Is the Classic iPod a Goner?

Is the Classic iPod a Goner?
Tumblr developer/blogger Marco Arment has posted his best guesses about what Apple will announce-iPodwise, at least-at its music event next Wednesday (Technologizer will be there to liveblog the news). Arment's predictions seem logical enough-which doesn't guarantee their accuracy, of course-and the most interesting thing about them is that he thinks that Apple will discontinue the iPod Classic, the high-capacity, small-screen, no-touch, no-apps model that's the direct descendent of the original 2001 iPod.

In the era in which the iPod Touch is unquestionably the most exciting iPod and the Nano is the dominant "traditional" iPod, are there any reasons why Apple wouldn't kill the Classic?

Hmmm, let's see.

Sentiment? No, if anything Apple takes pleasure in brutally murdering things people are fond of, such as the original bulbous iMac, if it thinks their time has passed. It's unlikely to keep the Classic around simply because it's iconic.

Sales? They're in decline for old-school iPods in general, and the Classic has presumably been particularly hard hit. If there were no Classic, some of the folks who would have bought it will presumably buy a different iPod instead. (The whole category of hard disk-based MP3 players is winding down, as witness the reports that Microsoft will discontinue its disk-based Zune.)

Price? At $249, the Classic is $20 more than the 8GB iPod Touch, and $50 less than the 16GB Touch. It doesn't let Apple hit a particular price point; the decision to buy a Classic is never about how much money a consumer has to spend.

Storage? There's the rub. The Classic's 120GB of disk space provides nearly four times the capacity of the next roomiest iPod, the 32GB Touch. It's the only iPod with enough room to hold all of a truly mammoth music collection; it can also contain dozens of movies at a time. It's the only iPod that doesn't make omnivorous entertainment fans pick and choose what stuff they put on their media player.

Of course, if Apple were able to introduce an iPod Touch with 128MB of RAM at a reasonable price, it would render the Classic instantly superfluous. I don't see that happening, at least not this week (a128GB thumb drive costs as much as a high-end iPod Touch). A 64GB Touch is more plausible, presumably. But if a 64GB Touch was the new top of the iPod line in terms of capacity, it would mean a 50% drop. (Apple already ratcheted back iPod capacity when it eliminated the 160GB Classic.)

It still seems a little early to me for the Classic to go away, and for what it's worth (not much!) there's a rumor that there will be a new Classic with a camera. But maybe Apple is betting that massive amounts of storage simply isn't as appealing as all the upsides of the Touch (way better interface, connectivity, apps, etc., etc.). I guess I couldn't argue the point given that I used to cram classic-style iPods with stuff but pretty much stopped using mine the moment I got a 16GB iPhone 3G. I just got into the habit of managing the media on my handheld more carefully, a process that's been less onerous than I anticipated.

Back before Apple announced the iPod Touch-but after it had unveiled the iPhone-I assumed that it would eventually release a device that looked a lot like a classic iPod and contained a large hard disk, but which ran the iPhone OS and sported a large multi-touch screen. At this point, I think it's far more likely that Apple will stop making high-capacity iPods than that it'll release such a player. But I'd still like to see-well, let's call it the iPod Classic Touch.

Any guesses about whether the Classic will survive to see the end of next week? If it doesn't, is Apple making a mistake? Would you miss it for rational and/or emotional reasons?

Harry McCracken is founder and editor of Technologizer. For more smart takes on technology, visit Technologizer.com.

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