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IPod’s Video Is Sharp but Not Much Is On

Times Staff Writer

Who could be desperate enough to watch “Desperate Housewives” on a 2 1/2 -inch screen?

Or so lost as to resort to seeing an episode of “Lost” on that little screen?

Me, for one -- now that I’ve tried out the newest edition of Apple Computer’s full-sized iPod, which holds video as well as music and still pictures.

Even certified iPod fans might have reservations, especially considering how little video content Apple is offering for sale.

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But the ultra-sharp display on the new iPod -- which was announced last week and began showing up Tuesday at some Apple stores -- is clearly superior to that of other hand-held video players, not to mention those awful little battery-operated TVs that come with lanyards to wear around the neck.

And although it will never replace a full-size television, it is likely to appeal to anyone who wants to watch TV shows or other videos while commuting on mass transit (this mostly applies to cities that are not Los Angeles), traveling, sitting in waiting rooms or working out on a treadmill.

It’s also a relatively good deal, at $299 for a 30-gigabyte model, which can hold up to 75 hours of video, and $399 for a 60-gigabyte model, which can store twice as much. The cheaper of the two costs no more than one of the models it has replaced: a 20-gigabyte iPod that held only music.

But should you rush out and buy one? It might be prudent to wait. Especially if you already have an iPod.

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Here’s why: The video content currently available for the player is meager. So far, Apple is offering -- via its online iTunes music store -- episodes of five TV shows, all with Walt Disney Co. ties.

They are “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and a new version of “Night Stalker” from the Disney-owned ABC network; plus “The Suite Life” and “That’s So Raven” from cable’s Disney Channel.

Additionally there’s a selection of about 2,000 music videos and six short films from Pixar Animation Studios (Apple and Pixar are both headed by Steve Jobs).

There are no movies -- yet.

And although you can transfer music from CDs to an iPod, you can’t do the same with movies you own on DVD.

Apple executives characterize the available content as a “beginning” and hint that there will be much more -- assuming the company reaches deals with other Hollywood studios. And you can put on the iPod any video that comes in Apple’s Quicktime format, as long as it has no digital copyright protections.

The mechanics of buying and downloading video is quite similar to putting music on the iPod: You choose videos from the iTunes store. All the selections, which are commercial-free, cost $1.99 to download, though they vary greatly in length.

Considering the fact that downloading quality video can be a hugely time-intensive task, the Apple process is surprisingly swift. From clicking on “buy” to completing the download of a 45-minute episode of “Lost” took just over six minutes. Then all that was left to do was to sync the computer and iPod to transfer the clip onto the device.

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Much like the way iTunes handles music, you can copy a purchased video clip onto up to five different computers.

My experience with the new iPod was admittedly short -- only a few hours before deadline. But it was long enough to get hooked.

On “Desperate Housewives.”

The screen was so good, that after a half hour or so, the novelty wore off. Suddenly, I wasn’t conscious of watching a tiny screen, or testing out a new toy.

I was just watching the ladies of Wisteria Lane.

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David Colker can be reached via e-mail at technopolis@latimes.com. Technopolis regularly appears Sundays. Previous columns can be found at latimes.com/technopolis.


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