Of all the surprises at this week's iPod event, the biggest one was probably what Apple didn't introduce. It wasn't the new iPod Nanos that stole the show.
It wasn't even Steve Jobs' return from a liver transplant five months ago.
Number one on everyone's prediction list was iPod touch with camera and Apple, for whatever reason, didn't deliver.
The touch getting a camera wasn't just a guess. There were pictures of prototypes leaked to the public like the one below.
There was even a video of a prototype iPod touch with a camera. Over two months ago.
There were even different iPod case makers putting together new iPod touch cases. Not only did they all have camera holes but they were all in the same place, a place different than that of the iPhone, centered on the top of the rear of the iPod. Even Best Buy was selling cases.
During the show, the demo for Assassin's Creed was shown off on an iPod. One of the features of the game was taking a picture of yourself and putting it in the game. Surely this was part of the plan. You need a camera to take a picture of yourself and put it into the game, right?
Then there was the "One more thing" with Jobs. Video cameras! For the iPod...Nano? That's it?
What happened? Well, before the show a few rumours came up that had said that there were manufacturing problems that were causing delays in the release of the iPod. These, according to the sites would push the release back a month or more.
Why were they delayed? No one is exactly sure but Steve Jobs might have had something to do with it. While the Nano cameras were different from the iPhone's (Nanos only do video, while iPhones do 3 megapixel stills as well), the iPod touch would have had to have the same type of still camera as the iPhone (or better) to take advantage of the iPhone camera apps.
Steve Jobs said something interesting in his interview with David Pogue after the show:
"I also asked him why the Nano can record video, but can’t snap still photos. That reason, he said, is technical: the sensors you need to record video are extremely thin these days—thin enough to fit into the wafer-thin Nano. But the ones with enough resolution for stills, especially with autofocus (like the sensor in the iPhone), are much too thick to cram into a player that’s only 0.2 inches thick."
The Touch is only .33 inches thick - and that is at its thickest point. The camera was to be located toward the edge where it is probably as thin as the Nano. Perhaps there were issues squeezing the camera into that thin an enclosure without making it weak or susceptible to damage. Jobs, with fresh knowledge of the situation, knows the technological limitations of that size.
I've also heard that there is a 5 megapixel camera going into an Apple product soon, I'm not sure if it is the future iPod touch or the tablet.
In any case, expectations are that Apple is still trying to squeeze that camera into that iPod touch. I've gotten word that there is an ad campaign and a commercial already in the can, ready for when the camera is ready. (You notice that there wasn't any new advertising released for the "new" iPod touches?).
The conventional wisdom is that Apple will put the camera into the higher end iPods (32GB/64GB) only and leave the $199 model to be a 2nd-gen model. The higher end iPods have the processor speed and the Open GL 2.0 capabilities to do video, the 2nd Gen does not. This is exactly the same pricing/feature structure as exists on the iPhone.
I've also heard that Apple wants to have these things in full production by Christmas and that they've made only a few months of camera-less models to tide the market over until the new ones are ready.
So don't fret if you want a camera in your iPod. Just be patient.
Note: This blog first appeared on our sister site Computerworld