A New World for IPod

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 13, 2005

The iconic iPod music player took a step in an ambitious new direction yesterday, as Apple Computer Inc. announced that users will be able to purchase, download and watch videos on new versions of the popular gadget.

New iPod users will be able to download episodes of ABC TV shows such as "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" from Apple's iTunes online music store for $1.99 starting the day after the shows air. The online music store also now offers 2,000 music videos and short movies from Pixar Animation Studios at the same price.

Apple changed the landscape of online music with the first iPod four years ago by showing that consumers will pay for songs despite the wide availability of free pirated music on the Web.

With its new iPod, Apple is trying to position itself as a trailblazer in a new world and a new market -- where more and more video content is available online, and where many competing consumer electronics makers are trying to gain prominence.

Sony's PlayStation Portable has struggled to catch on as a mobile video player, and this week, satellite TV company Dish Network unveiled its own handheld video device. Still other new types of devices are offering to replace the VCR or otherwise latch on to the appeal of video, including cell phones, TiVos and Microsoft's Xbox.

While some experts question whether consumers really want portable video, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs claimed a built-in advantage for his product yesterday: It's an iPod, a brand already selling well and enjoying pop-culture status.

"Because millions of people around the world will buy this new iPod to play music, it will quickly become the most popular portable video player in history," Jobs said.

Video content is a fragmented commodity on the Web, but if the new iPod's video playback feature catches on, that could change.

Previous generations of iPods gave rise to a new form of home-brewed Internet broadcasting called "podcasting," and it already appears possible that the new iPod could spark similar behavior for online video content. Shortly after Apple's announcement, a church in Wisconsin said it would launch a series of devotional two-minute weekly video features optimized for the video iPod.

The device is thinner than the original iPod, but its screen is slightly bigger, at 2.5 inches. It comes in two models: one with 60 gigabytes of memory that can hold about 150 hours of video and costs $399, and a version with half that capacity that will sell for $299. Both will be available with either a black or a white case and will contain a few new software widgets such as a world clock and a stopwatch.

Apple yesterday also unveiled the iMac G5 desktop computer, featuring a built-in webcam and updated multimedia software.

The announcements come just five weeks after the company introduced a credit-card-size iPod called the Nano. The company says it has sold more than 1 million of those so far.


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