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5th-generation iPods to sport Apple scroll-wheel

post #1 of 32
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When Apple Computer introduces new versions of its original iPod digital music player later this year, expect them to sport more home-grown components such as an Apple-branded scroll-wheel.

Since forming a division of the company to focus specifically on iPods, sources say that iPod engineers have increased their efforts not only on broadening the line of digital music players, but also on reducing component outsourcing to maintain tighter control of the company's intellectual property.

On the surface, today's iPods appear to be a simple and tightly packaged product of Apple's California design studios. But inside, the players rely on a wide array of components developed by third parties. These include drives from Toshiba, controller chips from PortalPlayer, navigational controls designed by Synaptics, and LCD displays from either Sharp or Samsung.

In working to develop some of its own component solutions -- rather than continue to license them from others -- Apple hopes to gain more control over the iPod and shave costs at the same time. These costs saving measures are likely to be reflected in slightly higher margins for Apple and lower iPod costs for the end consumer.

The iPod's navigational controls will be one of the first components to see such changes, sources have told AppleInsider. By October, Apple is expected to abandon Synaptics as its supplier of iPod scroll-wheels for its white iPods in favor of an in-house solution.

For Synaptics, Apple's move to develop its own iPod scroll-wheel will mark one of the final chapters in its long-standing relationship with the iPod and Mac maker. Earlier this year Apple dropped Synaptics as its supplier of trackpads for both its PowerBook and iBook line of Mac laptops. Apple now uses its own trackpad solution dubbed the Scrolling TrackPad.

Recent comments from Synaptics have offered corroborating evidence of an Apple switch towards an in-house scroll-wheel solution. Despite an expected seasonal surge in iPod demand, Synaptics during its recent financial conference call said it expects revenues to decline 9 to 10 percent during its September quarter and by as much as 22 percent in the December quarter.

Shaw Wu, an analyst for American Technology Research who covers both Apple and Synaptics, also believes Synaptics is vulnerable to imminent technology shifts by Apple.

"While this may come as a surprise due to a seasonal ramp in iPod demand and new cell phone wins, our proprietary checks with industry and channel sources indicate that Synaptics continues to be at risk as Apple moves to an internally developed [scroll-wheel] solution using CY PSOC controllers," the analyst said in a recent research note. Wu estimates that Apple has been a 35 to 40 percent customer for Synaptics.

In related news, reliable sources say fifth-generation iPods could also see major advancements in battery technology. Specifically, Apple is said to be developing an iPod that supports user-replaceable batteries, which the company would market in the price range of $49 to $69. Such a move would also help lower iPod prices and present Apple with an opportunity to generate additional higher-margin battery sales.

Likewise, Apple is reportedly experimenting with several new iPod battery technologies, which have emerged from third parties and promise both extended life-spans and longer runtimes. However, AppleInsider has been unable to confirm with 100 percent certainty that either of the aforementioned battery advancements will make it into the fifth-generation players.

Apple, which has been criticized for the shortcomings of its internal iPod battery solutions, recently reduced the cost of its iPod Battery Replacement Program from $99 to $59.
post #2 of 32
What's the real gain here? Was there something Synaptics wasn't giving them that Apple really felt they needed?

Then there's the problem if malfunctioning. We all remember the trackpad woes when Apple first debuted their trackpad design on powerbooks. It would suck to have the same situation repeated as the 5th generation iPod rolls out the door to thunderous applause, and lots of eager first adopters.

Apple just loves to kick around the third parties. *sigh*
post #3 of 32
Okay... So this means that the iPod 5G will have the same click-wheel as the current generation ipods, but that Apple will develop them within the company. But wait, what will make the 5th Gen different from the current iPod? Will there be ANY structural changes, because thats what the iPod market needs right now, something NEW...
post #4 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by ThinkDifferent
Okay... So this means that the iPod 5G will have the same click-wheel as the current generation ipods, but that Apple will develop them within the company. But wait, what will make the 5th Gen different from the current iPod? Will there be ANY structural changes, because thats what the iPod market needs right now, something NEW...

What if it comes with a new scroll ball function much like the new apple mouse? Replace the button in the center of the scroll wheel with that new apple mouse ball?
post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by Mike Moscow
What if it comes with a new scroll ball function much like the new apple mouse? Replace the button in the center of the scroll wheel with that new apple mouse ball?

That's what i was thinking. It would be very small and would allow a much bigger screen, but then you'd have to add seperate buttons again, which in a lot of ways is a step backwards.
post #6 of 32
Push straight down for play / pause.

Scroll up / down and left / right to select an option that belongs in that direction, and then push down to select within a certain timeframe.

You could do it all with one button, which would be ironic; multibutton mouse, single-button iPod.
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post #7 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by Harald
Push straight down for play / pause.

Scroll up / down and left / right to select an option that belongs in that direction, and then push down to select within a certain timeframe.

You could do it all with one button, which would be ironic; multibutton mouse, single-button iPod.

Ironic indeed.

Small ball makes some sense.

Though last time Steve spoke about this, it sounded like they thought that they had finally "got it right" with the current click wheel.

I do like seeing them tweak little things pursuing better usability, design, reliability, functionality, cost, etc. No need to give into the "Swiss Army knife" protesters.
post #8 of 32
MANY players have had batteries that were not easily user-replaceable. It's not like that's some unique trait of the iPod.

But I don't understand how user-replaceable (but still shaped just for iPod) batteries would make the iPod cheaper?

Unless they don't include a battery at all
post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by Harald
Push straight down for play / pause.

Scroll up / down and left / right to select an option that belongs in that direction, and then push down to select within a certain timeframe.

You could do it all with one button, which would be ironic; multibutton mouse, single-button iPod.

Oh yeah, so it would take 5min to scroll through your entire library.
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post #10 of 32
How about an iPod shuffle with scroll ball and 3-line screen?
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post #11 of 32
Ummm .... I'm thinking with a vPod (video ipod) needing most of it's front for a widescreen format color LCD, the tiny little "squirrel ball" would be a perfect solution ...

As far as speed of squirrel ball versus. traditional iPod controller, I don't see any difference, in fact the squirrel ball could be even faster ...

Looks like the iPod line is in for a big makeover ...
post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by nagromme
MANY players have had batteries that were not easily user-replaceable. It's not like that's some unique trait of the iPod.

But I don't understand how user-replaceable (but still shaped just for iPod) batteries would make the iPod cheaper?

Unless they don't include a battery at all

I don't understand it either. From my own design experience, it would be MORE expensive to do it that way.

Now an OEM battery with a simple case design is used. That would have to change to a consumer friendly case, that is safer. It would be bulkier and more expensive. The case now has no battery compartment. It sits inside the unit with the components around it. The rear of the case is applied in one piece, and is easily made water resistant. Instead, a compartment will need to be made with an easy battery attachment. The case rear will have to come off easily, or have a battery door. In either case (no pun intended), the user will have to be able to open and close it without damaging the integrity of the seal. This is more complex and more expensive, as well as adding more bulk to the case. Can Apple continue to use SS in its construction if they do this, or will they have to go to plastic for the rear as well?

I'm not sure it's worth it. But if they manage it, one more complaint will be eliminated. Of course people will now damage the unit when changing batteries.

You can't get something for nothing.
post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by CosmoNut
How about an iPod shuffle with scroll ball and 3-line screen?

Then it wouldn't BE a Shuffle, would it?
post #14 of 32
Quote:
As far as speed of squirrel ball versus. traditional iPod controller, I don't see any difference, in fact the squirrel ball could be even faster ...

So you think going up and down and up and down with your finger is faster than infinite scrolling ? How about acceleration ?

Quote:
How about an iPod shuffle with scroll ball and 3-line screen?

More likely...
Alexis 'jeriqo' BRET
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post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
Then it wouldn't BE a Shuffle, would it?

Good point. What I meant was...

Essentially the tiny form factor and capacity of the shuffle with the brains and functionality of its bigger brother the iPod mini. I'd love to see Apple try cramming all that into a case the size of the shuffles, but they've wowed me before and they'll probably do it again.
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post #16 of 32
I think Apple should come out with an under $50 iPod for kids... the kidPod or iPod Jr.

It needs to be inexpensive, so I don't worry about my 6 & 4 year old killing it. It needs to be about the size of the current iPods, but with different controls and surfaces.

I'm looking for a way to let my children play our iTunes purchased music and a shuffle or mini don't match my requirements.
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post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by CosmoNut
Good point. What I meant was...

Essentially the tiny form factor and capacity of the shuffle with the brains and functionality of its bigger brother the iPod mini. I'd love to see Apple try cramming all that into a case the size of the shuffles, but they've wowed me before and they'll probably do it again.

I've nothing against the idea. What would it cost though? As much as a mini?
post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by clonenode
I think Apple should come out with an under $50 iPod for kids... the kidPod or iPod Jr.

It needs to be inexpensive, so I don't worry about my 6 & 4 year old killing it. It needs to be about the size of the current iPods, but with different controls and surfaces.

I'm looking for a way to let my children play our iTunes purchased music and a shuffle or mini don't match my requirements.

You have to watch small kids. They could get the cable wrapped around their neck. Also, the volume would have to be regulated the way thay do it in Europe so that it can't get too loud. Children's ears can be easily damaged by listening through earphones.
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
I've nothing against the idea. What would it cost though? As much as a mini?

Probably drop the 1GB shuffle and replace it with the new one. You'd have a 512MB shuffle for $99, a new 1GB "shuffle plus" for $149, and the 4GB mini at $199.
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post #20 of 32
Apple control-freak meter .... pegging out again.

Regarding the iPod with squirrel ball, I don't think so. The iPod is iconic and I think it is important that as people upgrade to bigger capacities - you assume everyone now will have more music 15 years from now - the user interface should be consistent.

I see the squirrel ball as great for an iVid where more space for screen is necessary; the clickwheel is two big and by necessity, the number of files on a iVid would be quite a bit less than an iPod and thus requires less time to scroll. 300 videos doesn't need the efficiency of 10,000 songs.

BTW, What about a squirrel ball under the right hand speakers on the Powerbook?
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post #21 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by MacGregor
Apple control-freak meter .... pegging out again.

Regarding the iPod with squirrel ball, I don't think so. The iPod is iconic and I think it is important that as people upgrade to bigger capacities - you assume everyone now will have more music 15 years from now - the user interface should be consistent.

I see the squirrel ball as great for an iVid where more space for screen is necessary; the clickwheel is two big and by necessity, the number of files on a iVid would be quite a bit less than an iPod and thus requires less time to scroll. 300 videos doesn't need the efficiency of 10,000 songs.

BTW, What about a squirrel ball under the right hand speakers on the Powerbook?

I don't see the scrollball in anything going in your pocket.. but that could be an option for the video iPod
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post #22 of 32
Good point, a squirrel ball like that would not work well in a device that is meant to slip in your pocket... ummmmm?
post #23 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by jeriqo
I don't see the scrollball in anything going in your pocket.. but that could be an option for the video iPod

Too bad I didn't get back sooner. You beat me to it!
post #24 of 32
I believe the new ipod scroll weel will be like the 3g(weel) but without the butttons on top, those buttons will be incorporated into the weel. But instead of pushing down like in 4g ipods you will only have to press, and like a laptop trackpad when one presses down the fingers will be detected.

Besides that I am happy Apple is moving in the direction of making their technology. Hopefully Apple has learned their lesson with trackpad issues, so they can incorporate only the best in their new Ipods.
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post #25 of 32
Actually, I was surprised that Apple didn't buy both Synaptics and Portalplayer when they had the chance before they went public. That way Apple would have owned the technology. There is always some possibility that Synaptics can license certain aspects of it to Apple's competitors.
post #26 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by jeriqo
Oh yeah, so it would take 5min to scroll through your entire library.

You're wrong

The reason you have infinite acceleration and infinite scrolling on the scroll wheel is the ability to be able to go in circles -- round and round, it just keeps going.

This is also a capability of the BALL on the Mighty Mouse. You seem to think it can go either up / down or left / right ... it can behave like the wheel.
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post #27 of 32
What I really want is a larger capacity iPod. 60 GB just isn't enough to take all the music I want to put onto it. Are there any rumours out there of 80 GB iPods? That would make the 5th generation pods something to get excited about.

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post #28 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by Eluard
What I really want is a larger capacity iPod. 60 GB just isn't enough to take all the music I want to put onto it. Are there any rumours out there of 80 GB iPods? That would make the 5th generation pods something to get excited about.

Eluard \

I go with playlists myself. I put everything as Apple Lossless, so even if I tried to put everything on an 80GB iPod I would fall short - therefore I create different playlists. I have podcasts and files to store on it too.
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post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by Harald
You're wrong

The reason you have infinite acceleration and infinite scrolling on the scroll wheel is the ability to be able to go in circles -- round and round, it just keeps going.

This is also a capability of the BALL on the Mighty Mouse. You seem to think it can go either up / down or left / right ... it can behave like the wheel.

Sure, it can behave like a wheel, but being so small, it'd be very difficult to go round and round without losing control or having your finger come off of it. Learning the 'correct' way would take a lot more time then it should. And may not be possible for many users (not everyone has thumb dexterity to move little objects around).

And then you have the issue with using it to click away with. My sister bought some Creative mini MP3 player (she wanted an FM tuner and something that would work with all those music services out there, if she ever bought music from them, that is). Its got this silly little (and its little) control wheel (not a ball) to navigate with. You push it left or right to go between menu options and all, then click it to select. Great idea, I guess. But I had nothing but problems trying to get the thing to where I wanted to go without clicking the wheel before I got there. That's the problem with small, and definitely the problem with small and multi-use. You have to be more dillegent with how you use it, which makes it less easy to use.

Then you got the whole "Shove it in your pocket, watch the volume go insane on you!" problem. And then, on top of all that, what exactly is the benefit for this on the iPod (not some mythical video iPod, mind you, just your normal iPod that exists)? The iPod needs to be large to fit the components and battery. A larger screen doesn't give you much extra for an iPod ("ooh, look, you can almost make out what the album cover looks like!"), esp for most iPod users, who use it to listen to music, not reading, browsing, looking at pictures, etc. You don't want to make the device much less taller, as you need the dimensions so you can sense without looking which is up (i.e. the same complaint people had with the hockey puck mouse). And making it proportionally smaller gets it to the mini's size, which makes the mini less appealing.
post #30 of 32
Think about it. What iPod is too small for a click wheel...the shuffle. I imagine that if they ever do get a screen on the ipod shuffle, it will have the scroll button thing on the Apple might mouse

also,

Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
Actually, I was surprised that Apple didn't buy both Synaptics and Portalplayer when they had the chance before they went public. That way Apple would have owned the technology. There is always some possibility that Synaptics can license certain aspects of it to Apple's competitors.

Synaptics couldn't really licence much because Apple probably has a long term agreement for them not to licence any material to other companies, and, even if they have them touch bad technology, Apple has the wheel desgin pattented. Some brands already use touch pad type UIs, like some Creative players.
post #31 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by Apparatus
What's the real gain here? Was there something Synaptics wasn't giving them that Apple really felt they needed?

Then there's the problem if malfunctioning. We all remember the trackpad woes when Apple first debuted their trackpad design on powerbooks. It would suck to have the same situation repeated as the 5th generation iPod rolls out the door to thunderous applause, and lots of eager first adopters.

Apple just loves to kick around the third parties. *sigh*

So, you're just cutting/pasting your comments from macrumors? Thanks for the insight!
post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally posted by icfireball
Think about it. What iPod is too small for a click wheel...the shuffle. I imagine that if they ever do get a screen on the ipod shuffle, it will have the scroll button thing on the Apple might mouse

also,



Synaptics couldn't really licence much because Apple probably has a long term agreement for them not to licence any material to other companies, and, even if they have them touch bad technology, Apple has the wheel desgin pattented. Some brands already use touch pad type UIs, like some Creative players.

Most of that technology belongs to Synaptics. I've been following this. These technology deals work both ways. If Apple is buying it from them then certain agreements are in force. If Apple ceases being a customer for it, then the agreements change. I haven't seen any patents from Apple relating directly to this. Synaptics does hold some.
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