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Articles: The Next iPod: Good, Bad or Indifferent

While Apple didn't invent the MP3 player, they certainly invented the MP3 player that would forever define the category: the iPod.

Over the years, the iPod has morphed from a music player to a near mini-computer, where you can text, chat, browse the web, record video, watch movies, play with an endless supply of applications, and yes, still just listen to music.

Apple has managed to impress and surprise more times than we can count over the years. But have they run out of ideas for the iPod? Where can they possibly take it next?

I ask this since September is historically the month Apple announces the next lineup of iPods. Currently, you can choose from the diminutive iPod shuffle, the colorful nano the
multi-function touch, and the mega-capacity iPod classic. Clearly, the iPod touch is the star of the line-up, not only in terms of sales, but its close relationship to another game-changing device: the iPhone.

So what does the future hold for the next iPod line? My guess is that the entry-level shuffle won't be going away. It's perfect for active users who need a small, no frills device that won't skip under duress. The iPod classic just might be destined for the scrap heap. I just can't see Apple putting much more R & D into a product category that has clearly morphed into more than only playing photos, videos and music. I'd wager the touch will take on the same form factor as the iPhone 4, including the camera. One could certainly hold out for improved battery life, as the iPad is a power-retention marvel. Maybe we'll even see a price drop, as is often the case with revisions to the iPod line.

Some talk about Apple providing music over the airwaves would also limit the need for the storage of the classic, but not much has happened there yet. Could that be the surprise?

The nano's price point is hard to beat, but the ol' scroll wheel may be replaced by a tiny touch screen. Come September, Apple will either surprise, or just make small adjustments in what is already a dominant product.

What do you think? Please feel free to voice your opinion, or your best guess as to upcoming refinements, in the comment box below.

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