About-face: Apple CEO Steve Jobs endorses hand-held video with video iPod

“Having conquered the world of portable digital music, Steven P. Jobs set his sights on television Wednesday, unveiling an Apple iPod that can play video – along with an online shop to fill it with TV shows, short films and music videos at $1.99 apiece,” John Markoff and Laura M. Holson report for The New York Times. “Mr. Jobs is undertaking his effort to transform the world of video with only two major producers – the Walt Disney Company and his own Pixar movie studio, which have been uneasy partners in film distribution – and without the broad support he lined up from the music business for selling songs online.”

“In an interview on Wednesday… Mr. Jobs also acknowledged that in endorsing hand-held video, he had made an about-face. For two years he had been consistently critical of the video quality available on portable low-resolution devices – and even the idea of using the technology to watch videos in public places while engaged in other tasks,” Markoff and Holson report. “Mr. Jobs said he was entering the video market as an experiment, but one that he felt he could not lose because the players will sell well on their music-playing features alone.”

Markoff and Holson report, “Analysts said Apple’s deal with Disney was significant because Disney had been the studio taking the strictest stand on copy protection in the digital era. The video offerings sold through iTunes will be encrypted with Apple’s own protection system, FairPlay, and while the system will permit backup copies, it will not allow the video to be transferred to a DVD for playing. And for an entertainment company looking to make an impact with a new video outlet, Apple’s player and online store were hard to match. “There are others in the market, but nobody else has the right combination of features,” said Richard Doherty, president of Envisioneering, a consumer electronics consulting firm.”

Full article here.
Just a note that the new iPods can display audio and video on any TV or other video device using a US$19.99 Apple iPod AV Cable or S-video cable. An Apple iPod Universal Dock ($39.99) plus an Apple Remote ($19.99, included free with the new iMac G5) are a nice solution for using your iPod to play video on any size screen.

The New iPod with Video.  The ultimate music + video experience on the go.  Buy it now at the Apple Store. From $299. Free shipping.
The New iMac G5 – Built-in camera and remote control with Front Row media experience. From $1299. Free shipping.

Related articles:
Apple’s video play likely to unsettle movie, TV, advertising and retail markets for years to come – October 12, 2005
Analyst: ‘media companies will call Apple to strike deals, Front Row is Media Center done right’ – October 12, 2005
Analyst: Apple rewriting media distribution rules, more people will consider switching to Mac now – October 12, 2005
Apple and Disney usher in new media era – October 12, 2005
Apple posts QuickTime of ‘One More Thing’ special media event – October 12, 2005
Apple’s Front Row with Apple Remote and iMac G5: media center done right – October 12, 2005
Apple introduces new thinner iMac G5 with built-in iSight video camera, ‘Front Row’ media experience – October 12, 2005
Apple releases iTunes 6 with 2,000 music videos, Pixar short films & hit TV shows for $1.99 – October 12, 2005
Apple unveils new 5th generation iPod, now plays music, photos, and video – October 12, 2005


  1. Now remember kids. These new iPods are likely to get scratched up as easily as the nano. Consider a case like invisible shield or iSkin when/if they become available. The case that comes with it looks like something you have to slide the pod in and out of, so it will still rub against the surface.

  2. I just have to wonder what a 320×240 display would look like connected to a TV. I have to think its pretty lousy. It might be fine for the small display of the iPod, but its still not what I’m looking for. I’m still waiting for a Intel based Mac mini with a built-in H.264 decoder with Front Row interface connected to my TV in the den. I don’t need my Mac mini to do anything other than be my front end to my network. I’ll keep my photos, music, and video on the network. Of course, this Mac mini Multimedia device will need gigabit ethernet since 100MB ethernet may be too slow for transferring video over a network.

  3. hey “Jeff”…

    regarding the 320×240 — unlike other video codecs, .h264
    will allow you to scale up to 3x’s the original size and still maintain tight video quality…this is the beauty of .h264 — mpeg4, .mov, nor WMA can achieve this..only .h264…I look forward to adding this to my arsenal.

    340×240 x 3 = 960×720 same file, same small size, same beautfiul picture and that’s .h264.

  4. I still don’t like the idea of watching video on the iPod itself, but have already bought video content from iTMS to view on my laptop. For me, the true value of this and the photo feature, as many have pointed out but analysts never seem to acknowledge, is a easy way to carry around such content with a great interface. Sure, I could put it on my laptop, but iTunes can serve as a much nicer organization tool for filling the iPod than manually dragging files around.

    On the other hand, I do know folks who are obsessed with not toting around a laptop and will settle for small screens to watch video.

  5. It looks like Steve played his cards awfully well. Front Row is the runaway success story here, though. I even bought “Geri’s Game” last night to see what the quality of the videos would be like, and other than the text (which is usually not a big deal with TV shows), it looked pretty darn good for a 320×192 resolution file. If this were played on a TV, my bet is due to the the interlaced nature and poor resolution of standard definition TV’s, the average user won’t even notice the compression artifacts (which were very minor, in my opinion).

    Where I get really interested is guessing what Apple will be doing 12 months from now. A few days from now they’ll announce they’ve sold over 100,000 TV shows and then all the major studios will be lining up for the iTunes 6 service.

    I’m certain Apple is already going this route, but what I would love (and would buy in a nanosecond) is a 42+ inch iMac display with Front Row loaded onto it. The only downside, in my opinion, to the iMac for use in the living room now is its size – 20 inches isn’t enough. So, why can’t they make an iMac that’s much bigger? I’m certain Apple is already working on this – just please don’t make me wait 2 years to come out with it!

  6. Video is inevitable “bonus” feature as is “photo” – I might actually consider buying an iPod now. Pity it still can’t record audio and video or be a “tivo” with the ability to plug in an iSight or something a la Archos et al.

  7. 320×240 will look about as good as VHS video.
    We used to think nothing of buying a high quality tape to record a favourite show at this quality, I think Steve might be onto something ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  8. I’m disappointed about the lack of FireWire too. I have plenty of USB ports and I won’t be buying a new iPod any time soon, but it’s just the principle. FireWire is much better than USB 2.0. I wonder what would have happened if they’d gone the other way, say, a year ago, and gotten rid of USB on the iPod? Would PC users have installed FireWire cards to use an iPod or would the iPod have failed? I don’t know, but it would be nice if every PC now shipped with FireWire.

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