Fellow Fool and all-around Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) expert Tim Beyers made me do a spit-take with my coffee when he declared the death of the iPod yesterday. He's getting the whole iPod-vs.-iPad debate backwards. Here's why.
There's no doubt that Apple is remaking itself as a mobile-gadget company instead of the old Apple Computers that deserved that stodgy name. So far, we agree. But believing that the large-format iPad will become the new standard for mobile consumer computing and pushing smaller, less capable devices like the iPod Nano and Classic out of existence is just crazy.
Most notably, the Nano will never go out of style. It's a perfectly designed one-function device that simply plays music, and looks good doing it. I dare you to strap an iPad to your back for a half-hour treadmill jaunt, Tim. Even the iPod Touch or iPhone models are a tad unwieldy for this purpose, but they're still handy enough to be an outside option.
If there is a sweet spot in the mobile computing market, smartphones and similarly sized trinkets will be it -- including the iPod Touch and iPhone. That's true at least until Sony (NYSE: SNE ) or Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN ) or somebody manages to cram a high-definition projector into a Nano-sized format without destroying its battery life. The iPad may be lighter than a Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) laptop or even a Macbook Air, but it's still too big and clumsy for any use you might file under "portable" with a straight face. Smartphones are "just right" in a Goldilocks kind of way.
The iPad might revolutionize the e-book reader market, if Tim's numbers are right, but then again, those promises to buy an iPad might also stem from the joy of discovering new toys. Once that honeymoon period is over -- and I think it will evaporate quickly -- the Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle and maybe even Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) Nook will return to dominate the e-reader sector. The real threat comes from new technology powering as-yet unseen alternatives, courtesy of innovators like Marvell Technology (Nasdaq: MRVL ) -- not from the iPad.
In the end, the iPad won't change anything, and certainly won't kill the iPod. Sorry, Tim.