iPod surely won’t supplant it at any price point. But who needs video on their phones for the weather? If I’m on the go, just give me the text. I can see it’s raining. All I want to know is when it will stop. Sports… some highlights might be cool. But at 1 or 2 frames per second (soon to skyrocket to 10 to 12 if you upgrade your phone), on a screen that makes an iPod look like IMAX, who’s going to pay $10 per month? The diehard sports fans will get their phones from the ESPN MVNO. The rest just want to see how their fantasy players are doing. Text will be fine. News? Those big events will draw interest. But thankfully big news events that have people running to their TVs don’t happen too frequently.

All that other stuff on MoribundTV can be better experienced on an iPod. Who wants to watch cartoons at a couple of frames a second?

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