I think it has been fascinating to watch the evolution of thought on the new Ipod discussion. In the past few days, hundreds of posters have worked out a nice (although not guaranteed) 4 version model and thrown out many other great ideas. In fact, it would be a great source of new information for apple if they were looking for how their products would play outside of the company.
I just want to build on these ideas and go through a quick logical analysis on the product line as it might stand.
(sorry for the length, but theres a lot to cover)
First, there are some important assumptions that can be helpful in narrowing down the options:
a)\tIpod have always gotten unequivocally better than their previous versions. In every new generation, there has Always been models that loose nothing (really significant) from previous models. The only possible exception would be the mini diehards, but the nano proved to be a positive upgrade in all respects, with a smaller size, eventually greater capacity, and better battery life with flash memory. What Apple wants to avoid is making someone want to buy (other than for sentimentality) a previous version, and they have been successful.
b)\tBecause of the above point, they are unlikely to do the following
i.\tNot include a HDD ipod. The highest conceivable flash-memory based ipod would have 32 gigs, and could pay a premium for that. Many people use up all of their 60 and 80 gig ipods, so not including one of the same or larger size would make a previous generation (and 5.0) superior in a significant way.
ii.Get rid of the small form factor of the nano. Unless the pictures have the scale wrong (maybe the click wheel isnt the part that stays the same size, but the width, and its just a shorter nano but not wider???), they would be getting rid of the best selling Ipod ever, and not with a compatible version. The nano fills a huge niche: people who want to listen to some (not dozens of gigs) of music. Its cheap, small, and easy, and would remain popular even after it was discontinued. The nano, or some small and cheap heir, must remain.
c)\tIgnore the niche of the shuffle. Its cheap, there are some people who love its size and functions, so why get rid of it. I dont think than anyone is suspecting that, so we have another model.
Lets regroup. We have, at this point, two models that seem stupid to kill because there is nothing more to add (i.e. a larger screen, or a screen period) that wouldnt come at the cost of what defines the Nano or shuffle (size, randomness). So we have:
1) SHUFFLE. While they may want to keep from having too many versions (like sandisk or creative, that make things complicated), there is no reason not to add a 4gb version, keep the 2gb version, and maybe have a 1gb version, with a subsequent price shift. Other devices are catching up and are cheaper, so apple may have to pull some muscle here.
2)\tNANO. While its hard to see them discontinuing it, it is also difficult to predict what they will do to differentiate it. Video (on the current sized pod) seems pointless (especially if the stubby comes to pass), and while a 16 gb version may be in the works, one would expect something more. Shorter pod? Longer screen? Its impossible to tell without knowing the other models (or having a source).
3)\tTOUCH/WIDESCREEN. The current ipod video is primarily 2 years old. While a stubby (get to that later) could be in the works, that would be a pathetic upgrade to span 3 years of ipods, and by next fall, Apple would be significantly behind other companies. WI-FI would be nearly pointless (read Zune) on a click-wheel/small screen ipod, and so (baring Apple coming up with a new technology completely, like mind reading) widescreen is all that is left. While one could still use a click wheel, WHY would Apple abandon OS X , coverflow, and such when they already have the technology. A widescreen Ipod is a MUST from a commercial/technological standpoint, and weve seen them do it.
---Also, this is likely where a HDD would come in. While a stubby could have a hard drive, the primary use for the larger hard drives would be to include some video, which would go perfectly with a widescreen. Maybe theyll have flash for frequently played songs (or loading current playlists before turning off the hard drive temporarily), and maybe theyll have a flash-only version (although that could be too many models for Apple), but you can bet on a Widescreen, hard drive ipod with multi-touch.
---Wi-FI? I would love it, as my home and work all have WI-FI, so I could always be connected. This has been a hotly debated topic, and it is hard to predict with the Iphone in the mix. That said, it was ApplePi at Appleinsider that made the most compelling argument. If the video has a Hard Drive (or at least 16 or 32 gigs of Flash) as it must for a video niche device, than it would far surpass the iphone in that regard. While some people would likely buy both, it is hard to see the iphone taking second place to an ipod at this time, as the ipod would only be lacking phone capability. Remember the January Keynote when Steve said there were three devices, for now, I think we can expect the Ipod (although we can still hope) to stay in its niche and let the iphone take all three. In a year or so, things may be different. Hopefully, even without internet and mail, the ipod will have calendar and pda capabilities (and why not?, its only software), as it will certainly have photos. It would, however, be interesting to see with AppleTV.
---If were lucky, though, it could have Bluetooth for synching to computers, each other, and most of all, headphones. This could open hacking for browsing the internet through ones Bluetooth enabled computer (many PDAs do this). The downside: its slow (although they used EDGE).
---Screen and size. Without the need for a microphone or earpiece built in, it could retain a 320:480 screen with a shorter form factor, or, if were really lucky, go wider (for true 16:9, although that seems like a longshot).
4)\tNEW NANO/STUBBY/MINI?. Here is where it gets a bit tricky. Without knowing prices for the new Nano and Touch, it is hard to know if there is room for something inbetween. What IS promising, however, is that while the 3 above models have logic behind them, the newest device is the one that has been getting the most rumors (and fake pictures), surpassing even the touch. While it doesnt fit a random/small/video nitch of the other three models, Apple could add it between a $200 8gb Nano and $350/$400 Touch. If the top Nano is $250 and the Touch is $299, then there is much less room for another device. Shrinking the video ipod, however, could be easy, cheap, and compete against devices in that niche (while the Touch has the premium slot all to its own). If it IS flash, it could be much thinner (there have been pictures), which wouldnt make it seem so obese but more like a thin but wide card.
While these above products seem logical, there are a few important caveats:
i)\tApple may work on the best technologies it can and see how they come together, rather than pre-planning everything.
ii)\tApples AT&T agreement could throw a wrench into everything, but dont bet on apple being that stupid.
iii)\tApple has, in the past, kept down the number of specific models. There are, at the moment, 2 video ipods, 3 nanos, and a shuffle. We could see 2 touch ipods, 2 video ipods, 2/3 nanos, and 2 shuffles. On the other hand, the market and technology has only grown, and as apple can outcompete others directly, they may opt for more models.
iv)\tApple has shown itself to have many tricks up its sleeve. We could still be in for a WOW display (but seriously, dont expect the iphone nano). Expect SOMETHING that no one has mentioned on this board.
Well, I guess I ranted for a while, but It helped me make sense of all of the rumors that Ive been hearing, so score one for sanity. Ive been waiting for an ipod forever (Ive used a PDA), and havent wanted to get something (5.5g) that will soon be out of date (although if they release ipod Wi-FI next year, Ill be annoyed). Id love it to be Sept. 5, and while the store stocking reports hint towards that, Apple has yet to mention anything other than the Paris expo, and we are all probably a little biased (and very impatient) for an earlier release dade.
Id just like to thank everyone on this (and a few other boards), because most of what Ive written above (and all of the good stuff) came from many others debating this. I just like lists, and Id like nothing better than being able to scroll through my music lists with muti-touch and coverflow within a couple of weeks.