Moving on from the Nano, videos on the go

By John Ostrowski

Apple’s iTunes online store is further transforming itself into an entertainment store as opposed to what it used to be, simply a music store.

The music store in itself was revolutionary in that it was a legal online answer to pirating. It allowed conscientious music lovers who wanted to acquire their music via their computer a legal outlet to do so. And of course, it was highly successful, both for Apple and for the recording companies; although the recording companies could be getting a better deal, given that Apple afford generous usage rights to purchasers.

I think both Apple and the recording companies should be happy. However, I do not blame recording companies for being highly suspect of online music, given that they were thrust into the game by millions of music pirates who essentially stole music and then turned around and demonized the very companies who were being ripped off. Quite a trick, but that’s another topic for another day.

The transformation of Apple’s online store coordinates with the release of yet another new iPod. My previous column detailed what seems to be Apple’s over-saturation of the mp3 player market. Well, guess what? Now everyone who thought they were getting the latest and greatest Apple had to offer by buying the Nano got screwed. Now there’s a new iPod out there, and it lets you play videos.

The video iPod comes in 30 gigabyte and 60 gigabyte models and starts at $299. If you recall, the Nano came in 2 GB and 4 GB and starts at $199. So, all those Nano buyers needed only to wait a few weeks and for an extra hundred bucks, they would have gotten fifteen times the memory (though they would have sacrificed the pencil-thinness that Apple seemed to crone on about with regard to the Nano).

I have my doubts that this whole video thing will even catch on. Remember portable televisions? Remember how stupid they were? Remember how you were excited by the prospect of watching TV everywhere but disappointed by the realization that the execution of the concept was terrible. Well, the execution of video on the go has been improved (not having to worry about reception, color screen, etc.) but the screen is still terribly tiny.

And let’s assume that this does catch on. The campus is currently very worried about pedestrian safety and rightly so. How will things be made safer if people suddenly are walking all over campus glued to their iPod screen watching “Desperate Housewives”? Once again, that issue can be saved for another time.

It’s pretty clear that I’m not too excited by the idea of yet another iPod, this one able to play videos on the go. I am excited, however, about the idea of legally purchasing videos (including, as of now, Pixar animations and several TV shows) and watching them on a full-size monitor in the comfort and safety of my own abode. Not that any of the current TV shows offered really appeal to me. They include the “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” “That’s So Raven,” “Night Stalker” and “The Suite Life.”

Slashdot has reported, however, that there is the possibility of old sitcoms being offered on iTunes. This, I think, is brilliant. Anyone who’s ever watched Nick at Nite knows that the programming deteriorated from classic 50’s shows to more recent shows that either are not as good or are offered on other stations as well. TV Land still offers classic 50’s and 60’s shows, though even that channel has begun introducing more recent programming into its lineup.

This is not to say that there are a huge number of sitcoms pending release on iTunes, it’s just that there is that possibility. And how could this not be a huge cash cow for the owners of old series? Most of the legwork is done, all that remains is to digitize and sell.

And it is now crystal clear that Apple’s ambitions lie beyond legalizing online music, but making online entertainment in all forms a lucrative business.

I suppose that to pat Apple on the back for offering videos, and then to condemn them for giving people the means to play them on the go is somewhat hypocritical. To me, portable video players are absolutely worthless, but if the demand is there, Apple is right to supply its consumers, I just hope that this surge in Apple’s popularity, especially via the iPod, does not prove to be a growing bubble that will eventually have to burst.

John Ostrowski is a junior in Communications. His column appears on Tuesdays. He can be reached at

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