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The Video ‘iPod’ Success Roadmap

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The journey starts in Cupertino, but a little help from the Walt Disney Company could drive sales of the video iPod at home and abroad.

“This year is going to be a landmark one for video in portable media players,” Chris Crotty, senior analyst for iSuppli, said in a Mercury News report. “I think a lot of those video-in-handheld skeptics are ethnocentrics. They aren’t considering all the people overseas.”

The statement touches on the reason why the long-awaited video iPod can succeed. Americans like gadgets. Users in other countries, particularly Japan, really, really love their gadgets. Places like Japan have worked to bolster that affection with true high-speed Internet, with prices for 100Mbps speeds equal to what US providers charge for 3 Mbps download service.

Asia sees a lot of electronics sold annually. The video iPod will be purchased in Asia, and probably in sufficient quantities just by virtue of the Apple name. The Disney name could be even more important.

Video on the iPod looked a lot more likely once Michael Eisner stepped aside at Disney. Apple and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs, and Eisner’s replacement, Robert Iger, don’t have the history of sniping that characterized the rancorous end to talks between Jobs’ Pixar and Eisner’s Disney about extending a distribution agreement for Pixar’s films.

It’s probably no coincidence that the anticipated video iPod arrived after Eisner stepped down at Disney in favor of Iger, let alone Jobs announcing this arrangement: Apple will be offering next-day iTunes downloads of episodes of Disney-owned ABC’s hit shows ‘Lost’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’ for $1.99 each.

Iger and Jobs have expressed mutual admiration in the media, leading to speculation that the talks between the two companies would resume. The arrival of the video iPod should spur those along nicely; Apple can benefit greatly from Disney’s continued friendship, and not just for its vast content library.

Disney ranks as one of the most recognizable brands in the world. It has helped take Pixar’s movies and market them in all corners of the globe. Disney has a couple of things Pixar simply cannot get from any other potential distribution partner: theme parks in Tokyo and in Hong Kong.

The flow of tourists through both the older Tokyo parks and the recently established one in Hong Kong, a new magnet for China’s expanding middle class, has been strong. Their presence helps reinforce the Disney brand throughout Asia, throughout thousands of households that could be more eager than American ones to pick up a video iPod.

Japan recently got an iTunes, and an agreement with Disney for content sold through iTunes could be a real driver for video iPod sales there. That could hold true for the Chinese market, and perhaps the US as well.

Disney certainly wouldn’t mind the boost to its bottom line. Their stock hasn’t cracked the $30 mark once in the past 52 weeks. Iger and Disney shareholders would love to get a present from Jobs like a new iTunes outlet for Disney content. Jobs ought to be in the giving mood himself. Apple could receive some more video iPod sales this way, just in time for the holidays.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

The Video ‘iPod’ Success Roadmap
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