A look beyond video iPod

Not surprisingly, the video iPod generated the most reaction last month when Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced a pile of new multimedia entertainment products.

Apple turned the music business on its ear with the original iPod and iTunes music store, so perhaps the video iPod, and Apple’s deal with Disney for US$1.99 downloads of primetime ABC TV shows, will do the same for television and movies.

Much of the press coverage wondered about Jobs’ change of heart, as he had long maintained that people weren’t going to walk around watching video on a screen that small. Other commentators questioned the pricing, saying US$1.99 was too high for an episode of Desperate Housewives (even without commercials). Then there was the outrage expressed by the local ABC TV stations and the demands from the various groups involved in TV production. I’d rather take Jobs at his word. I expect the market for watching shows on a 2.5-inch screen is rather small.

So maybe Apple is up to something else. Maybe the announcement was less about the video iPod and more to do with the new iMac’s music, picture and video display application, with remote control.

I expect the reason Apple was able to get music publishers to agree to the original iTunes store was that it was “only” for the Mac, and thus not much of a threat. It was only later that Apple released the Windows version and took over the market.

Maybe Apple is trying to lure the movie and TV companies with the low-threat, 2.5-inch iPod screen while downplaying the iMac’s ability to play the same, and much higher quality, video on its big screen or to a projector — all managed by remote control.

Just maybe Apple is about to make real the long- predicted video revolution, where content owners make their product available directly to customers. Companies would be able to significantly revamp their training processes by pushing much of them to people at home rather than maintaining special training centres.

Disclaimer: Harvard does offer in-home training, but Harvard’s “special training centres” are quite nice. The above is a personal, not the university’s, view on Apple’s motives.

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–Bradner is a consultant with Harvard University’s University Information System. He can be reached atsob@sobco.com

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