iPod Touch’s conspicuously absent button(s)

One of things that Apple is generally known for is their elegant design and ease of use. From a design standpoint, symmetry is a key element of any product. You just don’t see a lot of asymmetrical designs out there. And certainly not from Apple.

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Looking at the new iPod Touch, I have to ask, what’s the missing button? When the iPhone was introduced, Jobs proclaimed buttons were dead. The ability to reconfigure the layout of buttons or other input mechanisms granted Apple a lot more flexibility in changing their design at will.

Question: why would you ship a product with such an obvious gaping hole?

Answer: it’s an unfinished feature.

What feature?

We could look to the iPhone for possible features, but that seems unlikely. If Apple was going to ship email, Google Maps, or any of the widgets, they would have showed them at yesterday’s announcement.

This is an iPod folks. It’s all about entertainment, be it music, television, movies, your photos or YouTube.

A remote control?

Ok, so to me, this is obvious. iPod Touch + Airport Express = Kick ass remote control. Buying stuff from the iTunes Store is gravy, but the reason the iPod Touch has WiFi (and maybe Bluetooth) is to make the iPod more useful around the house.

Ever since the Airport Express shipped, I’ve wanted this device. The iPod and now the iPhone have proven to be one of the best ways to easily access a large collection of music. Most remotes fall far short of being useful because they lack the metadata (artist, album, song title) that the iPod or your computer has.

The Sonos comes close to fullfilling my needs, but every time I’ve used one, they just feel clunky. There are a few other devices out there, but they suck way more than Sonos does or are far outside of most people’s budget.

I can’t say that I’m the first to talk about this as Gizmodo talked about this a couple of months ago. It seems that Apple has a patent on this design, or is it something slightly different?

So let’s take the remote control idea a bit farther. You might have a little more than 16 gigabytes of music lying around on your computer. Getting to that music would be pretty simple if your WiFi enabled iPod could read from your shared music in iTunes.

Controlling music being played from your computer to your Airport Express could be another use of the onboard Wifi in the iPod Touch.

A really remote control?

I might be going off the deep end here, but stay with me. When Apple first enabled sharing in iTunes 4.0, you could access your music from another computer over the internet, not just your local network. The music companies didn’t care for this very much and Apple shut this feature down in a subsequent update.

So, wouldn’t record companies complain about this as well? I don’t think so. Rather than a remote computer that could be accessed by anyone, this iPod is mated to that computer. Apple could argue that this is a variation on syncing to a given iPod.

Additionally, despite flash memory advances in the last several years, we’re probably not getting 40+ gigabytes in flash for the foreseeable future. Remote control iTunes answers the issue of a lack of local storage. My own usage of AppleTV has shown me that streaming over the network is better than syncing.

He’s nuts

Admittedly, I’m an Apple fanboy. I’m always disappointed when their isn’t one more thing or when the iPhone doesn’t heal the sick and feed the hungry. So this might be a pipe dream.

All the pieces are there and it just takes someone at Apple to put them together.

If nothing else, they have to fill the missing button with something. Maybe they just forgot to add the Mail icon.

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