It's a great time to be an Apple fan. The rumour mill has employed several under-privileged hamsters to drive it to warp speed, producing an almost romantic amount of speculation over what Apple might do next. We've got 100GB widescreen video iPods, Wi-Fi-enabled iPods capable of on-the-fly movie downloads over the air, unlimited downloads from iTunes for a flat fee and the UK finally getting its content-hungry hands on movie downloads.
Feast your eyes upon our top six current iPod expectations and relax into the vibrating massage chair that is Apple fanboyship.
1. iTunes Subscription Service
Renting media has always been a pleasant experience. But in the land of DVD rental, you only get a single disc for a fair price. With online music subscription however, you get to wallow in a veritable mudbath of audible treats from catalogues counted in millions.
It's hotly anticipated and even more hotly rumoured that Apple's delightful iTunes Store may be preparing just such a service. Our charming cousins at Crave US say: 'Les Ottolenghi, the head of Intent Mediaworks, [has said] he's talked to Apple people about a subscription service. "I think Apple is seriously considering a subscription offering right now, even though they will probably tell you otherwise..."'
Music companies love these rental services, because they continually receive money without actually letting anyone do much with the music they buy. Why shouldn't iTunes offer a similar service? Well, maybe it will. It would certainly be a less agonising use for the DRM Apple is stripping from its library of tracks.
2) UK iTunes Movie Downloads
iTunes users in the US have had access to a mountain of downloadable TV shows and movies since 2005, but why hasn't the UK? It's no secret that British consumers pay through the nose for media, so why aren't we having our love of moving pictures exploited too?
Times are changing and it seems that 2007 is going to be our year of downloadable movies. Indeed, Apple has been in talks with authorities in Luxembourg about the possibility of making TV shows available to Europe. The launch is likely to be this summer and we can't wait.
With Apple TV now available in Britain, the time is perfect to launch a video on-demand service. Otherwise, what's the point of Apple TV?
3) Widescreen video iPod
With our imminent access to movie downloads, Apple TV's recent availability and the iPhone's widescreen video talents, surely the ultra-desirable widescreen iPod should be right around the corner? All that video content being pushed and pulled around is just crying out for a better portable medium to enjoy it on and Apple knows how much everyone wants just such a device.
4) Wi-Fi enabled video iPod
Microsoft's Zune has Wi-Fi, but it's hopeless beyond hysterical. Give the iPod Wi-Fi capabilities, coupled with on-demand video and the phenomenally successful iTunes Store, and you'll find yourself with the most capable portable media device ever created.
Will Apple make a Wi-Fi iPod though? Digitimes reported that Universal Scientific Industrial is manufacturing Wi-Fi components for Apple and Foxconn will take on the job of assembling the device. This makes speculation of a Wi-Fi iPod more concrete and a much tastier rumour to wrap our lips around, but Apple might not think the feature is worth the extra expense. We're not counting on this rumour flourishing into reality any time soon, though Digitimes reckons we'll see a Wi-Fi iPod around Q3 this year.
5) Flash-based video iPod
We've previously discussed the possibility of an all-flash video iPod before, but no further rumours or leaks have arisen since. Flash memory is significantly faster than the good old hard disk, but at a significant cost increase. We think Apple is going to focus on video this year, and video requires vast quantities of storage more than it needs flash read speeds. We expect a larger-capacity iPod long before any kind of all-flash version. Which brings us neatly to...
6) The 100GB video iPod
It wasn't long ago that Toshiba announced its ability to manufacture 100GB hard disks that just so happen to fit perfectly into the existing video iPod. With all this video bursting out of iTunes, not to mention the sheer velocity the Internet is making video content available to us, a widescreen video iPod with gigabytes measured in three figures is a certified certainty. It's a far more business-friendly move for Apple than making all-flash iPods or Wi-Fi enabled iPods geared up for on-the-fly Internet shopping.
Apple has dropped the 'Computer' from its company name, and is making significant advances into the media-distribution business. It's bringing video to everyone everywhere with iTunes movies and now Apple TV, and the rumours and speculation we've discussed promote the theory that Apple is setting itself up as a major player in the media-distribution industry.
Apple is a hardware company through and through, however. Its computers and software are ubiquitous among media professionals. The iPod is ridiculously successful with consumers around the world, with over 100 million sold so far. But the iTunes Store is almost monopolising online music retail and is proving to be a huge player in bringing video content to millions. Apple TV links all these technologies together and brings everything into the 21st century living room -- although it remains to be seen how successful it will be.
IPTV is where everything is heading -- the physical disc is reaching the end of its life expectancy. Is Apple jumping on to the so-far sparsely populated on-demand bandwagon and planning to take it on the road with high-capacity iPods with large screens? Time will tell.
Whatever its strategy, Apple is one of the most exciting companies to be following at the moment. I'm not even a Mac user, but I can happily admit that if anyone's going to successfully revolutionise IPTV, it'll be Apple, and it'll be soon. -Nate Lanxon