Personal Video Show
The growing popularity of podcasting is making me realize more and more that we need more portable devices with video support. Not so we can all walk around burying our heads in the latest news update from CNN or some ridiculous no budget short film from some film school dropouts. Although some of us will do both. No, video support is necessary because the killer combination for podcasting is in narrated slideshows style presentations, which work well in a video framework.
We are a visual society. We like illustrations to accompany what people are telling us. It doesn't have to be full motion video. A new picture every minute or two would be enough to keep most people tuned in. Apple sort of gets this with their support for chapters in the latest version of iTunes and in their iPod photo implementation. What they didn't get is making it simple.
For all the strengths of the iMovie and iPhoto apps at making it easy for people to create and share, the support for images combined with audio in their little iTunes universe is severely lacking. Apple's chapter concept involves the command line or hand-coding XML, which is a hack brought about by lack of support for real video codecs in their iPod framework. With iTunes chapters, you have to manually designate that image #10 will appear at exactly 0:03:13:21. Where's the Apple polish on this one?
This is where video comes in and this is also where I think Microsoft could potentially gain some ground. The free Photo Story 3 app is a marvelous solution for combining still photos and voice narrative to produce an interesting presentation. Pocket PC owners and the ten people who own a Portable Media Center can watch and listen to Photo Story created content right now. At the heart of these stories is the spirit of podcasting; people telling personal stories about their view of the world. Of course you don't need a portable player of any kind to enjoy a photo story; you can watch them on your PC.
The reason I think Photo Stories are more compelling than video in the next round of podcasting evolution is attention. The big argument against video as the successor to podcasting is attention. You can't watch a video while you drive a car. You can't watch a video while you jog (although the people on the treadmills at the gym might disagree). You could however briefly glance at an image and if the verbal description is any good you might not need to see the image if it isn't convenient.
The missing piece is video support on most of the small devices. Color screen models barely support still images, let alone video. No, video won't look good on a super tiny screen, although it doesn't look too bad on my Audiovox SMT5600. It certainly didn't look good on my old Archos Multimedia Jukebox. But were not talking about full motion here. Photo Story has a bunch of pan and zoom effects, but you wouldn't even need those for small screens, just give me images combined with narrative and make it easy to create.
Apple combined images and audio, but they did it wrong. Even if they do add video to the iPod, they still aren't getting it right. Microsoft combined images and audio but forgot to provide me with any options to take it with me (the Portable Media Center doesn't count). If Apple and Microsoft won't do it, who will? Maybe this is where Sony plays the PSP trump card and gives us another reason to buy a portable gaming system. Make it easy to create and share slideshow content on PSPs and you've got another use for the WiFi capabilities of the devices coupled with a more compelling reason for non-gamers to want a PSP. Just don't make the video format proprietary.