Apple launches VoIP iPod?

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Apple launches VoIP iPod?

Red Herring is creating their own little "herring" by speculating that Apple plans on launching an Apple iPod with VoIP capabilities. Red Herring writes:

When Apple talks, people listen-and chat among themselves—and the computer company’s announcement about products to be unveiled Tuesday had watchers speculating about a VoIP-enabled iPod. <snip...> Talk of Wi-Fi on personal media devices like iPods has generated speculation that the company might roll out VoIP-enabled media players.

My reply? I don't think so. Not yet anyway. VoIP is still a little immature to start making MP3 players that also double as a VoIP phone.. Sure, the iPod started with music, and then they added video with the video iPod, but a VoIP iPod?

Let me put this in perspective. Even with hundreds of hotspots around the country, even WiFi VoIP phones aren't exactly taking off. It's more hype than reality. There are three problems with WiFi phones. One, they are very "niche" - "one trick ponies" if you will - that only techies and VoIP fans will shell out the $100 to $200 to pay for them. Second, it's another device to carry. Third, many hotspots have a Web authentication page in order to obtain access to the hotspot's Internet connectivity. Since WiFi phones don't have a Web browser, often times they cannot get a connection. The standards are a bit immature to make sure WiFi phones can obtain access without a Web browser.

So with these three problems with VoIP and hotspots, why would Apple add VoIP functionality to an iPod? Even though I am a huge fan of VoIP, the market just isn't ready for a VoIP-enabled iPod. Further, why would Apple incur more costs to embed VoIP into their iPods? They have to add more memory to hold the SIP stack (assuming they go with SIP), they have to beef up the processor to handle the encoding and decoding of the voice packets. The Apple iPod (Third Generation/Fourth Revision) features dual 90 MHz ARM 7TDMI processors (PortalPlayer PP5002 system on a chip), which is not nearly powerful enough to handle realtime encoding and decoding of voice packets. Unless Apple drops this processor in favor of a more powerful processor, VoIP on the iPod just ain't gonna happen. And if Apple uses a more powerful processor, they will compromise battery life. Who wants an iPod that will drain the batteries in 30 minutes if you make a 30 minute VoIP call?

This is way too much feature-creep if you ask me. Microsoft is known for feature-creep, not Apple. Apple is known for their laser like focus on creating innovative and useful products, not just throwing every feature and see what sticks.

Since Apple is now "friends" with Intel, it is "possible" Apple could switch to say a 624 MHz Intel PXA270 processor used in some Windows Mobile 5.0 phones. But if Apple is going to go with a speedy Intel processor with plenty of horsepower, why not just make a full-fledged Apple iPod iTunes Mobile Phone and compete with Microsoft? Course, they'd have to come up with a whole new mobile operating system and compete against both Palm and Microsoft. Hey, maybe that's what they will announce in a few hours, who knows? It is more likely that Apple is announcing some wireless connectivity in today's announcement and not VoIP. First wireless, then maybe 1-2 years down the road, VoIP. Baby steps... Baby steps... Red Herring mentions WiFi, but it's more likely it'll be Bluetooth if you ask me. WiFi is too much of a battery hog.

Getting back to WiFi phones, to me dual-mode phones are much more interesting since they are multi-functional and not one-trick ponies like their WiFi phone counterparts. Perhaps Apple will be announcing a dual-mode phone with iTunes? But a VoIP iPod? - I don't think so. If it does happen, the media will all clamor and say how smart Apple was for being a true innovator and being the first to develop a VoIP-capable music player. But after all the hype dies down, we'll see just how many VoIP iPods Apple sells. In my opinion, not many.



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