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Apple to begin manufacturing flash-based iPod next month

post #1 of 41
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Flash-based iPod digital music player on tap for early 2005.

To his credit, Thomas Weisel analyst Jason Pflaum had this one nearly down pat.

Apple Computer in December will begin manufacturing a third variant of its flagship iPod music player, which will be based on solid-state flash memory, AppleInsider has confirmed through well placed and extremely reliable sources.

According to contacts in Asia, the computer company will build a stock-pile of approximately 2 million flash iPods before the product begins shipping world-wide in late-January or early February. The new players are slated to be announced at the annual Macworld trade show in San Francisco during the second week of January.

Though precise specifications were not readily available, the flash iPod will reportedly use controller chips from Austin, TX-based SigmaTel, and feature a storage capacity in the range of 256 Megabytes to 1 Gigabyte. Sources were unable to confirm if the player would be released in more than one configuration.

The iPod flash will retail for below (US)$200 and sport a similar user interface to the company's ubiquitous iPod and iPod mini.

Despite comments from Apple chief executive Steve Jobs that flash-based digital music players are often received as gifts, rarely used, and "end up in a drawer," market share figures speak for themselves. Although the iPod holds a whopping 92% slice of the pie for hard drive-based players, this figure shrinks to 65% when flash models are tallied as part of the mix.

Sales of flash players remain strong in the second half of 2004 and account for a larger percentage of digital music players than that of hard-drive music players when surveyed on a global basis. The introduction of an Apple-branded flash player is expected to increase Apple's share of players in the far east, where the adoption rate for the iPod has been feeble.

At last year's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Jobs introduced the iPod mini, a 4 Gigabyte hard drive-based player designed to compete in the high-end flash player market. A renowned success, the iPod mini drew strong demand throughout the better part of the year, but priced at $249, it remains inaccessible to many.
post #2 of 41
Only 2 million? Don't they ever learn their lesson? 2 million will sell out in a week! Then once again, they will be backordered for 2 months.
post #3 of 41
so, will these have ridiculously long battery lives or will they be ridiculously lightweight?
post #4 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by spud
so, will these have ridiculously long battery lives or will they be ridiculously lightweight?

I think they'll look just like the iPod Mini's but thinner and with a lot longer battery life. Apple's not going to compromise the size of the screen and click-wheel.
post #5 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by bdkennedy1
Only 2 million? Don't they ever learn their lesson? 2 million will sell out in a week! Then once again, they will be backordered for 2 months.

Actually they are learning. They will actually have product at the time of announcement. Then they can gauge demand and manufactur appropriately. This is good news..Apple will have a solution at almost every price point.

There are times when I think that a 1GB flash player would be nice especially when AAC+ is coming with a %30 improvement in encoding effienciency. That means 96k files will sound pretty damn close to what we have at 128. More songs ..less space small price. It's all coming together.
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post #6 of 41
This will definatley hugley boost sales for apple. If they put their design brilliance on this thing, as you guys said, 2 million will be sold out right away. Im wondiering if it will have the click wheel, which, is my, and probably many others, favorite part of the iPod.
post #7 of 41
Now all Apple needs is to open iTMS China, Taiwan, and Japan so that consumers in the Far East have music to play on those flash-based iPods.
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post #8 of 41
Damn, I want one now! I can't afford an iPod, so this would do me if it cost £100 and had a rechargeable battery. Don't see how it could have a click wheel though, as it would be too big compared with other players. I'm sure Apple will come up with something that surprises us all instead. Fingers crossed.
post #9 of 41
It will almost certainly have a click wheel. I imagine it just like one of those extra small flat remote controls you get along with your TV.
Same size as the mini, but just flat (maybe a 1/4" thick?)

But does that mean a whole new line of smaller socks?
post #10 of 41
I will ask for one from my loving family as soon as they are available. Or, I'll just stop by a local Apple Store and pick one up -- maybe another one for the wife.
post #11 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
The introduction of an Apple-branded flash player is expected to increase Apple's share of players in the far east, where the adoption rate for the iPod has been feeble.

Should read: "where the iPod Mini was only recently released."
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post #12 of 41
I hope these things have recording features.

I'd buy one just to record personal notes and interviews.
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post #13 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by Frank777
I hope these things have recording features.

I'd buy one just to record personal notes and interviews.

That's a little unclear. I suppose Apple might include some comparable flash-player features, else the "iPod Micro" would be nothing but a really small iPod. On the other hand, Apple might use their brand inertia to sell the things as nothing more than a really small iPod.
post #14 of 41
I guess that means we'll see AACPlus at MacWorld too. At 24K a 1GB iPod Flash could hold nearly as much music as the original iPod could.

http://www.telos-systems.com/?/aacplus/default.htm
post #15 of 41
Scooting this over to Digital Hub, home of the iPod.
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post #16 of 41
I had hoped that the iPod micro would have been out for Christmas (I own a few shares) but January will be fine.

I think that the micro will be very similar to the others. They are fortunately locked into iTunes and TMS and all iPods now and in the future are going to remain compatible. The click wheel is simply too good to use anything else so there is no doubt in my mind that it and the screen will stay the same.

2,000,000 on hand for a start is also a nice change for Apple, but I think they are spot on. They can fill the distribution channels, load up their stores and have a lot for sale through the on line store. I would not be surprised if the component makers are also building a supply in case sales go through the roof and demand is 2,000,000 per month.

Every one wins on this one - except the competition.
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post #17 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by kenaustus
[B]I had hoped that the iPod micro would have been out for Christmas (I own a few shares) but January will be fine.

My guess is that the timing of the release is intentional. They probably realized they would never be able to meet Christmas demand, and rather than have a bunch of po'd customers -- they opted for a post-Christmas release.
post #18 of 41
With the ipod apple gets it, take a killer product and move to lower price points to dominate the market, ipod->mini->flash.

with consumer desktops too they have a killer product, OSX, but they dont move to lower price points. maybe this step down ipod thing will change Steve's mind on desktops.
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post #19 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by curiousuburb
Should read: "where the iPod Mini was only recently released."

Could read "where the iPod as a whole has poor retail presence and is relatively highly priced".
Love the Apple policy of
Foreign price = US price x exchange rate + 20% or so
I mean, I was at a store in China where I could have thrown a rock and hit the factory of iPods (figuratively speaking, I didn't have a rock with me, and I didn't want to damage the windows) but the price is higher than in the US.
But then again, much of this stuff can be put down to two words "life sucks".

Mendosi
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post #20 of 41
More importantly, this could be the final nail in the WMA casket, so to speak.
post #21 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by schmidm77
More importantly, this could be the final nail in the WMA casket, so to speak.

As long as you can only play AAC on Apple's stuff, WMA still has a colossally large advantage. I fear that in a few years, the iPod will be using WMA as its primary format...
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post #22 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by Mendosi
Could read "where the iPod as a whole has poor retail presence and is relatively highly priced".
Love the Apple policy of
Foreign price = US price x exchange rate + 20% or so
I mean, I was at a store in China where I could have thrown a rock and hit the factory of iPods (figuratively speaking, I didn't have a rock with me, and I didn't want to damage the windows) but the price is higher than in the US.
But then again, much of this stuff can be put down to two words "life sucks".

Mendosi

Some of it can also be put down to the fact that distributors in foreign countries are separate entities (e.g. another layer of middlemen).
post #23 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by CharlesS
As long as you can only play AAC on Apple's stuff, WMA still has a colossally large advantage. I fear that in a few years, the iPod will be using WMA as its primary format...

Possibly, but not probably. AAC is part of MPEG-4, which is gaining a huge amount of ground right now in the HD-DVD groups, beating out WMP9's codecs. Whoo!

Remember, it's not AAC vs. everyone, it's AAC vs. WMA. Both types of players can play MP3s, which is still the most common file format by far. WMA doesn't have a colossally large advantage by any means... in fact, the *only* thing it has going for it is that it has MS's monopoly pushing it... and this time, it doesn't seem to be winning.
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post #24 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by allan
My guess is that the timing of the release is intentional. They probably realized they would never be able to meet Christmas demand, and rather than have a bunch of po'd customers -- they opted for a post-Christmas release.

My guess is that the timing of the release is intentional. You never release a cheaper product in your prime buying season when the more expensive product is going to completely sell out. They did this with iPod Mini. This is very deft product management and marketing. If all goes well (and according to recent history)...next Christmas season they'll have all three levels, and likely to sell 6-7 million in the Christmas quarter.
post #25 of 41
Just for fun ... I did some Photoshop mockups of possible designs for the Flash-based iPod "micro". You can see them here: http://applepete.com/
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post #26 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by one3
Just for fun ... I did some Photoshop mockups of possible designs for the Flash-based iPod "micro". You can see them here: http://applepete.com/

Love the pics - I'd be first in line for either of the first two, but the third one is a bit cheesy even for the die hard Apple fan!
post #27 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by CharlesS
As long as you can only play AAC on Apple's stuff, WMA still has a colossally large advantage. I fear that in a few years, the iPod will be using WMA as its primary format...

Actually, anyone could make a player using AAC. It is Apple's DRM protocol which is exclusive to Apple.
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post #28 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by CharlesS
As long as you can only play AAC on Apple's stuff, WMA still has a colossally large advantage.

Please do explain.

Currently 70% of the legally purchased download music is in AAC (protected) format.

Why do so many assume that Apple must fail here...or more importantly...that MS must win? MS has lost in more markets than they have won. People rarely realize this.
post #29 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by one3
Just for fun ... I did some Photoshop mockups of possible designs for the Flash-based iPod "micro". You can see them here: http://applepete.com/

I love the round one. That's awesome, and functional. Would require a proprietary LCD, though, and that would be too expensive for Apple to develop at the price point they're aiming toward. Maybe instead, Apple could overlay a touch sensitive navigation wheel over the LCD. Tapping the sides of the wheel would perform the "click" function, as you wouldn't be able to have it actually "click". If I were at home on my Mac I'd make a mock-up of what I'm talking about. It would be square in format, with the dimensions equal to the current diameter of the Mini's click wheel. The Lucite front would be etched with the shape of the wheel and the navigation icons, but you could see the screen right through them.
post #30 of 41
I would not be surprised at all to see a different form factor for this new thing. Maybe something you attach to your key chain...or hang on a lanyard around your neck.

Think Different.

What about the shape of a stick/pen/wand? Not sure about the UI...but I am confident Apple could figure something out.
post #31 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
...or hang on a lanyard around your neck.

What? Like this?

post #32 of 41
I would love for them to get rid of the UI lock button on the top of the iPod and replace it will some type of pressure sensor on the sides so you can hold it normally without worring about unwanted input but with a slight squeeze on the sides as you hold it, the UI is active.

Or if not that, a quick double squeeze on the sides as you hold it in your hand pauses/mutes the music. And another double squeeze resumes/unmutes it.
post #33 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by tonton
What? Like this?


Yes...only something that wouldn't give you bruises.

post #34 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by tonton
I love the round one. That's awesome, and functional. Would require a proprietary LCD, though, and that would be too expensive for Apple to develop at the price point they're aiming toward.

Or not...

http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html...sin=B0002UB2Q4

This one claims 16 hours of music (lower encoding rate of course). But at the standard iTMS AAC rate 512MB could store about 8 hours of audio.

I can imagine taking iPod Micro (512MB) to work...enough music for a day's work. I can see the marketing of it now.
post #35 of 41
Quote:
Maybe instead, Apple could overlay a touch sensitive navigation wheel over the LCD. Tapping the sides of the wheel would perform the "click" function, as you wouldn't be able to have it actually "click". I

tonton that's brilliant. I wouldn't be surprised to see that, as it must have occurred to them.
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post #36 of 41
Just got the Creative Labs Zen Micro in work today, and although I haven't had a proper look yet, it looks nicer than an iPod Mini - maybe Apple does need to update its range to keep up, since the iPod Mini has been out for a year by MW SF. iPod mini to go to 10gb and a new micro underneath? That would be sweet!

This new Zen Micro is smaller than iPod mini, has removable rechargeable, good screen, menu similar to iPod, calendar, decent battery life, touch pad thing and comes in 10 colours. Oh ye, it's 5gb, and only £10 more than iPod mini. If it had an Apple badge I'd buy one! Grrr, come on January!
post #37 of 41
I just don't like the button placements on that thing

Had someone ask for one where I work, nearly barfed all over him
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post #38 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by one3
Just for fun ... I did some Photoshop mockups of possible designs for the Flash-based iPod "micro". You can see them here: http://applepete.com/

I like the second one. Kinda like the size and shape of a credit card.

The third one with the Apple logo shape would look like it could stab you with those sharp edges.

Mike
post #39 of 41
I'm suprised that nobody has considered the possibility that Apple will eventually replace nearly every single HD-based model with a flash-based model.

Flash memory prices are continuing to drop, making larger capacity flash-based devices more economical, so one has to wonder how long it will be before we are talking about 5-10GB flash-based players. And no, I'm not suggesting that we will see such a high capacity device a couple of months from now.
post #40 of 41
Quote:
Originally posted by Chagi
I'm suprised that nobody has considered the possibility that Apple will eventually replace nearly every single HD-based model with a flash-based model.

Flash memory prices are continuing to drop, making larger capacity flash-based devices more economical, so one has to wonder how long it will be before we are talking about 5-10GB flash-based players. And no, I'm not suggesting that we will see such a high capacity device a couple of months from now.

You know, flash memory prices have been continuing to drop for years. The problem is that hard drive prices have been dropping at least as fast, and the tricks that the drive makers are using to make smaller and denser drives are good for at least a couple of orders of magnitude of improvement. In other words, the issue isn't whether flash memory will be up to the task, the issue is whether hard drives will continue to be a consistently better value.

If you think of iPod as "Your Life - To Go" and think about what sort of capacity would be required to really make that happen (bring your music, photos, documents, movies, app prefs and bookmarks; possibly even your account!) the significantly higher capacity and significantly lower cost/GB will favor hard drives for a very, very long time. Flash will take over the current low end (the mini) when it becomes able to store 1,000 songs economically.
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Becca Sutlive - Iowa Fried Rock 'n Roll - now on iTMS!
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