Portable Video Devices = Bad Times?


I found these quotes from Steve Jobs via the channel9 forums.  Jobs essentially discusses the problems with trying to market a portable video player and makes the case that if you did make one it should ideally be designed to hook into a larger screen when you take it with you rather than caring as much about the video on the device.  It makes sense to me, especially when I think about how I use my Ipod. 



  • I use it a lot in the car, where I'm hooking the audio up to “a bigger screen”. 

  • I use it for parties at home plugged into my home stereo for the “bigger screen” scenario. 

  • I use it for listening to audio when I don't want to be watching video because I'm at work, reading a book, jogging, or just walking around town. 

Then think about where a portable video player would fit in your life. 



  • Hook it up to a bigger screen in the car for passenger usage. 

  • Bring video with you to a friends house. How often do people do this. Isn't it easier just to bring a DVD over?  With music ou have the advantage of packing 5,000 songs on one device. 

  • Use it when traveling. Make the assumption you are somehow able to hook it up to a hotel TV. 

  • Watch video on the plane.

I'd make the case that the last scenario is not that interesting to you unless you could hook the video up to a larger screen.  But then why not watch video on your laptop.  Yeah, you might have to carry an extra battery with you, but it probably takes up less space than the portable video players.  In general music is just applicable to more everyday scenarios than video.  And I worry that the sacrifices needed to make a PVD with a screen work will ruin my everyday music experience by making the device a battery hog and feel like I'm carrying a brick.  But lets pretend you do ditch the screen and my PVD just came with a video in/out. 


There are other problems with the concept that aren't going away anytime soon either. 


Selling, even half hour TV shows, via an iTunes type service is not a satisfying purchasing experience because of the bandwidth.  I get my music almost instantly on iTunes and it's probably not that bad for modem users to grab 3-4mb at a time.  TV shows on the other hand... So how would I get my portable videos?



  • Rip my DVDs to my PC and then copy them to my PVD.  This experience feels daunting today, even for people with decent computer experience. 

  • Record my TV shows on my computer and then copy them to the device.  This is probably a bit more accessible with the advent of PVR software on PCs.

  • Seamless integration with Windows Media Center.  This is probably the easiest route, but your going to pay for it.  It just feels like too much of a barrier to entry to make waves in the consumer space. An Ipod may cost $300 dollars, but they give away the iTunes experience and you don't need the latest hardware to run it.  Music presents a much lower barrier to entry.

Maybe I'm not looking down the ten year path here, but I see music becoming an almost instant experience and video still lagging way behind here music is today.  Music, today, has IMO, passed the “tipping point“, where there stars have aligned.  I think if it took twice as long as it does today to transfer the music around it would be a very small market.  Want to make it easier?  Settle some differences with Tivo, WMC, cable DVRs, etc and create a universal dock mechanism for PVDs where I just sit it on top of my Tivo device and it has as much of my most recent content as it can fit without any interaction on my part. 


Am I crazy? Probably, your talking with someone who doesn't own a cell phone. 🙂 Do I not see a ten year vision here?  Is video as applicable in as many or more scenarios than music to make it worthwhile to take everywhere? 

Comments (6)
  1. BillT says:

    Why "hooking up"? Why not just a wireless interface — no cables, no connections? Just a well-defined software/airwave specification.

  2. jledgard says:

    Great for the future. Though I expect wired connections as a requirement until the standard reaches critical mass.

  3. AT says:

    Big screen ? Why ?

    Take a look on current prototypes of eyeglasses-mounted displays. This way you will be able to create portable/personal video device.

    For example take a look on this product list:

    http://www.wearablegear.com/comproddisplay.htm

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