The other thing I was thinking about was the distinction between Apple's product lines; the white plastic of iBooks and iMacs, and the brushed metal of the PowerBook and PowerMac. Was there room, I wondered, for a model of iPod that's distinct?
One that, perhaps, uses a 60G HD mechanism when it rolls off the lines, or a 40G that's no longer available in a plain iPod; one that sacrifices a little bit of compactness for a removable battery, given that people seem to think that's a feature worth campaigning for; perhaps one with more software features, like pitch control, scratching, and even, if you can work out how to present it sanely in a GUI, mixing. Possibly even a product that's encased in metal, not plastic, so people stop worrying so much about scratches.
(As a side note, candace was saying yesterday that she expects to leave her 20G iPod half-empty; it was just the best price point (why get the 10G when the remote and case together cost more than the difference in price between it and the 20?). If there's a way for Apple to make smaller, cheaper iPods, they could well turn out to be a great success. And they feed into this next paragraph, too...)
As often happens, I utterly failed to write this up, until I saw a vision of an alternate iPod future, by Chris Clark. He argues for a new generation of iPod - smaller, with better battery life, perhaps at the cost of hard drive space - and a new PowerPod, which would be a typical convergence-era device, with a camera, more PDA functions, colour screen, camera, and audio in.
It's an interesting counterpoint to my idea - which I'd rather call it the Xpod, to go with Xserve, as the name feels slightly less clumsy - but I think it tries to do way too much. The iPod is very focused, and while the Xpod has the opportunity to do more, straying too far from audio seems like a bad idea. Audio in is one thing, and possibly allowing simple modifications to the PDA functions (such as marking a todo item done) is another, but adding a camera is a whole new realm, and one that you suspect Apple is loathe to enter. Leave the PalmOne (or whatever it's called this quarter) licensees to that one.
It would also mark an interesting change in the way Apple uses software. Currently, iBooks and PowerBooks use exactly the same OS, with a couple of pretty insignificant freebies tossed in to differentiate them. iPod and Xpod would have to have completely different software, though, especially for any DJ features. (Actually, this fits my name quite well; Xserve runs Mac OS X Server, which is fairly different from the Client version most people run. Hmm.)
Anyway, we'll see if Apple does decide to split the line in future, or keep it simple. Given the recent (now unlinkable, sigh) NY Times article about the genesis of the iPod, I'd suspect the latter. Still, we can dream, eh?