Is Apple Really Developing A Video iPod?

Rumors have been circulating around for months now about a secret Video iPod that Apple has in the works. Most of the news coming out on the subject has been pure speculation by anonymous sources who claim to offer some tantalizing details. Truth be told, we know little to nothing about Apple’s next-generation iPod.

Nonetheless, the rumor mill and constant talk about such a device on various Websites reemphasizes the point that people want an Apple branded Portable Media Player (a handheld device that stores and plays back digital music, video, and photos) in the iPod form factor. Are you listening Steve Jobs?

Unfortunately, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, views things differently. He has stated on numerous occasions that Apple has no intention of creating a video iPod. In fact, he has been quoted saying, “[The iPod] is about the music, stupid. You can’t watch a video and drive a car? we’re focused on music.”

Point taken, but it’s a hard sell when Apple is already allowing 3rd party developers to design add-on products such as Belkin’s Media Reader – a flash memory card reader for transferring audio, video, photo, and data files to the iPod – and Voice Microphone Adapter/Recorder. Even Apple’s in-house developers are creating custom personal information management (PIM) apps for the iPod, which I should remind Steve has nothing to do with the music, stupid.

In any case, let’s take a look at some of the rumors circling the “Apple Video iPod.” From what has been posted around the Web, only three facts have caught my attention: One, the next iPod will have a color LCD display. Two, the next iPod will be using PlayerPortal’s latest PP5020 chip [PDF file] (F.Y.I. – PlayerPortal is powering all the current iPods). And Three, the next iPod will come bundled with an “advanced” docking station with A/V ports. So all we can really investigate is the PlayerPortal chip rumor. According to the PlayerPortal press release, users of devices based on the PP5020 (A.K.A. PortalPlayer Personal Media Player: Photo Edition platform) will be able to:

  • Copy, view, store, catalog, and modify images without a PC.
  • Print directly to HP and Canon printers without a PC using the PictBridge standard.
  • Transfer images from a digital camera directly to the portable media player through the USB 2.0 compliant On-the-Go port or by copying from the flash memory card. Synchronize images directly to and from a PC and the portable media player.
  • View still pictures (JPEG, GIF and TIFF) and video (MJPEG) on the color STN or TFT LCD on the device or on a standard NTSC/PAL TV, through the TV out connector.
  • Listen to music from the leading online music services such as Musicmatch, Napster, Real Audio and more. Hear audiobooks from
  • Automatically identify CDs, name and categorize digital files, and generate custom playlists with the touch of a button using the Gracenote Music Management System.
  • Record voice over narrations to go with the photos.
  • Synch digital music files and voice recordings with photos, providing the first of its kind multimedia slide show in a handheld device. Support for the industry standard MPV format ( enables slide show interoperability and quick indexing of metadata.
  • Interact with popular PC applications that are used to organize and view photo collections.

Great stuff, I know! While all PP5020 features may not be activated, we can at least imagine what the next iPod might be like based on this chip.

If I had to predict what the future iPod would be like, I would have say it will be a device similar to what we have now, but with added multimedia features that will take advantage of the new processor chip and color LCD. Features like seamless integration with iTunes and iPhoto for album cover art (when playing music), animated photo slide shows, photo viewing and management of JPEG, GIF, and TIFF files (with voice over narration recording capability via a built-in microphone). And since the new chip can playback MJPEG (usually associated with digital camera 320×240, 12-15fps “movie clips”), some limited (as in, very limited) video capability.

It’s still up in the air though if the “advanced” dock with special A/V outputs is necessary. I think my old Pentax Optio S had the perfect video out solution. Each Optio S incorporates a special A/V output port, that when used with the included A/V cable (with RCA connectors), connects directly to the TV for photo and movie clip viewing. If it were up to me, this is how I would do it instead of tying people down to an overly complicated dock.

So now that I’ve caught your interest, how likely is it that such a device will come out from Apple? Answer: Very. Just look at all the new portable music players coming out from iRiver and Sony that are already integrating photo and album cover art features. It’s only logical that Apple will be adding similar features next. As for the MJPEG video, I’m sure most people can do without it. This is not to say that Jobs is correct in his assumption, but the PP5020 chip has been said to have less than desirable video playback capabilities, which will make the device impractical and pricey. All speculation aside, I’m sure Apple will do the next iPod justice; just don’t expect it to be the next “big thing” in portable handheld entertainment.

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