Sean Sperte

One more thing ... or three, or four

14 October 2005

After two days of thought-gathering, I’ve made some conclusions to my reactions of Apple’s announcements on Wednesday. In short, I believe they’re on the right track with the iMac, new iPod supporting video and upgrades to the iTunes Music Store. However, a closer look at what was revealed this week shows some interesting, and perhaps frustrating side affects. Let’s go in order of the announcements, ala Steve’s three-act presentation.

Act I: The iMac G5

First of all, I’m a big fan of the iMac G5 – and have been since it was introduced last year about this time. If I needed/wanted a home computer, I would choose it, hands-down, no questions asked. The upgrade announced (and released – way to go, Apple) is well worth the fanfare and excitement. I think the Front Row app is definitely a step in the right direction for Apple’s “digital lifestyle.” The increased specs, decreased dimensions, and matching pricepoint puts the new iMac in perfect position for the holidays. They’ll sell, alright … they’ll sell to students.

Despite what Steve Jobs said in the presentation, the Front Row application isn’t perfect for enjoying your Mac from your couch. No, the perfect environment for the iMac is going to be the close quarters, and shared rooms of the college student. Every dorm room in the nation should have an iMac G5 with Front Row running. It’s a match made in heaven – a [simple] remote to control music, DVD’s, music videos, photos, etc. “from your bed” (or bean-bag chair or futon) not “from your couch”.

Act II: The new iPod

Note that this is not an “iPod video” but just “iPod.” Smart, I think, of Apple to drop the functional naming convention. “Mini” and “nano” work because they’re descriptive names for the device itself, not for what it does. You know, there’s some [CSS] lesson in here, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it.

I think Apple’s right on time delivering an iPod that “does video.” Too early (last year) would’ve robbed the podcasting movement of its glory and introduction, too late (next year) and the market would have already been too saturated. It’s perfect right now, though, because:

  1. It’s a/the evolutionary step for the iPod
  2. Everyone wanted it
  3. H.264 is gaining popularity (because …)
  4. QuickTime 7 for Windows has been released

The design of the new iPod is genius. Then again, did we expect anything less? I’m glad they didn’t veer too far from the original design, keeping the clickwheel and layout of the previous model(s). I’m also glad they offer it in black. I don’t think the black model will sell as well (ratio-wise) as its smaller counterpart (the black nano), but it’ll still be the more popular choice. I want the white 60GB – uh, thinner than the previous 20GB model? Where do I swipe my card?

Some other points of interest with the new iPod:

A moment of silence for FireWire …

It’s an interesting irony: FireWire’s shining grace (video) has finally found its place in the iPod featureset – only to be ignored. With the new (video) iPod, Apple has officially abandoned FireWire support on its entire iPod line of products. FireWire is now the bastard child, having been forsaken by its creator. And for USB 2.0?! I can only assume it’s a decision based on Windows users’ preferences. Ugh. Again, let’s pause in remembrance …

Act III: iTunes 6

Remember how I said iTunes 5 barely deserved its versioning? Well I must’ve hit a nerve! Apple high-ups read my post and decided to stuff it to me by releasing a minuscule update and jumping an entire number version. As Gruber said, “iTunes 5 we hardly knew you.”

Let’s look at the changes to the iTunes app (not the Music Store), shall we?

  1. A video icon now appears in the source list

Yeah. That’s it. No new preferences, no new layouts, no new interface, no new features. I’m sure a lot changed under the hood, but that’s what dot-numbers are for! I would have been fine with 5.5 even!

Bottom line: It was the Music Store that received the big update this week, and not the iTunes app itself. So let’s talk about that.

iTunes is no longer just tunes, and neither is the Music Store just music. In my opinion, iTunes 6 should have never been released, and iTunes should have died at version 5. iMedia, iLibrary, iEntertainment, iDon’tCare … The app and store should’ve been renamed and refocused. Don’t tell me it’s too hard to rebrand or revamp a product line. It’s not. Not for Apple. This version 6 crap is basically just laziness.

(I bet most of 1 Infinite Loop has probably had their office lights on 24-7 for the past 9-12 months. There’s no doubt those guys work hard, that’s not what I’m saying here.)

The “one more thing …”

Unlike the new iPod supporting video, I think the TV thing is a little out of place – and time. I think it’s a tad too early.

When you look at the success of the iTunes Music Store, you can immediately attribute it to the popularity of music downloads. At the time the Music Store was first introduced, illegal music downloading was at its peek (Napster, KaZaa, anyone?). The Music Store was Apple’s cure to the disease and the record labels (that dared) took a chance which paid off. The RIAA also began going after people, which scared ‘em, and forced them to use the iTMS if they wanted to continue to download songs.

TV is not being downloaded like music yet (note: if you’re reading my blog, chances are you’re a geek and you are the exception to this point). There’s no doubt it will be someday, because the idea is amazing – it’s just not mainstream yet.

Apple is taking a risk, as they often do. By providing the device and interface with which to download shows, they’re creating the vacuum in hopes that it will get filled automagically by default. They’re counting on networks’ agreement in the pricing structure and delivery method. They’re banking on previous successes with music record labels … which could be argued. And they’re assuming the public doesn’t care about the quality of playback as much as the availablity of content. (Which I think may be a safe assumption.)

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the very thing TV download needs is Apple’s push. It’s working for podcasts, right?

Still, until NBC, CBS, Fox and other big hitters in television come on board and start offering their content, I see little room to celebrate this new “feature.”

Finale

Apple is a unique company in that they never do anything blase. The announcements on Wednesday were so much more than a strategic holiday offering (though they were that as well). The new iMac with Front Row, the video iPod and the increased featureset in the iTunes Music (and video) Store are exciting, pacesetting offerings that should change the way we enjoy our “digital lifestyle.”

I’m excited for them. I’m excited for me too, I guess. Even though I don’t plan on getting an iMac or downloading any TV shows soon, I’m definitely going to get a new iPod (when cases are released). They continue to change the world in which I live, and I continue to alter my habits to conform. I love it.

Encore

TV shows I’d be excited to download, with or without an iPod to play them on: