It's no secret that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod sales are crumbling, in no small part due to iPod functionality being absorbed into the iPhone. However, despite the tanking sales, there is still a material level of demand for the device. Given that the current iPod Touch has been around since 2012, and features the now ancient A5 processor and just 512-megabytes of memory, Apple's iPod Touch is in serious need of an upgrade for reasons that would benefit the iOS app ecosystem as a whole.
So, about that move to 64-bit software ...
According to Apple's developer site, "new iOS apps uploaded to the App Store must include 64-bit support and be built with the iOS 8 SDK." While Apple's current developer toolset can be told to build a version of the app with both 32-bit and 64-bit support, do keep in mind that Apple probably eventually wants to transition to a world of 64-bit-only apps.
Once the iPhone 5c is phased out (likely with the release of the next generation iPhone in fall 2015), the entire iPhone lineup will feature 64-bit processors. If Apple finally waterfalls the original iPad mini into oblivion in the fall as well, then all of the iPads will feature 64-bit processors.
The iPod Touch would be the only current iOS device toting a 32-bit only processor which would probably serve as a nuisance to developers. That said, developers probably have a far bigger problem to deal with if Apple keeps the current iPod Touch in production for much longer.
It's not just 64-bitness
When developers sit down to figure out what features their apps will require, they need to be mindful of the processing power available on the devices that they're targeting. A developer can't just build an app that works well on the latest-and-greatest devices but runs poorly on older generation devices.
At the same time, if the developer tries to make the app compatible with every iOS device ever made, then that serves as a restriction. If I were developing an intense multimedia app, such as a 3D game, I would target slowest device supported by the current version of iOS as the "bare minimum." The better that slowest supported device is, the more processing power and memory that I can assume.
In a world where the slowest iOS device available for sale packs an A7 chip, and the absolute bare minimum processor worth targeting is the relatively potent A6, developers can do some pretty stunning things. Held back by the old-as-the-hills A5, on the other hand, and developers have to spend more time making sure their apps work on those devices while at the same time bringing something innovative to the table for the latest devices.
Update the iPod Touch or just kill it, Apple
Come this fall, I believe that Apple should either upgrade the iPod Touch to feature at a minimum the A6 processor (but the A7 would be highly preferable for longevity and 64-bit support) and 1 gigabyte of memory, or it should just kill the product lineup. Apple's closed ecosystem and relatively narrow range of hardware to support can be a tremendous asset, but keeping the A5 processor "current," in my view, will just handicap what developers would like to do with the iOS platform.
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.