iPod Shuffle: The Next 5 Years

Consider, for a moment, the new iPod shuffle; a matchbook sized music playing badge that is inexpensive (US $79) and no doubt it will be a lot of fun to own and use. With its aluminum skin and minimalist controls, itis a rugged little bit, something youid have no fear wearing while doing something physical, like...um...lumberjacking, bull riding, or ice climbing.

As cool as this little jewel is, there are technologies on the way could make the shuffle, and its larger siblings, even cooler.

For example, Wireless USB could let the iPod shuffle sync to your Mac or PC whenever it got within 30 feet, it would then download music, randomly picking tunes to add or remove from your shuffle, thus keeping the music on your shuffle fresh without you doing a thing.

iPod shuffle
The same Wireless USB connection might also allow truly cool wireless headsets similar to the wired EyeBud 800, so that you are finally be unencumbered by cables. You wear a music badge and a headset, both likely weighing no more than 2 ounces.

New battery technologies from M.I.T. and other places could also revolutionized music players. The shuffleis current 12 hour playback time could more than triple and recharge times might be halved using battery technologies from A123 Systems.

So, you could shuffle along with your shuffle playing music continuously for a day and a half, playing new music, never hearing the same song twice, before even thinking about recharging.

If thatis not enough, other technologies from M.I.T. could double again the playback time, while recharge times could be measured in minutes. Or, it might never need to be recharged externally -- how about a self recharging system similar to those found on expensive watches that convert the weareris motions into iPod power?

New NAND Flash memory technologies promise higher capacities and lower power needs, so your 1 gig shuffle could soon be replace by 2, 4, or even 8 gig models. (but would they be shuffles anymore?)

Basically, what this means is that today or eminently soon, technology will allow the creation of a seemingly perpetually available music source that can hold weeks worth of music or data that can be played or accessed virtually (no physical connection whatsoever).

Your iPod could link you to other devices for social networking, link to your entertainment system for movies or music play and more.

Imagine a scenario where you walk into Best Buy and up to a kiosk, you press a button indicating which movie you want to see, then you start shopping. While you shop your credit card is debited the cost of the movie and it downloads while you shop. When you return home the movie automagically downloads into your Mac (or PC) where it can be streamed to your TV via iTV.

When the iPod was introduced five years ago, it was all about the music. Now slim slim screen iPods play movies and games as well, and thereis seems to be no end to the type and quality of iPod accessories.

iPod nanos can show photos and there are accessories for it that are just too darn cool as well (watch for my upcoming Just a Peek on the Nike + iPod Sports Kit, and Marwareis Sportssuit Relay and Sensor +).

Everyone is waiting for the generation 6 iPods, believing that the new devices will have physical capabilities that will surpass everything currently on the market, and what may be on the market in the near future (Zune?) -- but these capabilities are only a shadow of what might be in store for us in the not-too-distant future.

A while back I wrote an article where kids played a virtual Star Wars games wearing iPod-like devices and peering through glasses that superimposed computer generated action onto real life scenes. The iPods in my story had become kind of mobile Nintendo Wii devices where the controllers respond to the useris movements allowing him or her to interact with whatis being displayed.

The convergence of technologies may actually produce such a device. Whether that device is an iPod or not remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure; just as todayis iPod is markedly different than the device introduced five years ago, the iPod available five years from now wonit be like any iPod available today.

New technologies and new wants and needs from the buying public will evolve the little white music player into something completely different. It seems that Steve Jobs was wrong after all; when it comes to iPods, it isnit just about the music (stupid).