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Should iTunes Split From Its Pod?

Apple needs to disconnect iTunes from its lock-in with the iPod, because it has the potential to go far beyond just Apple's portable music player, said a market research firm.

That's the conclusion of Vamsi Sistla, research director for broadband and multimedia, at ABI Research. While Apple has not said it will go in this direction, Sistla thinks it should, and some audio/video electronics companies he's spoken with feel the same way.

"I strongly feel iTunes is ready to decouple itself from iPod because it already has become larger than iPod due to all of the content available from iTunes," said Sistla.

Apple  did not return calls requesting comment on the ABI Research report.

He points to the recent news that Apple would make episodes of the sitcom "Friends" available for download as a good example of why iTunes needs to get off the iPod.

"For video, most people don't want to sit in front of their PC or look at an iPod. They want to have that lean back on the couch experience on their high definition TV," he said.

There are more than 200 shows on iTunes now, and he figures most people would prefer to watch that on their large screen TV, not a three-inch iPod screen.

He said consumer electronics companies have built support for the iPod into stereo receivers, with an iPod in a docking station is the source to play music on the stereo instead of a CD player.

This is an unnecessary step and Sistla feels Apple should cut out the middleman and let iTunes work directly with home stereo receivers.

The likely scenario would be a consumer electronics company taking the lead, not Apple, as the company has not been a trailblazer in some areas, said Sistla.

Third parties such as JVC and Bose came out with docking stations with built-in speakers, so you can play your iPod at home without using the computer or computer speakers, long before Apple entered that market.

"That shows Apple doesn't want to take chances by taking the lead in some markets. But most of the people who have taken chances have been successful," said Sistla.

"So maybe someone will come out with a receiver that can play music from iTunes."

Or there might even be motivation for Apple to do it.

Microsoft has dropped strong hints that it will offer a broad-based service for its forthcoming Zune player, consisting of a social network and music downloads.