True revolutions start at the fringe, not at the center. Steve Jobs already showed that he understood this concept when he made the original iPod a cool way of listening to music for the hip few, rather than starting immediately by trying to produce an MP3 player for the masses. The iPod started its career in the trendy and affluent urban universe, and triggered the domino effect we are all abundantly familiar with.
Video was going to be much more difficult of course: As Jobs himself pointed out many times, watching a movie on a handheld device is not a very satisfying experience. Plus, uniting the movie studios behind an iPod Video Store today would have been an order of magnitude more complex than rallying the music labels ailing from peer-to-peer file sharing behind the iTunes Music Store a few years ago.
With that in mind, lets have a quick look at Apples Oct. 12 announcement. And to get to the point, lets look at what Apple didnt announce, rather than what it did. Apple did not, for one, announce a Video iPod. Apple announced the new hard-drive-based iPod—and it so happens, it also plays video.
This is a pretty important distinction. Jobs has not announced a multimedia player; he has not announced yet another iteration of the iPod concept, this time geared toward replacing your DVD player or television set. Jobs just announced the new iPod.
It may also be a hip way to watch a certain kind of video content. Jobs is starting small, and by doing so, he has a much better chance of success than by trying to change deeply ingrained media consumption habits.
Now all that would be nice and dandy, but how big is the market for downloaded music videos really? And how many of us will go through the hassle of downloading our home videos to an iPod? All these are convenient possibilities, but they are not likely to change the way we live for the time being. Video Podcasts are an interesting angle, too, but they are still a very marginal phenomenon.
So here is the brilliant idea: The iTunes Music Store is now offering individual episodes of high-profile TV series such as "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives." Now we are talking.