Apple’s Video iPod & iTunes Video Downloads

The new video iPodJust when you thought the iPod Nano was incredibly cool, Apple tops it with a new video-capable iPod. We knew it was only a matter of time, but now it’s here.

The new iPod still comes in 30 and 60 GB varieties, now they offer black in addition to white, and they boast a capacity of 15,000 songs, 25,000 photos or 150 hours of video and up to 20 hours of battery life. You can also hook that bad boy up to your TV with an optional S-video cable. And if you turn to the new iTunes 6.0 you can download music video and entire episodes of TV shows, like the latest episode of Lost the day after it debuts on TV.

This all sounds incredibly sweet, but before we get too excited let’s take a reality check.

1) As cool as video on an iPod is, I’m not sure how much TV I’m going to be watching on a 2.5 inch screen. The novelty of it is awesome, but if I’m on a plane I’ll be sticking to my laptop for DVDs.

2) Storage space: Once you can slap video on your iPod 60 GB seems pretty limiting. I think the days of the iPod as the ‘bring your entire collection with you’ are over. And maybe that’s for the best. It’s not like I need to drag my entire video collection with me.

3) Battery life. While 20 hours sounds great, that’s for music playback in optimum conditions. You can only get up to 3 hours of video playback. That shouldn’t be surprising, but it does take the wind out of the sails a bit.

4)iTunes Video Store. Here’s where it really gets crazy. $1.99 for 43-minute episodes of Lost? Sounds pretty sweet. $34.99 for the entire first season of Lost? The DVD is listed at $38.99 on sale at Not a bad deal.

Or is it?

It appears that the video downloads from iTunes are at 320×240 resolution. That’s pretty tiny. So if you hook it up to your TV, it’s probably not going to look so hot. Compare that to the quality difference between iTunes music files and CDs. A non-audiophile like myself can’t tell the difference. Sure a few audiophiles complain, but most people are happy. That’s not going to be the case with the video.

Let’s not forget the music videos. That same $1.99 can get you a 5-minute music video from your favorite artist. All songs for 99 cents worked pretty well, but video can vary in length pretty drastically. A 43-minute TV show and a 5-minute video cost the same? Ouch.

Plus, when you buy that video you don’t get the audio file. Sure you could play the video while you’re jogging down the street if you want to hear the song, but it’ll kill your battery life. So if you really like the song, you’d have to buy the video and the song. How about throwing in the song for free if we buy the video? Might make that $1.99 a little more worth it.

Positive Spin
For all my bellyaching I do love what Apple is doing. Being able to buy video is pretty sweet stuff. I’m tempted to snatch up every U2 video they’ve got. But those format limitations are killing me. All the techie folks keep talking about the convergence of entertainment, of your TV and your computer and your stereo all coming together. We’re getting close (my computer and my stereo have already hooked up), and the iPod video brings us a step closer.

But we’re not in the promised land yet. When iTunes can sell me video files that look just as good (or even nearly as good) on my TV as a DVD, when I can easily hook my computer up to my TV and watch those videos, then we might be there.

Apple is taking a bold step here and it’ll be interesting to see how many follow. When they first launched the music store it had 200,000 songs. They’re lauching the video store with 2,000 music videos and about six TV shows (granted there are a few dozen episodes of each show). Six TV shows? That’s like a store with six music artists. Ouch. We’ll need to see some major growth and buy in from other entertainment companies for this to work. And I think we’ll need to see some improvements in quality and portability. And when can I rip my DVDs into iTunes?

I love what they’re doing. But I’m not ready to trade in my year-old, dinosaur 40 GB, black and white iPod just yet.

For more on the new iPod and the updated iMacs, Daring Fireball has a nice overview of some of the new features.

5 thoughts on “Apple’s Video iPod & iTunes Video Downloads”

  1. In truth, I’m more excited about the idea of ripping DVDs and loading BitTorrent video files onto the iPod. I don’t think it will take much time for someone to figure out how to do this and publish instructions online.

    As for the music video thing, as someone who grew up in the days of Friday Night Videos and MTV actually playing videos, I have a difficult time stomaching the idea of paying for a music video. Specifically looking at U2, you can find their old videos online if you look hard enough or BitTorrent them, and I’ll wait and just pay $20 for the entire Vertigo concert DVD when it hits stores next month rather than pay $2 a song on iTunes.

    The more I think about this, one of the questions I have is what this does to the traditionally free music video – it used to be just considered a way to help push the music. If the videos are something actually worth paying for, the production values had better go through the roof, particularly if consumers are supposed to believe a four-minute video is worth the same price as a 42-minute episode of Lost.

  2. According to CNN the new iPod will support MPEG-4 video, so you probably could import BitTorrent files or any other stuff, it’s just a matter of getting it in the right format.

    I’m not really interested in the hacks and work arounds to get video on my computer. I’m too busy to figure that stuff out. I’m more interested in the easy and legit version that happens out of the box.

  3. You’re wrong about the quality of video, I hooked it up to a quite large TV, and it looks as good as if you’re watching it on television when it first airs. It’s definitely worth the money. Just wish I could burn a video dvd.

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