New iPod rumors fly--including release date

The latest word around the Internet is that Apple will have an event on September 5, and the long-rumored new iPods will be a part of that.

We know we're due for an iPod refresh. It's not a matter of if...it's a matter of when. The Internet's been abuzz for weeks now, with the most recent rumors making the rounds based on some purported next-gen iPod Nano photos (the photos were not confirmed as the real McCoy, but sites like Engadget were actually asked by Apple's legal team to remove the photos).

The pulled images showed a short, squat iPod Nano with a screen barely large enough to watch video on (think a standard iPod video with its bottom inch or so lopped off, to make it shorter). Seems to defeat part of the purpose of a Nano (versus a full-blown iPod) to me, but I'll reserve judgment until I see what the real deal is like when it launches.

Before word trickled out about Apple's September event, it was clear to me that Apple were releasing a new iPod this year, the company wouldn't wait much beyond October to get a new iPod into the market. After all, if a company doesn't get its product to retail in October, they're really only cutting themselves out of potential holiday season revenue. Furthermore, Apple has released new iPods in the October time frame before; doing so again fits the pattern.

Notably, October marks a milestone for another "little" Apple launch: its new Leopard operating system. The thought of Apple launching a new iPod in tandem with Leopard is an appealing one. Some in the blogosphere are positing that the next iPod's interface might be tweaked so that it better matches up with OSX/Leopard. And that, to me, is both a highly viable consideration--and a highly appropriate one.

Already, the iPhone has taken advantage of OSX--and done so to tremendous advantage. When I used the iPhone, I instantly noticed how smooth it was to navigate through the music playback. I also noticed how different the interface was vis-a-vis the existing iPod's interface--different in a good way.

If the iPhone is the best iPod Apple's ever made, as Steve Jobs posited at the D Conference in May, then it follows that characteristics of the iPhone's interface will find their way into the next wave of iPods. I only wish that chief among those characteristics was a multitouch screen, as the iPhone has. Cover Flow is slick, but I'd give that up any day to add a multitouch screen to an iPod (the screen would be in addition to the Click Wheel, or some modified version thereof; to me, a music-centric media player needs real, not virtual playback buttons).

Apple wouldn't be the first company to try to unify its user interface across different its product offerings. Take the example of Sony: For the past couple of years, the consumer electronics giant has been moving to unify its interface design across a diverse set of products. The so-called Cross Media Bar from Sony, seen on the PlayStation 3, can now be found on Sony TVs, camcorders, and digital cameras. And Canon has included similar menuing and controls in its new EOS 40D camera as it has in its higher-end EOS-1D Mark III.

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Melissa Perenson

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