by Tom Kaneshige

New iPod Touch: Coming Soon to More Businesses?

Sep 10, 2009
Enterprise Applications

A lowered price point may open the door to innovative iTouch business applications

At first blush, most CIOs probably didn’t give a hoot about Apple’s big iPod bash this week: Apple unveiled a new iPod lineup for the holiday season, including cheaper iPod Touch units and iPod Nano models with built-in video cameras. New tweaks to iTunes and the iPhone OS mostly enhance the music experience.

Simply put, CIOs focus almost exclusively on technology that makes workers more productive or saves company money, and they couldn’t care less whether or not Beatles songs make it to iTunes (unless, of course, they’re music aficionados themselves).

But here’s why CIOs should care: the new iPod Touch could be a boon for some businesses. (Check out a slideshow of the most creative uses for iPods and iPhones on the job.)

The iPod Touch is Apple’s fastest growing model in the iPod line, with more than 20 million units sold (or 40 percent of all iPhone OS devices, according to Apple). The new iPod Touch 64GB and 32GB models now run 50 percent faster, Apple says, and support Open GL ES version 2.0. Most importantly, though, Apple slashed the price for the iPod Touch 8GB to $199.

Apple’s Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said at this week’s event that sales of the iPod Mini spiked when Apple lowered the price from $249 to $199, which he calls a “magic price.” Unlike the iPod Nano, the iPod Touch won’t have a built-in video camera. The likely reason: Apple couldn’t hit the magic price if the iPod Touch included a video camera.

Why CIOs should care: During the last year, the iPod Touch has proven itself as a valuable business tool. The U.S. military, for instance, has given the iPod Touch to soldiers in combat zones. They use the handy devices—or rather, the apps—for tasks such as accessing vital maps, cultural information and photos of suspects, translating languages, and even calculating ballistics. There’s an app in development for remote controlling a bomb-disposal robot.

“Given the ubiquity of the iPod, the platform is perfect for military applications assuming that Apple and the [Department of Defense] can harden the system as needed,” Enterprise Strategy Group security analyst Jon Oltsik told me earlier this year.

Gartner analyst Van Baker added: “From the military’s perspective, the iPod Touch is a relatively low cost programmable device that has integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. If it suits their needs, then it makes sense to adopt it rather than design a ruggedized low volume device that costs thousands of dollars apiece. Why waste the money?”

With the iPod Touch’s new price point, more private companies may find applications for the popular device. Already colleges such as Abilene Christian University give iPod Touch units to incoming freshmen to receive homework alerts and answer questions in class. And some private high schools hand out iPod Touch units to teachers to take student attendance, then zap the data over Wi-Fi to a system that sends alerts to parents.

Travis Warren, CEO of WhippleHill, which offers such a high school software service, says one of the selling hurdles for his service is device cost. A cheaper iPod Touch might be the magic tipping point for the iPod Touch in more businesses.

Does your company use the iPod Touch for business? Send me an email at Or follow me on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline.