The thing is, I can’t abide AT&T’s presumably bullshit patent claim against MPEG-4. If they or one of their corporate predecessors (SBC, Cingular, Bell South, etc.) genuinely had IP that was incorporated into the MPEG-4 standards, then they should have joined the MPEG-4 patent pool five years ago, like everyone else did, so they would have had MPEG-LA collecting license fees on their behalf all this time. Like any patent troll, they were presumably happy to submarine their patent and let others risk developing the market for them. Or, more likely, they really don’t have a valid claim, and they’re just shaking down the digital media industry for easy extort-o-bucks. But in any case, there’s not a non-sleazy conclusion: either AT&T was sleazy then or they’re sleazy now. Not a trait I’m looking for when making two year commitments, thank you.
There is an irony in this, of course. MPEG-4 has been critical to the success of the iPod, as it includes the AAC audio codec that Apple has pushed so hard, as well as the H.264 video codec used by Apple’s various video offerings. And let’s not forget that the .mp4 format was based on the QuickTime file format in the first place… another MPEG-4/Apple link. I imagine that Steve must realize that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson hopes to gore Steve’s sacred cow, while Randall must (if he believes, pathologically or genuinely, that his company’s patent claims are valid) that the MPEG-4 content played on these iPhones and sent over his network are stealing from his company’s IP. Any chance they have a gentlemen’s agreement not to sue or kill one another, since the iPhone upside is so much more than AT&T will ever make off patent trolling? Just something to think about.
But I suppose that like a lot of people, I’m waiting for the next iPod to incorporate iPhone-like features. Basically, some equation of the form:
iPhone - phone + HDD + white finish = 6G iPod
The appeal of a turn-sideways widescreen portable movie-playing iPod is obvious, but what’s not clear is how the 4GB in the smaller iPhone is enough room for a significant amount of content, particularly video (iTunes Store TV shows are about 0.5 GB per hour). Unless flash memory has gotten real cheap in the 20 GB range, we’re probably talking hard drive on the next iPod, right? There’s still an audience that doesn’t mind the bulk of the hard drive instead of flash memory, if it means much more room for your stuff. I’ve been holding on to my 2G 10GB iPod for a while, looking forward to having more room… a dinky nano-like capacity, such as that of the iPhone, is not real appealing to me.
One curious thing implicit in my equation above: take the phone out of the iPhone, but do you take the wi-fi and Safari too? This could be one of those times when it’s really hard to second-guess Apple marketing. On the one hand, if that’s a desirable feature that they already know how to make, why not throw it in the 6G iPod? But on the other hand, Apple’s aesthetics usually argue against gratuitous features: if the iPod is a media player, what business does it have throwing in a web browser and mail client too? I can see Steve saying “if you want to communicate, get an iPhone.”
The other thing they’ll need to fix on the 6G iPod is gaming. That’s an initiative that seems to have utterly stalled; while those of us in the “ball and chain” world of Java ME enjoy thousands of games, the 5G iPod still offers, what, maybe 15? This needs to get fixed or dropped before it becomes a more obvious embarrassment.