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Ruminations: iPod, where do we go from here?

Ruminations: iPod, where do we go from here?

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Congratulations! Odds are, you have one of the 14 million iPods sold by Apple in the last quarter of 2005. That was over 100 sold every minute of every hour of every day between October 1st and December 31st. A total of 42 million iPods of all flavors have been sold to date. At least, that's what Steve shared during the Keynote address...

So? What do you do now? Well, let us hope that you have discovered all of the great content now available at the iTunes Music Store. Something for everyone and every iPod there, including what seems to be an ever-expanding selection of video content. You might want to check out the iTunes Essentials for some great tracks from your favorite artists, genres or histories. And of course, you busy are adding music from all of those compact discs that you legally purchased, as well.

But why is it that you have this nagging feeling that there is something more? Something that just does the trick. And now you have that feeling this is somewhere out there, just waiting for the proper retail opportune moment for you to swoop in. To gather this treasure and complete your total iPod experience, right?

Well, at least that is what Apple and other folks are hoping you will experience. So while you are organizing all of the 89 playlists you have created from all of that content, sit back and let fate take you on a Magical Mystery Tour of the waiting world of iPod goodies. (For the record, no, there still is no Beatles content on iTunes. And you thought Disney has issues! Apple Corps versus Apple Computer. No fun of any kind...)

Starting the parade, let us begin with a few goodies from Apple it's self. Among many things that iPod users have clamored for was an FM radio receiver. And last week, Steve came through and showed off Apple's iPod Radio Remote as the first new product of the Keynote. At $49 it may be a bit pricey for some, but that includes not only the Radio Remote, but also a shorter set of earphones designed to work with it. And if you're like some people I know who seem to forget where they place things from time to time (Hey, that is not limited to any particular generation!), an extra set of those is a good thing to have. Early user feedback has the FM reception being fairly good and easy to use.

Speaking of earphones, Apple also offers an alternative with In-Ear headphones. They come with three different sizes of caps to fit your ears better. Another choice, if you have an iPod Nano is the Nano Lanyard Headphones. After seeing how well the iPod Shuffle works with it's lanyard, this simple add-on makes the Nano all the more friendly.

There are plenty of third-party headphone/earphone products out there now, too. Griffin Technology's EarJams are one of the more reasonably priced choices. Simply snapping onto your existing Apple earphones, they also offer a choice of three sizes to best fit your ear. After having worn a headset at work for many years (with either in-ear or on-ear headphones), I found these very comfortable with great sound, especially bass response. And they allowed enough exterior sound so that I wasn't cut off from the outside world while listening.

And therein lies a good cautionary note... as with any audio source, extended exposure at an excessive volume level will lead to permanent damage to your hearing. Yes, there actually is something beneficial to all of those parental warnings to turn down the music. 'nuff said?

If you want a bit more of flexibility in listening to your iPod, there are plenty of options to choose from. Could it be that you want to do something else around the house or in the office at the same time as listening? Well, then you are probably in the market for a speaker system of some kind to go along with it. You could start on the low end with something like the Monster iSpeaker Portable. It plugs into the headphone jack of any iPod and uses a pair of flat panel speakers. Powered by four AA batteries, it won't effect the battery of the iPod, either. A bit further up the ladder, there is Altec Lansing inMotion iM11 Mobile Speaker System. I know more than a few Mac users for whom this company has produced the product of choice for many years. With this, you can not only enjoy the great sound, but also recharge your iPod at the same time. For a really top of the line choice, Bose offers the SoundDock Digital Music System. With the kind of sound you expect from Bose products, this one could easily be your home sound system.

At Macworld, there were plenty of choices if you wanted to make a fashion statement with your speakers, even a few as backpacks or purses. Not my style, but I am sure there are plenty of people for whom that is the "must have" accessory of choice.

So we're all set for sound. But what if you are one of those folks who want to take their iPod out and about. Let's face it. We're all human. We're going to do something dumb at some point. So, why not take a step to try and minimize the damage? That is exactly where a case or cover comes into play. And that is why the very first thing that I purchased for my iPod was a case. iSkin was the choice. Lightweight and easy to slip on or off. While ice white was the color that worked for me, the line now has plenty of others to make yours stand out however you want it to.

But don't stop there! Graphic blandishment is the next step in cases. iSkin offers Vibes for the Nano and the Shuffle. The first series features beautiful Japanese inspired works by renowned artist Simone Legno of tokidoki. Looking for something more from this side of the Pacific? XtremeMac offers Iconz for the Nano's with some favorite images including Homer Simpson, Speed Racer, Darth Vader and SpongeBob. They also offer some of your favorite MLB and NBA teams. Likely only a matter of time before the have all of those teams and more. They haven't forgotten the Shuffle folks, either. With Shieldz, there are MLB and more of the pop culture images to choose from. (I think it's a safe bet that someone in the US will soon be licensing images from Disney producing skins or covers with your favorite character.)

If you might be one of the types who will take their iPod for a bit of rugged entertainment, hard cases are the only option. You could follow the lead of Disney and check out the Speck Products Tough Skin. Or are you one of those folks who might take your iPod to the ski slope or your favorite half-pipe for a day of snow boarding? Looks like a waterproof case is something you might need. H2OAudio has the answer. It's SV or Surface cases. And if you plan on going underwater, they have the DV or Deep Version specifically designed for Scuba applications down to 200 feet. Now that's cool!

Looking for something a bit more of the usual way to enjoy that iPod? Lots of folks are doing that while driving. Whether it is a long trip down the I-5 to Anaheim or just the usual commute, likely you have a playlist or three to get you through. Griffin's iTrip was one of the first and still may be the easiest of car accessories for the iPod, plugging into the earphone jack. It allows you to select an open FM radio frequency and broadcasts a low power signal that you car radio receives. Now the line has something for every version, even a cup holder cradle called the iSqueeze to make sure your iPod doesn't go wandering all over the dashboard. Lot's of other companies have similar products but the iTrip wins my vote. On the cup holder side of the coin, the folks at MacAlly have their FM Cup. It takes the approach using the dock and combines the FM transmitter for the iPod with the charger and the cup holder with a backlit LCD display.

But why stop there when it comes to your car? A number of auto manufacturers have already included iPod options on their vehicles. Chrysler has become the first of the US automakers to do so, as they announced at the Detroit Auto Show on January 8th that their 2006 models will now include full iPod integration. If things go as planned, in 2006 over forty percent of cars sold in the US will offer iPod integration.

In closing his remarks on the iPod, Steve teased us all, by saying "More iPods are on the way, for those who didn't get one in the last quarter." Whether he meant will you get a chance to get one of the current crop or something in a totally new iPod product? Only time will tell. Safe to say, there will be plenty of new accessories waiting to go along with what ever comes.

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