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Just a Thought - ÜberPod

by - September 27th, 2004

Ya know; I enjoy my iPod almost as much as I enjoy air. In fact, I can honestly say that, when I'm forced to converse with a client after he's enjoyed a garlic-ladened lunch, there are times when I enjoy my iPod far more than air.

Be that as it may; there are times when I wish my music playing marvel did just a wee bit more than pump out the tunes. Oh sure, I can go to Griffin Technology, Belkin, or other vendors and find a veritable smorgasbord of add-ons that will let my iPod do everything from broadcast tunes to recording my voice, but even that's not enough for me; I want my iPod to do more.

Then I took a look at the new G5 iMacs and I got to thinking: If Apple were to make the true next generation iPod, one that is as different from the original iPod as the G5 iMac is from the original iMac, what would that player be like?

That's a tough one, I know, because there is no way to have envisioned that the blue, plastic covered egg that was the first iMac would morph into the sleek, Über-cool machine that bears that name today. I know I wanted (and still want) an iMac that has a CPU separate from the screen, but I am man enough to admit that this new G5 wonder is far better looking, and better functioning than I would have expected.

So, with that in mind, I wonder what flower an Apple engineer's brain storm and technological fertilizer would grow from the current iPod seed?

Well, the iPod has all of that storage capacity. True, most use it to store music, but other data can be stored on those dinky, high capacity drives. So, Apple and iPod accessory makers need to be about the business of making that storage more useful and far more accessible.

For instance, Belkin makes a media reader which allows you to transfer photos and other data stored on flash RAM card onto your iPod. Cool! The problem is that there's not much you can do to that data once it is stored on the iPod. If it is photos, I'd like to easily review them; if it is other data, I'd like to be able to manipulate it in some way while on the iPod. In order to do that, the iPod must have a better screen.

So, one of the things my next-gen iPod would have is a nice sized, LCD (or Organic LED) screen. Being able to review my photos, even the QuickTime movies most digital cameras can take nowadays, would be extremely useful. And being able to rename or delete unneeded files while on my iPod would be the cat's pajamas.

Another thing that I'd like for the iPod to do is to have a wireless way to sync data. 802.11(whatever) is great but unnecessary if my new iPod had built-in Bluetooth: with it I could transfer data securely without ever touching my Mac. Accessory vendors would find useful ways of syncing other data, like calendar and addresses, to other Bluetooth enabled devices, such as phones or PDAs.

But one of the coolest features this new iPod would have is something that I call function swapping. One of the biggest problems Windows-based PDAs have today is that they try to do far too much; Microsoft powered PDAs shoehorn more and more functions into smaller devices thinking that it is what most people want. What they wind up with is a confusing hunk of plastic that is too bulky to fit in your pocket, and does not do any one thing well.

Palm knows better; the company defined a set of basic functions that most folks use and made those function extremely usable on a small, affordable device. My new iPod would go Palm one better; the iPod would primarily be a music player, but it would allow you to load in an application or two, possibly supported by hardware add-ons, that would let you do specific tasks. For instance, if you want to play games on your iPod you would add hardware gaming input devices, load in the gaming function, and there ya go. With function swapping, your iPod could become a movie camera, a data input device, a navigation device, nearly anything.

Underneath it all, however, it would still be an iPod; it would play music, interface with iTunes, and look extremely cool. Just as the G5 iMac is still an iMac, just far cooler.

I'm not suggesting that the current iPod needs to be changed -- I happen to think it is the right device at the right time -- but am saying it will eventually change. I hope it changes in ways similar to those I've suggested, because that would not only make the iPod more fun to have, it would keep it almost as necessary as air, sans the garlic.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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