Apple is looking to outfit future iPods with carbon fiber housing in order to make Wi-Fi content syncing a reality, according to a new report from Cult of Mac. The blog reports that a source close to the company revealed Steve Jobs sees Wi-Fi syncing as the key to continued relevance for the iPod line, but also says Apple hasn’t been able to make it work well enough to introduce the feature in production models.
Monday saw confirmation that Kevin Kelley, former CEO of Kestral Bicycles, where he oversaw the building of carbon fiber bikes, is now Senior Composites Engineer at Apple Inc. Kelley is also listed as the author on a patent filed by Apple in 2009 for “Reinforced Device Housing,” which described an outer casing for electronic devices made from carbon fiber. The hire definitely adds weight to the anonymous tipster’s assertions.
Carbon fiber housing would reportedly allow for much better Wi-Fi signals between iPod devices and computers where media libraries are stored. The source claims, however, that the new housing design (which is said to have been prototyped for the iPod classic and the previous generation iPod nano) isn’t yet meeting to Apple engineer standards. It’s worth noting that the current iPhone and iPad can handle streaming of music and video just fine, and have even been able to sync over Wi-Fi when jailbroken. Android devices can also sync and stream over Wi-Fi using doubleTwist, but in my usage of those syncing features with the Galaxy Tab, the experience wasn’t anywhere near the level I’ve come to expect from Apple products. The high standards for wireless syncing that Apple has no doubt set for itself are probably the main reason we haven’t yet seen an official solution come from the company. It’s possible a different casing material could help Apple get closer to its goals in terms of transfer speeds, connection dependability and device heat during the process.
Carbon fiber casing has been a theme in recent Apple rumors, with reports indicating that the material might be used for an iPad redesign, or even in a future MacBook Air. Logically, the idea of carbon fiber makes sense, since it’s strong, flexible, lightweight and doesn’t pose the same kind of problems regarding wireless signals as does metal. Yet Apple has yet to use carbon fiber in any shipping devices. Still, confirmation that the company now has a carbon fiber expert with at least 14 years experience working with the composite in a senior, full-time, engineering staff position indicates it may be getting more serious about the material’s usage.
I’d look twice at an iPod if it could handle Wi-Fi content syncing in a way that was efficient, fast and easy. It could indeed provide some wind in the sales of sluggish iPod sales, if only until such syncing features become commonplace among smartphones. Anyone else think an iPod with some Wi-Fi mojo might breathe new life into the increasingly outdated concept of a dedicated media player?