I haven't seen one yet and I haven't even seen the Steve video from yesterday, but having read the news on about 20 sites, read the anti- hype from CNet, and looked over the tech specs and content available, I have some first impressions on the new iPod.
I'm getting that feeling that we've been here before. When Apple announced the first iPod, there was a lot of complaining about how the capacity was too small, it was too heavy, the battery didn't last long enough, and a whole host of other things. I'm hearing those same complaints again, and I feel about the same way about them, and here is why:
Apple isn't betting the farm on the video iPod
Contrary to some maneuvers in the past, the new iPod (which is still called iPod, not iPod Video) is an incremental improvement over the existing iPod with no additional cost.
Basically, the $399 60GB version is the same price as yesterday's (now Tuesday's) 60GB iPod) and is a bit lighter and a bit thinner (although a bit wider). It plays all of the same music and has slightly better battery life, a better screen, and, oh yeah, the ability to play back video in its 320x240 screen.
So, if you don't want "video", you aren't paying anything more for it, you're just getting it for free. Apple's target on this is not the mainstream market for music players, which is firmly in the grasp of the now million-plus- selling-in-slightly-less-than-a-month iPod Nano. Their market is the people who want to carry around something with 30-60GB of media on it, which might well include TV shows.
People with small children
Have you ever been in a line at a store or sitting on a bus next to somebody trying to occupy a small child? They're bored and would like to have a little eye-candy to get them through. In the end, it doesn't matter if the Power Rangers or Incredibles are at 320x240 or at 1080i, they don't notice the difference, they're just interested in the story line. Don't underestimate the usefulness of the new iPod as a child distraction device. Keep in mind that the 2.5" screen is certainly smaller than the 5-7" screens found in most SUV's, but it's not much smaller than the 4"-5" screens found in the seatbacks of most airplanes.
And, this isn't even counting the commuters that need a distraction on the train (unlikely to be used on a subway due to theft concerns, I'd imagine, since you'd be taking your eyes off of your surroundings).
It's not just TV
It may be TV that Apple's hammering home, but think about using it as a platform to show videos from your home movie collection. The production quality on those isn't necessarily as high as a full-blown Hollywood blockbuster, so the relative lack of resolution's probably not as big of a deal, and if it is, just jack it into a TV.
It's about TV
Important note: iTunes 6.0 will play purchased videos on Macs and Windows PCs as well as download them to iPods. This means that you can buy your TV programs and watch them on your laptop, which is a bit more compelling for those with problems staring at a 2.5" display. Now, today's resolution is 320x240 on these, and I haven't bought one to look at yet, so I don't know how it looks in full-screen mode, so we'll have to see, but the specific formats are certainly up for grabs, depending on the source of the material.
Either way, the ability of for-pay video content that can be played back on multiple computers or on a portable device is something not to sneeze at.
To my mind, the biggest step here is the ability to sell programming (without commercials, with immediate delivery, and on-demand without a lengthy delay) using a well-known and widely available interface.
I'm not saying that Apple's going to make a mint on video, at least not yet, but the ability is there and the building of the infrastructure is certainly making it more interesting than any of the other plays available in the market today.