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 8×10 inch horizontal display.]

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