Small White Elephant: $1.99

OK, so you can buy an episode of Desperate Housewives for your new video iPod for US$1.99. And various free-to-air execs in Australia think that this is a great opportunity to “monetise content” by allowing time-shifted viewing. Are you sure? On a 2.5″ screen? How desperate would you have to be, housewife?

I think the video iPod is a small white elephant. The iPod is a portable device. Audio is portable. Works fine in the car and while walking around. But when you’re moving around you’re by definition concentrating on where you’re going. And when you’re sitting in a cafe with friends only one person can view the screen.

Should have been a clue: You’ve been able to buy small screen portable TV devices for years. How many people carry one of those around with them?

Where is the content for the video iPod? TV shows will struggle on that small screen. Movies are worse; imagine spending 2 hours; my eyes hurt just thinking about it. Exclusive content would help but if you had great content why would you sell it for $2.66 on iTunes? Great time-sensitive content (arrest of Osama Bin Laden) would be sold to the mainstream news media. Great uncensored content (high profile celebs having sex) would not work on a small screen. Music clips? Not a really big deal.

Content needs to be especially developed for the medium and it would need to be talking heads. Close-ups. Personal ads is one possibility but they don’t really need to be portable. For the life of me I can’t see the application.

Just because you can deliver a new technology doesn’t mean there will be a demand for it.



  1. That’s US$1.99, and a 2.5″ screen 😉

    But yes, that’s precisely why they took so long bringing it to market. It’s not something that is required, or will even be used by the majority of their customers, but their competitors have been blowing their horns about portable video for a couple of years now: they had to cave some time. So yes, they’re playing ‘keep up with the Joneses’, which is a crying shame, but it’s not like it hasn’t happened before. They have a multi-button mouse now, too, donchaknow.

    Video has been touted mostly by Apple as a bonus, not as a key feature. They know music is still the iPod’s number-one use, but the hardware is capable and there is a public that want that capability. I’m betting most people don’t use the Photo features or the Calendar features or the Address Book features of their iPod either… but those who do (myself included) value them immensely.

    I watched an episode of Lost on the bus just the other day (on my PowerBook, not my iPod, so the screen size is a variable here), and I really enjoyed the experience. By comparison, I felt like “just” listening to music would’ve been a waste of that commute time: instead of commuting for 45 minutes, then sitting down on the couch at home to watch TV, I was collapsing the two. So there is a real (“real” meaning non-gadget-nerds and non-Apple-nerds who will buy it just because) market for portable video in big cities with high commuter populations, and in the mean time the rest of the world aren’t paying any extra for a feature they aren’t using.

  2. Thanks for error alert; now corrected. Yeah, portable video on a notebook if you have a seat on the bus/train, okay. I don’t think Apple expect it the video iPod to be any big deal but doing something just because your competitors are talking about it doesn’t strike me as a great rationale for product development.

    I guess my other point is that some of the content providers are over-enthusiastic about the product however; see the SMH article.

  3. I think bus commuters are the crowd that will love this – the only thing that has stopped small screen TV taking off there I think would be that reception on the move is a problem for TV.

    I’m just looking at the increasing number of people I see on the bus with a PDA style device in their hand reading offline news etc and judging from that.

  4. “I think bus commuters are the crowd that will love this – the only thing that has stopped small screen TV taking off there I think would be that reception on the move is a problem for TV.”

    Reception, and the problem with daytime TV being incredibly bad, and that you can’t get cable on portables (more a problem in the US than here). The “what you want, when you want” factor with portable video players like the iPod and the PSP is an incredibly powerful draw.

  5. I note the success of the Suicide Girls videos. A million downloads in three days. It’s soft porn. But quality! Anyway, I think this is logical given that large numbers of Video iPods were sold. People are going to try and find SOME content. The tests will be whether downloads continue at that rate and whether anyone pays money for videos. My bet is that they won’t. No sign of any significant sales of music videos.

    BTW, some research reprinted on the Suicide Girls site: The people who have the most sex are aged 35 – 44. I turn 45 on Sunday. Also, Australians are the only people that use vibrators more often than Americans. Still, what do I care? I’m 45 on Sunday.

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