A RexBlog Guessay: Why I believe Apple will announce an 8 1/2 x 11 inch iPod Touch within the next 45 days

 

 

Please note, I gave this post the title “Guessay,” which is a portmanteau of the words “guess” and “essay.” What you’ll read in this post is my conjecture based on several years of tracking one topic, first as a joke about Apple “fan-boys,” then out of geekish curiosity and now, with legitimate, business-related interest.

For three years, I’ve regularly posted items about something I call “Rumor #3, a device that is an oversized iPod Touch. As I’ve explained before in detail, I started describing this device before there were such things as an iPod Touch or iPhone. In some ways, these posts have been a running gag for me. However, as the owner of a media company that develops and manages magazines, video and an array of online media for corporate and association clients, I have a professional passion that causes me to always look for new ways in which old and new media can help develop closer relationships and conversations between people who work at organizations and the individuals they serve.

And so, with this background and a little bit of piecing together some fragments of a puzzle, I’ve decided it is time to post this guessay that attempts to put forth some predictions that will soon prove I’m an insightful technology forecaster, or (and this is what makes blogging fun) that it’s time you pulled my RSS feed off your newsreader.

Let me acknowledge also that all of the pieces of this story are not “new,” it’s just my piecing together of several parts of the puzzle and stepping out on a limb that is.

The 2009 introduction of a Rumor #3 device has been swirling for months: Starting back in December, TechCrunch said an oversized iPod Touch would launch this fall. A couple of weeks ago, there were rumors about Apple placing orders for 8×10 inch touch screens. Yesterday, there were rumors about some mystery code in the next generation iPhone/iPod Touch beta. But to me, more telling than any of these rumors, however, was the recent release of the Kindle iPhone App. This was a piece of the puzzle that I wasn’t expecting. However, after using it a few weeks, I’ve come to understand how (as I’ve said for three years) the new Apple device is not an eBook reader in the way the Kindle is an eBook reader, and so therefore, Apple is going to work with Amazon, rather than compete.

Also, I forgot to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket, so I was feeling that I should make some complex prediction that requires some far-fetched theory, so here goes:

Within the next 45 days, not later than May 1, Apple will unveil the “Rumor #3 device” — an oversized iPod Touch.

Along with that prediction, I’ll make the following educated guesses based on my experience of trying to fan the fires of this rumor for the past three years:

ipodcompare.jpg

The comparative size
of an iPhone, a Kindle I
and an 8 x 10″ display.

The device will be an iPod Touch, not a netbook or a tablet computer: I can’t emphasize this enough: It’s not going to be “an eBook reader” (or a “Kindle Killer,” see below) or “a netbook.” I don’t believe the device will have a physical keyboard and Apple will be explicit in its marketing that this is NOT merely an “eBook reader” or in any way, a computer replacement. It will be marketed as a complimentary device that fits between your iPhone and desktop or laptop computer. It will operate just like an iPod Touch but the display will replicate the foot-print and weight of a spiral-bound notebook popular on college campuses. The rumored 8×10″ screen means the full device will have dimensions extremely close to the size of a standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper.

The first marketing push will be towards University students: The larger format for music/HD movies/YouTube app/Facebook app — those are all no-brainers for you to understand why this will appeal to this group. But think “interactive textbook applications” that will automatically synch with your computer via iTunes. For those familiar with the iphone, web and desktop software application Evernote, think of a textbook that way: a multimedia application that allows you to take notes (written, photographed or recorded) that synchs in real-time to the iPod, to the web and to ones computer desktop. Oh, and did I mention, it will hold lots of your music and you can watch HD movies or you can stream YouTube video. In fact, the reason I’m guessing an April unveiling of the device is related to the text-book “app” possibilities it offers. The first great opportunity for sales of this device is not the fourth-quarter holiday season, but the “back to school” window. One of the few promotions Apple runs year-after-year is one in which a person with a student ID can purchase a new Mac and receive a free iPod. While I doubt they’ll be giving the devices away, I believe the promotion will be centered on this device and will include a tremendous discount. I believe you’ll also be seeing an explosion of university-oriented and campus-specific iPod/iPhone Apps appearing during the summer, as well.

The price of the device will be no more than $500.

This is not a “Kindle Killer”: When it is unveiled, there will be lots of analysis about what this device will do to the Kindle. However, that type of analysis will miss the point of what this device is all about. I think the Kindle will find a place among those who want a single-function gadget that is as close to reading a physical book as possible. (Think book lovers, not gadget freaks.) The developers of the display technology used on the Kindle have been obsessed with replicating paper for decades and in that, they’ve been successful. Amazon has created a device and e-commerce process that makes purchasing books for that device drop-dead simple.

But Amazon, by releasing the iPhone Kindle reader App, has also demonstarted a “Second Phase” that is central to the company’s core expertise: It sells books. While I predict that within 18 months, more “Kindle-format” ebook files will be read via the iPhone App than on Kindles, there will still be plenty of Kindles around — and they will continue to be loved by those who want to use reading lights and have a battery that lasts for 20 hours. And Amazon will be making lots of money selling Kindle books to people who don’t own a Kindle.

Steve Jobs will announce the product: Again, this is a guessay. But I believe Steve Jobs will view this device as belonging to the pantheon of god-like products for which he’ll long be remembered.

Final thoughts: A couple of years ago, when I first wrote about such a device in comparison to the Kindle, one of my favorite bloggers, Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Nashville-based Thomas Nelson, the sixth largest book publisher in the U.S., made a comment on my post.

In that comment, Michael wrote:

“I would much rather have an Apple Touchbook than the Kindle (which I own). However, you’re forgetting one small detail. The device is only one-third the equation. iTunes is another third. So far so good. A seamless way to get content from the store onto the device. What Apple is missing is the RELATIONSHIPS. They don’t have any relationships with book publishers that enables them to get access to the content…Could Apple develop these relationships? Sure. My point is that they haven’t started and this is where Amazon has a leg up. For most of us, they are one of our largest customers and we trust them.”

I wonder if Apple has started developing such relationships? I’m sure Michael or others in the book publishing world may already have a good clue as to whether or not the guesses in this post have any merit.

But unlike when Michael wrote that comment, Apple may not even need a direct relationship to kick off this product.

Maybe that’s what the Kindle iPhone/iPod App is all about.

On May 1 or before, I look forward to seeing how my iPod Touch bracket predictions played out.

[See all the Rumor 3 posts from the past three years.]

[Note about the photo illustrations: At the top of the post is my attempt to photoshop (actually, I used Keynote, but I'm using "photoshop" as a generic verb) something that would compare the scale of a current iPod Touch to one that is 8 1/2 x 11 inches. The photoshop illustration on the left of this story compares the size and display of an iPhone, Kindle and 8x10 inch horizontal display.]

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  • http://www.imaginepub.com Jim Meyers

    Timely prediction. I’ve been debating all week with an investment associate whether Apple will try to dethrone Kindle. They can certainly do it from a technology and design standpoint but Amazon has a huge lead on the content relationships. Would IPod have been as big a success without Itunes? Content has to be there, otherwise it’s just another cool gadget.

  • http://www.lot23.com Jon Bell

    I agree with everything here. But there are two mindsets that I just don’t grok when it comes to talking about Kindle.

    Number one: The “Apple wants to dethrone Kindle” mindset. I just don’t think this is true. Apple wants to make computers and entire platforms, not niche book readers. I love Kindles and I want one myself, but I find it surprising that people think Apple wants to compete in this market. The relationships are a big barrier, but even more importantly, it’s too small a market that’s being served too well by Kindle already.

    Number two: The “since Apple allowed Kindle on the AppStore, they’re not competing” point. While I don’t think Apple is competing here (see #1) they’re opening up iPod Library access so people can write new iPod clients, they’re opening up the Maps API so others can make better maps (including turn by turn), and they’ve allowed browser apps on the store. (mail got better hooks but I don’t know how deep they are) They also are competing on Notes (which now sync), Voice Memo, and even a poker game, all of which have competitors on the store.

    Apple has a bad reputation in this department, and it’s somewhat deserved. But allowing Kindle on the AppStore doesn’t automatically mean Apple’s not competing here. It just means Apple’s trying to build a platform around their hardware with robust 3rd party support.

  • John

    I and my credit card will be at the head of the line IF such a device can open and, receive streaming from, the same pages as my five year-old, XP-based desktop. I love my Touch…and am very disappointed that it’s a crippled internet device…

  • http://RexBlog.com Rex Hammock

    @Jon Bell – I think what I’ve said is consistent to your point. I believe Apple will be competiting in the eBook marketplace, but those books (and magazines) where Apple will focus will be publications that are best experienced and understood with integrated color photography, illustrations, graphs, tables, video, audio, etc. The iPod/iPhone Apps marketplace is already filled with not only eBook readers, but eBooks as well. The Kindle doesn’t do will with tables — I own one and can show examples. But when it comes to novels or any text narrative, the Kindle does a great job of replicating ink on paper. In the category of eBook reader that replicates ink text on paper, the Kindle will continue to win.

  • http://www.digitalmediabulletin.com Jose Alvear

    I don’t think the screen would be that big. Something like 7 to maybe 10 inches would be fine. Big enough for a decent keyboard. What else do you need besides that in a big iPod Touch? Maybe an SD card slot or USB port for moving content around.

    And I don’t think Steve Jobs would be well enough to do this, even though he would love to. Seems like he’s just concentrating on getting healthier.

    But interesting stuff.

  • http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com Mike Cane

    >>>The rumored 8×10? screen means the full device will have dimensions extremely close to the size of a standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper.

    No. The rumor is a ten-inch *diagonal* screen. Which would give it the dimensions of the 10″-screened hp mini 1000: 10.3 in x 6.56 in.

    This is considerably smaller, far less cumbersome to hold, and in fact a killer size.

    It’s interesting you did this post today. I was just in J&R this morning again fondling that mini and made a point to look at the screen size and think, “Hm, so that’s what a 10-inch iPod Touchbook would be like!”

    I disagree about partnering with amazon. That would make my jaw fall off. If there’s one thing that’s worse than ePub aesthetically, it’s amazon’s K eBook format!

    Plus, what about Stanza Reader, which does ePub? ePub — now from both Google and Gutenberg, aside from every mainstream print publisher?

    I think Apple will do its own eBook format solution (hey, they pioneered DTP, you expect them to go *backward* in aesthetics?) and there is The Disney Card:
    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/08/15/october-the-ipod-touchbook/

    One thing I agree with you about: This will run iPhone OS, not Mac OS X.

  • altrenda

    I agree with everything you said except one thing: price

    This is Apple we’re talking about, the price will be no less than $999.

  • http://gravitationalpull.net/wp/ Aaron Pressman

    I hope that this device arrives soon and at the price point you hypothesize but I’m a little worried on that score that it will be priced beyond the high-end of the current iPod Touch line, say around $699 to $799.

    And contrary to some of the commenters above, I don’t think bookm publishers would be too quick to get in bed with Apple directly, and most certainly not with an Apple-controlled DRM format (like I’ve been saying http://gravitationalpull.net/wp/?p=390).

    Then again, the whole Barnes & Noble buys Fictionwise shakes things up quite a bit in the ebook space. I am expecting, sadly, that book publishers will use Fictionwise the way that music publishers are using Amazon’s MP3 store. That is, as a club to beat the market leader with to get price hikes ($1.29 price point for new releases coming to the iTunes store in April). It seems like Amazon is already inching up ebook prices on new releases (especially for popular books not on the NYT best-seller list) though it’s hard to tell since some minority of new ebooks have always come out in that $11 to $15 range.

  • http://dkb.tumblr.com Spirit

    Your analysis is flawed. The product as you describe makes no sense considering the target market you’re proposing: students don’t need video playback. They need keyboards to write papers, update their Facebook profiles and send messages. This is a luxury gadget at best, not for the mass-market.

    Anything aimed at the student market would have to be: light, durable and fit for purpose. The product you’ve outlined above is none of those things. No one in business strategy at Apple would seriously give this a second thought.

  • http://RexBlog.com Rex Hammock

    @Spirit – The product is already made by Apple and used by students for all the things you say it doesn’t do. It’s an iPod Touch and the people in business strategy at Apple have made billions selling them. All I’m suggesting is a larger format. And as my post clearly states, it is not a replacement for any computer or device the size of the current iPod or iPhone.

    P.S.I look forward to learning if my (or your) analysis is flawed. It has a 45 day limit.

  • http://RexBlog.com Rex Hammock

    @MikeCane – As the rumors are just that, rumors, I stand corrected about the precise dimensions of the screen. However, since it’s all just a bunch of guesses anyway, I’ll stick with the 8 1/2 x 11 guess.

  • Hudge

    Yawn. Let’s see either one of these realypothetical devices match this: http://www.stuff.co.nz/oddstuff/2280897/The-beer-that-strips

  • nimbus

    WHATS UP MIKE CANE!

    Anyway, good stuff. Can’t wait to hear more.

  • http://backtype.com/alwillis Albert Willis

    You seem to be kinda new at Apple prognosticating; I’ll help you out. ;-)

    If there’s a tablet version of the iPod touch, it certainly won’t be announced in April. That’s a major platform and strategic change. June is iPhone/iPod Touch month for Apple; it just happens to be the same month of Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference. It’s also the month Steve Jobs is expected back in some capacity at Apple. And since the device will run iPhone 3.0, which won’t be released until late June or early July anyway, it doesn’t make sense to announce anything until then, when the entire world will be watching.

    Sure, April is when school purchasing starts, but Apple won’t announce anything or target to education until there’s an actual product; all of the pieces (mainly iPhone 3.0) won’t be ready until the summer.

    Assuming the economy doesn’t get much worse, Apple will sell tons of these devices during the holiday shopping season, just like the iPod Touch was huge for them last holiday season.

    We’re also expecting a 10-inch diagonal screen, not 8″ x 10″.