Cringely: Apple prepping Video iTunes, Video iPod, and setting stage for iPod clones

“Bill Gates this week spilled the beans about the introduction date for xBox2 — a slip that was anything but a slip. If you go to the news stories about this, you’ll note the context in which he was speaking, which was talking about Microsoft’s potential involvement in the so-called ‘year of HD.’ Where have we heard that term before? Why from Steve Jobs of Apple! Why would Bill Gates use Apple’s expression? It’s because Microsoft has an inkling of what’s shortly to come from Apple and wants to at least appear to have a horse in the race, which it doesn’t,” Robert X. Cringely writes for PBS.

“Apple last week shipped Mac OS 10.4, which they have incessantly told us we should call ‘Tiger,’ but I prefer ‘10.4,’ thanks. The Year of HD is dependent on 10.4 and its H.264 video codec that I believe will be at the heart of an Apple HD video download service to be announced shortly. And in 10.4, we can see the first parts of that system coming together, notably Apple’s new HD Video Showcase, which routes you right through the iTunes Music Store. Increase the video selection, add prices, and they are done,” Cringely writes.

“And 10.4 gives us a peek at another evolution of iTunes, which is the inevitable expansion of the system to carry additional audio file formats. Looking at the unused iTunes icons that shipped with your new version of 10.4, you’ll notice icons for currently-not-supported ogg vorbis and Windows Media Audio (wma), as well as several others including a variety of video formats, too,” Cringely writes. “With this new information we can make a pretty good guess about the evolution of both iTunes and iPod. When Apple feels that the success of iTunes is absolutely assured, which will be shortly, they’ll address the user complaint that iPod only supports AAC and MP3 audio by adding these additional formats, leading to increased iPod sales. And at the same time, the video icons strongly suggest that Apple will also have a video iPod this year.”

Not only all that, but Cringely goes on to speculate that as Apple drives down iPod prices, there will come a time when iTunes is the moneymaker, not the iPod hardware sales. At that point, Steve Jobs will open the iPod platform to cloning extracting license fees from those desperate to make their own “iPod” units. Cloning the iPod at the correct time will leave Apple as the monster distributor of online music and movies via what is now the iTunes Music Store. One question springs to mind, can Apple add video content and continue to call it “iTunes” or will they need a new name?

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: When Cringely writes about Apple, we pay attention. Some bits of truth (and sometimes whole chunks) tend to materialize at some point or other. Cringely may not provide perfect predictions, but they’re oftentimes close enough to matter. Some parts of what he writes in the linked article will come true. It’s just which parts and how much, those are the questions.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Apple releases iTunes 4.8; now supports QuickTime video along with contact, calendar transfers – May 09, 2005
Are Apple’s ‘iPod’ and ‘Mac mini’ the razors or the blades? – January 28, 2005
Cringely: the full story about Apple Mac mini’s purpose has not yet been told – January 21, 2005
Cringely predicts $249 Macintosh, would make Apple the world’s number one PC company – January 10, 2005
Cringely: is this the beginning of the end for Macintosh hardware? – May 21, 2004
Robert X. Cringely: Steve Jobs ‘is proud of being an a**hole’ – April 30, 2004
PBS columnist: IT hates Macs because ‘Macs reduce IT head count’ – August 15, 2003


  1. H.264 would be great with a video card that decoded it on the fly… hmmm maybe the next gen video cards will be doing some H.264 so the cpu is doing what it needs to do… think openGL, Quartz… all now gpu based…

  2. Sounds promising although I do think that they still need to increase the amunt of iPods and Shuffles being produced. They are still in short supply in NZ.

  3. The icons Bob refers to have been in iTunes for quite a while now.

    There’s basically no reason for Apple to support OGG, as it is inferior to AAC in all respects. And there’s an excellent reason for Apple NOT to add additional support for Windows Media: It’s a competing format. Apple already supports transcoding unencrypted Windows Media songs to AAC with iTunes, so I wouldn’t expect anything revolutionary on that front.

  4. I have been saying all along that Apple should license out AAC/Fairplay at some point and sew up the market. The question has always been – when? Maybe the time is approaching. Steve has been playing this one right on the money at every turn so far. Time for “checkmate”?

  5. Actually, the unused Ogg Vorbis and WMA file icons have been present in the iTunes application bundle for some time. I’d heard about it in a forum some time last year or year before, and confirmed it for myself by poking around in the bundle. While Cringely’s assertions about iTMS eventually (or shortly) providing video downloads certainly rings true, and makes a lot of sense for them, I still seriously doubt that we’ll see a “videoPod” portable viewer. As Jobs and many others have said, people just don’t consume video in the same ways as they do music, and personally, I’m not in the least bit interested in watching a movie or music video on a screen as small as an iPod’s.

    The intriguing possibility of course is that such a purported device would be ideal for transporting and playing video on a larger monitor, such as those found in many autos. It’s certainly desirable to have such a portable media device that plugs into a dedicated dock in a family vehicle, if only to put the kibosh on the crazy-making “Are we there yet?” whining. What would be great is if such a device could stream music and video separately, so the kids in the back could watch Spongebob (while listening on headphones) while Mom and Dad groove to Miles Davis on the stereo. Of course, Apple would prefer if the vehicle had more than one dedicated dock so the family would need more than one ‘Pod. It would be cheaper and easier to develop as well.

  6. Good point.. they might not change the name iTunes Music Store…

    There has been speculation as to a QuickTime Movie Store.. which is logical, albeit cumbersome (to open a new store, etc)

    The cool thing.. well.. extremely cool.. is that they already have stores in place to promote any new media-related venture they do.. through the iTMS pages..

    (eg. iPod shuffle 60% market share)

  7. the ipod of the future will be a true mobile media device. one that will allow you to save and listen to your music anywhere, store your vacation photos and digital video on one device. it’ll have usb, firewire, and s-video ports. additionally, it’ll have bluetooth or any future short rang wireless networking ability to broadcast video, stills, and audio to next generation television and sound systems. the video screen will then become something akin to a studio monitor where you can view your work as it’s being uploaded to the ipod, or review footage to see what should be keep and what should be deleted. of course people will also\ use the screen to watch music videos embedded in their itunes bought songs or watch the latest blockbuster while riding the train to work. knowing that the best picture quality comes from using the ipod like a portable dvd player plugged into the video ins on your flat screen 52 inch hdtv that supports the latest H.264 video codec.

  8. It will start with video music clips and as (world) broadband dowload speeds increase it will then extend to movies. It’s a logical extension of the iTunes business model after the next step takes place.

    The next step will be to bury any remaining (Windows) competition to iTunes as the author opined.

    It shouldn’t take too much longer

    As for Microsoft, if Longhorn and the Windows Media Center (sic) don’t take off the only crumbs left in their cupboard will be Office and Xbox.

    In this scenario their user base for the Windows’ platform would ebb over a number of years.

    Personally, I believe Microsoft will be able to push out Longhorn over time but by then Apple will be light years ahead of them. And the markets will savage their share price.

    After the crap I had to put up with from Windows’ users back in the mid to late ’90s it’s a scenario I can live with, with a degree of grace and humility.

    P.S. Do not underestimate the ignorance of some computer users. One of my best friends insists I should wash downloaded software for adware. I keep telling him that’s a Windows only problem. He refuses to believe me.

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