Nano Signals The Times Are A Changing. Again.

by Chris Howard Sep 14, 2005

The iPod nano is undoubtedly the future of the iPod. Despite Steve once poo-poohing flash based music players, famously saying they are “the kind of music players that end up in the drawer and never get used”. In true Stevespeak, I’m sure he’d say that’s because they don’t have the design and functionality of an iPod and that would never happen to an Apple one. That’s probably why they entered the flash market - to show everyone else how it’s done.

The nano represents a convergence of the mini and the shuffle but also a divergence from the larger standard iPod. A poll by MacPolls last year, found that 84% of respondents had 6000 or less songs on their computer. That would translate to 24GB on an iPod. If you listened to your iPod for 8 hours per day, then it would take 6 weeks to hear every song. On shuffle, you could go weeks without hearing the same song twice. More significantly, 50% of respondents had 3000 or less songs. This is Apple’s sweet spot. If they can build an affordable nano for that market, then they will sell like… umm… iPods!

Apple estimate 4MB per song, 3000 songs is around 12GB. If the nano sells well enough (chortle, chortle), we could see an 8GB in 12 months time - probably at $499 but dropping to $399 in 2007. Sometime before then we’ll see the shuffle discontinued, as the price of the 2GB nano comes closer to the current price of the 1GB shuffle.

As an owner of both a shuffle and a white, a nano is the perfect player. (What IS the moniker for the original form factor iPod? Can we call it the white iPod? Or will The Beatles sue us because it’s too like The White Album? And there’s a bit of interesting trivia - the word “Beatles” is not in the OS X spell checker… maybe Apple’s never heard of them…) Unlike Hadley, some of us don’t have a Christmas Club account dedicated solely to buying the latest iPod, so it’s not going to happen anytime soon - unless of course Apple feel the need to donate to all the writers on Apple Matters, one shiny new nano each, so we can say nice things about it on here…

Once the 8GB does appear, that frees Apple up to get serious about taking the high capacity hard drive based iPods in other directions. Video for example.

The history of the cost of iPods and flash based memory devices indicates that all iPods will be flash based within 4 years, except for the iPod video, which could even be a 1TB beast by then. (Think about that! That’s 250,000 songs. Try filling that with just music.) It is likely therefore that you will only have one design to chose from - something similar to the nano - with different colors and configurations for portable music - unless you’ve got a quarter of a million songs and need the iPod Beast.

Historically, Apple products start highly priced and low on features. The original iPod in 2001 was 5GB and worked out to $79.80 per GB. Nowadays for the same price of $399 and for that design iPod, you get a color screen, TV connectivity, USB 2 and Firewire, Calendars, Notes, Audiobooks, Podcasts and 60GB - $6.65/GB. But there’s not a lot of significant features you can add to the nano without making it bigger. So we won’t see it’s price being kept high by things like color screens.

Flash memory seems to be doubling in capacity every 12 months or so. For the same price as 64MB four years ago, you can now get 512MB. The nano uses 1GB NAND memory chips on the 2GB according to Ars Technica’s autopsy of a nano (not for those with a weak stomach). Samsung have recently announced that it has developed the world’s first 16 gigabit NAND flash memory chips, which translates to 2GB, so development continues at a rapid pace, and capacities keep doubling.

By the end of 2007, expect to see 2, 4, 8 and 16GB nanos and 250GB iPod videos. Pricing may not allow for them to have anything in between the nano and the iPod video. I’m not going to predict the form factor of the ipod video, or even if it’s screen will be large enough. Two years isn’t long either.

As always, Apple keeps making sure the times they are a changing - and the others are struggling to keep up.

[Update: Corrections as identified in the comments below by readers, have been made]


  • This article is like a long wish list to Apple for what the writer hopes will be in the market. Like many other similar articles about what Apple’s going to do next, I find this article lack supporting evidence, therefore rendering it pure speculation. Be it how hard we all try to read Apple’s mind, apparently the only credible tales are kept inside Apple Campus in 1 Infinite Loop.

    However, there are very obvious signs from time to time of what Apple is up to for the next product launch. E.g. the public news of Apple buying up 40% of Samsung’s flash chips output foretold the coming of Nano, and there was also a news on iPod’s new processor that accurately predicted the coming of iPod Photo. Besides these type of information, and those obtained by prying open Apple’s guard and then get sued by Apple, the rest are, well, pure speculations.

    fingers08 had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 3
  • Apple’s ipod roadmap is fuzzy and Stevie J and company are great at misleading and surprising us. I think all that we can predict right now is that the 4GB nano is the same price as the 6GB mini because of current flash memory prices. By Christmas or spring we’ll have a 6 gigger at $249, a 4 gigger at $199, and the 2 gigger will be gone with the wind.

    VidPod? I have no idea. Take a look at the content market for when Apple starts buying movie companies or videocasts go big time and/or bandwidth explodes to video capable proportions then we’ll probably see a VidPod.

    terrandabo had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 7
  • I often wonder why folks try to speculate so much - perhaps they own Apple stock - but perhaps it’s as fingerso8, we all wish at time to time that a product could be better.  I’ve just recently given-up wishing for things from Apple with the introduction of their ‘Mighty Mouse’ - yeh, 2 buttons!

    Anyway, I’ve never been disappointed with any Apple product, I’ve owned - it speaks to quality of design - and I’m sure in the future they’ll still produce quality systems - so why speculate, I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised.


    d.Wood had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 3
  • I believe we abbreviate gigabyte with caps, e.g., GB, and gigabit as Gb (~1/8th the size).  I knew you meant GB, but perhaps not everyone does.

    Dave Marsh had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 44
  • A small correction: Samsung recently announced 16 gigabit (Gb) NAND chips, not 16 gigabyte (GB) chips.

    sulciphur had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 2
  • As noted by others, you may wan to go through the whole article and correct your abbreviations: You seem to always used a lower-case “b” for both gigabyte, gigabit, and megabyte values. For example, the “64Mb” is probably supposed to be 64 MegaBytes, which would be upper-case “B” as in “MB.”

    Many people don’t know the difference. you, as the author, should get it right so they learn.

    Krioni had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 18
  • I crave the Nano, but I may just have to hold on to my Zen Micro while I wait for the Ipod Video. My thought is, there is nothing holding Apple back from introducing the Ipod Video hardware right now. The more likely reason, in true Apple fashion, Steve is probably working on securing the rights to content first. So as to solve the chicken or egg problem of do you release the hardware before there is content. See ITunes/IPod success. Ideally, with the larger screen of IPod video, Apple may have chance to bring back another past product that was ahead of its time and merge it into this one - The Apple Newton. The first PDA on the market and one that would solve the problem of limited PDA for Apple computers now that Palm is on its last leg.

    amorde had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 4
  • I’m sure most flash memory makers ultimate goal is to become the next hard disk technology.  There have been numerous industry articles talking about replacing hard drives in notebooks with flash drives.  We’re probably a few years away from it but once it happens, you’ll see them everywhere.

    For me the Nano while cool looking, is too small.  I’m weird and I like to have 1000s of songs (5887 at last count) on my iPod so I can take months before I hear the same song again if I so want.  The 2GB and 4GB systems are too small for me.

    But it’s sure a pretty device.

    Trekkie had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 6
  • The Nano is reeaaaally sexy but it simply doesnt’ have the storage I need. In a few years, when flash memory technology has advanced, a product like this will be golden.

    d e l e t e p l s had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 5
  • The Nano maybe going flash now, but with Samsung rattling on about how flash memory will replace the hard disk…it might really finally also effect the desktop. At the moment though its just not really going to happen. On the desktop no matter what they claim, its too far away due to the read/right problems and failures. Can you just imagine the problems of a swap file, or internet cache bringing on these types of problems.

    Its not difficult to overcome on a flash based system with say ohh, right protecting the flash once the OS is installed/updated maybe with the Apps of choice, and just use RAM as cache and swap files, or storing to the network or internet. Had a lot of experience with that with WinXP embedded and Linux in this area personally and desktop wise, its possible to see it becoming more likely.

    Now, as for the future systems, well hmm, desktop wise its highly possible to see it moving from the thin client systems and to the desktop. Moving storage over to the internet maybe, or even the network in a media center kind of way to start with and away from the desktop machine as a temporary way to start with. Heck quiet easily…why would even a home desktop machine then need more than 10-20GB of storage natively on it at the max. Fire it up, everything’s brought to it across the network. Many companies have waffled on about it for years, but finally its only starting really to become within grasp of effecting the desktop though. And when it does. Why will any of us want a hard disk in our desktop machine?

    Nyadach had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 29
  • Thanks guys, have updated. As far as speculating goes, well from time to time it makes for some fun. And if we’re right, we dredge up that old article from the past and say “Woohoo! We were right!” and if we’re wrong, we shall never speak of this again. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 14, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • All I really want for Christmas is an IPod Beast and a sony location free TV, in 2009. Then I can watch the new Simpsons on the way to work.

    SaddlerB had this to say on Sep 15, 2005 Posts: 11
  • Wouldnt a cell phone with built in TV tuner be simpler Saddler?

    Nyadach had this to say on Sep 15, 2005 Posts: 29
  • Or just get a large screen cell phone from Palm or the like and transfer your episodes to your SD Card… works like a charm.

    dickrichards2000 had this to say on Sep 16, 2005 Posts: 112
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