Apple last week fulfilled the wish of every Internet discussion-forum enthusiast who's longed for the capability to view photos on a tiny color screen. The new iPod Photo incorporates a color screen into the existing iPod form factor, enabling users to view digital images in addition to listening to music. The 220 by 176-pixel screen can display up to 65,536 colors. Like iPhoto, the iPod Photo can display screens of thumbnails (25 images at a time), or single photos by themselves, using the iPod's scroll wheel and middle button. It can also display album art for songs as they play. The device comes in two configurations: a 40 GB model for $500 and a 60 GB model for $600; both are available now.
In a bit of a conceptual disconnect, photos and photo albums are synchronized using the Auto-Sync capabilities of iTunes 4.7, which was released as a free 10.5 MB download. iTunes was probably chosen as the conduit because iPhoto doesn't exist under Windows; it can also pick up photos from Windows applications Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0, or from a designated photos folder on either operating system. The Auto-Sync process converts your photos to lower-resolution versions for display on the screen, but you can opt to store high-resolution versions on the iPod, too.
If the iPod's screen is too small for your taste, an included AV cable connects the iPod Photo to a television for slideshow playback. An iPod Photo Dock, included with both models, adds an S-video connector.
Contributing Editor Glenn Fleishman pointed out that these connectors make the iPod Photo a remarkably compact presentation manager: load up your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation (after converting the slides to individual images), plug in a video projector, and leave the laptop in your hotel room. It's not far from what Adam did with his Canon PowerShot digital camera at a user group presentation when a projector failed to show up (see "The PowerShot Presentation" in TidBITS-669).
Apple claims that battery life is improved on the new model, with up to 15 hours of continuous music or 5 hours of continuous slideshows with music.
Does the iPod Photo herald the imminent arrival of a video iPod? Although the existing color screen wouldn't realistically be suitable for video playback, having video-out capabilities could, in theory, turn the iPod into a portable video playback device - a portable TiVo, if you will, for watching movies and television shows while you're on the road. The problem is, you can already do that with a PowerBook or iBook. And Steve Jobs has made it clear that Apple believes photos are more compelling on a portable device such as the iPod right now, compared to other video devices that are already on the market. I do think that Apple is slowly laying the paving stones required to someday offer videos on portable devices and via the iTunes Music (Media?) Store, but only according to Apple's schedule.
U2 Can Enjoy an iPod -- In other iPod news, Apple announced the iPod U2 Special Edition model. In addition to engraved signatures of the members of the band U2, the front face is black instead of white, with a red scroll wheel; it's available only in a 20 GB configuration. It also includes a $50 gift certificate that can be applied to "The Complete U2," a digital boxed-set of the band's music containing 400 songs and 25 unreleased tracks. (Contrary to some reports, no music from U2 is included on the iPod.) An included exclusive U2 poster will no doubt seal the deal for some fans. The iPod U2 Special Edition will be available in mid-November for $350.
European iTMS -- Finally, Apple also announced that it has launched a European version of the iTunes Music Store. Previously available in the U.S., France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the EU iTunes Music Store now also supports Portugal, Spain, Luxembourg, Italy, Greece, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Finland, all with songs priced at EU0.99 apiece. Apple also says it finally plans to launch its iTunes Music Store in Canada during November.
Also noteworthy is news that a version of the iTunes Music Store for Ireland (the only European Union nation not included in last week's announcement) was apparently planned for the EU rollout, but some last-minute glitches held it up. Hopefully we'll see it come online soon.