Okay, time to put on my analyst hat and do my own rumors/predictions for the next iPod lineup coming later this year as more and more rumors start popping up in the blogosphere. With more and more "analyst" pulling stuff out of obviousness and thin air, I think I could co better.
Let's start with the iPod shuffle. The iPod shuffle got an early makeover earlier this year, in the form of the 3G Shuffle, which sports no buttons on the main body. It drew a lot of criticism, but it seems obvious to me that this is just Apple's testbed on how the market will react to the voice over feature. Couple things that may happen:
1. Apple keeping the current 4GB 3G shuffle as is, maybe dropping the price to $50-$60 level.
2. Apple bringing back the 2G shuffle form factor with buttons, but with the 3G innards (Voice over, Apple lossless support, Apple earbud+remote support, etc). Apple is still selling the 2G shuffle (1GB for $50), so why not making the lineup matching again with the same form factor. I can see Apple spinning the criticism of the 3G Shuffle by saying "The people are demanding buttons on the Shuffle, and we're going to give it to them!" (Cue in the claps and cheers from the audience). I still think Apple might drop the price to the $50-$60 level too. 2GB 2G Shuffle for $40-$50, 4GB "3.5G" Shuffle at $50-$60.
3. Clean up the 3G Shuffle even more, getting rid of the shuffle slider resulting in just a completely smooth piece of aluminum with a headphone jack (no buttons nor sliders). Put an accelerometer in it, and voila, Shuffle with "shake to shuffle" feature. LOL.
Whatever happens, I just want Apple to put gapless playback into the Shuffle.
Next, the iPod nano. The 4G nano is a clear sign that Apple is running out of ideas for the lineup (Shake to shuffle? Really?). In fact, I still prefer the 3G nano's Now Playing screen as it shows the song's rating while the 4G nano does not. The only thing that makes the 4G nano attractive is its selection of colors. So, here are my predictions:
1. Keeping the same 4G nano but adding voice over feature, and cutting the price so Apple can push the pricing of the iPod Touch without overlapping. So maybe 8GB for $99, 16GB for $149, in line with the current refurbished pricing.
2. Currently, there are rumors about the new nano sporting a camera. Imo this is just too farfetched, and even sillier than adding "shake to shuffle." Unless, of course Apple has something up their sleeve. I'm guessing of a touch screen nano. It will have a touch screen covering the front face completely like the iPod Touch. Instead of having a full iPhone/Touch OS, it will just have a stripped down ver of the OS, with only the iPod app plus the basic apps (Contacts, Calendar, Photo. No Mail/Safari/app store, etc). Now, with this setting, adding a camera might work, as it already has the OS to support it. Basically an iPod Touch nano, focusing more on the iPod features. Obviously it will have voice over too. The camera would probably just the basic 2MP one from the 1st gen iPhone (Apple probably already have a boatload of these), not the 3.2MP one from the 3GS. This might work, and will also give Apple a leverage to keep a bit of price premium. 16GB for $179, 8GB for $129. I can see the new slogan already, "Touch, on the smallest iPod ever."
Regardless of what happen, it's a given that there is going to be a price cut and voice over. Either way, I can see the line of standalone DAPs on its last leg, with the trend going to a mobile-OS based PMPs (in Apple's case, the iPod Touch).
iPod Classic, the original iPod lineup that, unfortunately, is getting a step-child treatment. Last year, it didn't even get any UI upgrades, other than the support of the earbud with remote+mic and Genius. It also an oddball in Apple's usually clean lineup, having an overlapping price with the iPod Touch. My guess for the Classic:
1. Keeping the same 120GB, adding voice over. Really, Apple cannot do much on the classic. I don't see Toshiba releasing higher capacity 5mm height hard-drives than the current 120GB. Plus, Apple's obsession with thinness made them discontinued the thicker Classics last year, so I doubt Apple would bring them back. Price cut might happen too, dropping the price to, let's say, $199 to $229. Really, not many competitors here other than the Zune 120, so Apple might as well keep the same $249 price point.
2. Discontinue it altogether. Apple might just decide it's time to truly focus on the iPod Touch, and the oddball Classic pricing was in the way. This might irk some people desiring high capacity players, but I don't think the majority of the consumers would be bothered. I doubt the sales of the Classic is that great, as the big sellers are the Touch and nano.
3. Make a flash based Classic. Really, this is my wish. As much as I love the 3G nano, its controls are just too small. I love my 5G iPod, but the hard-drive prevented me from using it on the go. If Apple went to the route of the Touch nano, maybe we can see a Touch Classic. It will have a full touch screen like the iPod Touch, but with the stripped down OS like the Touch nano, focusing on the iPod capabilities (no safari, no app store, etc). Price and capacity, maybe 16GB at $199, and 32GB at $299. Imo this is highly unlikely though, as it is really overlapping with the iPod Touch, and Apple usually prefer a clean lineup.
Well, it's sad to see high capacity hard-drive based players are going away. It wasn't that long ago we have hard-drive based Creative Jukebox, and the original iPod. Flash memory are just more reliable, and their pricing continues to go down.
Lastly, the iPod Touch. This is the flagship iPod product. Current rumors are that the next Touch will sport a camera, and I think it's true. I can see the next Touch sharing the same hardware with the iPhone 3GS, minus the phone, GPS, and compass. It will have the same camera, the same video recording capability, and a built-in mic. Voice over and voice command are a given. The only question is pricing.
1. 1 way is Apple keeping the premium price and follow the same trend as the iPhone. 16GB for $299, 32GB for $399, and keeping the 8GB 2G Touch at $199. Apple does want people to get the iPhone, thus the 2G Touch pricing was not cheaper than the iPhone 3G. Apple might decide to keep the Touch prices higher than the iPhone 3GS to encourage people buying the iPhone instead.
2. Or Apple can be aggressive, simply price the 16GB new Touch at $199, and 32GB at $299. This will really make the competitors scrambling (especially looking at Sony's pricing of their X series).
3. A more conservative pricing, matching the ZuneHD. The ZuneHD is rumored to start at 16GB at $249, so maybe Apple would simply follow that. 16GB for $249, 32GB for $349. Still a good deal if it has the auto focus camera and a built-in mic. Might not be so hot otherwise though, as the ZuneHD can output 720p.
To be honest, I just want Apple to put shuffle-by-album feature on the iPod Touch. this is a basic feature on the regular iPods. Why is it not in the supposedly "best iPod ever"?
So, there's my analysis prediction for the next iPod lineup, way before all the so-called analysts making their obvious predictions. Take that. LOL. Alas, I'm not getting paid while those so-called analysts are getting paid for writing the obvious.
One can see, as I already stated before, that the trend is going towards mobile OS platform. Standalone DAPs are going nowhere, and a smarter device is the obvious next step. Microsoft is using Windows mobile/CE for the ZuneHD. Apple already have the mobile OS X for the Touch. Sony is going Android for their next Walkman. Standalone DAPs will be just low end cheapo DAPs.