A Gizmodo reader observes that the circulars in today's New York Times have no iPods in them. This almost guarantees we'll see new iPods at Apple's "It's Showtime" special event on Tuesday. It's been almost a year since the nano and the 5G iPod were released, so updates are long overdue. The real question, then, is will we get all new iPods to go along with the movie store or are we going to just see capacity upgrades?
I posted my PowerBook G4 on Craig's List on Thursday and it just walked out the door less than half an hour ago. Craig's List is simply amazing. In comparison, doing this on eBay would have cost me more (greater than $0) and I would have had to worry about shipping. One does have to be careful, though, as I did get a bunch of replies to the ad that were clearly scams (e.g., "I will pay you $1000 and you send me the change", "This is for my son in Afrika[sic]", etc).
With my PowerBook gone, I picked up a MacBook yesterday. I went with the white 2GHz model and picked up a 4GB nano and printer as well. The nano got promptly placed on Craig's List and the printer will be free after mail-in rebate. If anyone wants to buy it, drop me an email using the contact form at the top of the page. While it did hurt to spend $1500 yesterday, once the nano sells and I collect on all the rebates, the entire upgrade will have cost me less than $250.
For the little I've played with it, the keyboard on the MacBook (and the PowerBook as well) is miles above the desktop Apple Keyboard. I can type much faster on it and the keys don't get stuck like they do on the desktop keyboard. The MacBook was assembled in Week 30, so that puts it at about 2 weeks old. While I certainly haven't done anything intensive on it (just web browsing and iTunes), CoreDuoTemp reports that the machine is running at 22-26°C (with the processor at 1.5-1.67GHz). From that base, I can't imagine it getting much higher than 50-60°C, but I'll only be able to tell once I do use it a lot. I tried it out on my bare lap just to see how it felt and it was fine. A bit warm in the back-left corner (near the MagSafe), but definitely usable and definitely cooler than my PowerBook doing the same things (which I've clocked at around 50-60°C in the past).
The Special Deals section of the online Apple Store has refurb 30GB 5th Gen Video iPods for $199, down from $259 a few days ago. The 60GB iPod is now $299 (not sure what it was before). The nanos are at $109/129/169 for the 1/2/4GB version, respectively. Either Apple has gotten a bunch of these in returns or they're trying to clear inventory. I've never seen such a discount on current generation iPods before. Also keep in mind that both the nanos and the video iPods are coming up on their one-year anniversary. I think an announcement may be close, though it'll probably be after the current "free nano for edu" promotion expires on Sept. 16.
Rumors are running rampant in the hours leading up to Steve Jobs' Worldwide Developers' Conference keynote. The image I posted on Flickr last week got mentioned in places, but only to show how overzealous Apple fans can get. It was pretty clear to me that nothing new would be shown on such a prominent banner, I just wanted to tag it so others could see the same. In any event, two pictures of Leopard banners from inside the Moscone Center have popped up; one reads "Introducting Vista 2.0" and the other reads "Hasta la Vista, Vista".
No live video feed is available, but MacRumors (among others, I'm sure) will be providing live coverage from their MacRumors Live website. The keynote starts at 1PM EST/10AM PST.
New York Magazine has a 13-page guide on how to behave in a city, specifically New York City. It covers things from meeting celebs, riding public transportation, and of course, proper iPod etiquette.
There are four levels of iPod interaction (I'll let you read the situations that fall into each):
Continue at full blast. Consider increasing the vigor of your head-nodding and/or humming.
LEVEL ONE AND A HALF
Subtly turn down volume.
Make a big show of pressing PAUSE.
Remove headphones, toss them jauntily over shoulder.
Completely remove and enclose in nearest pocket/bag/purse.
This pretty much describes my levels of interaction whilst listening to my iPod. The only modification I'd make is to Level 3. Instead of tossing them over my shoulder, I just hang an earbud over my ear.
And let me just throw this in because it's happened to me a couple of times. If you're riding in my car, don't listen to your iPod. I think it's rude that you decide to completely ignore me while I'm courteous enough to drive you around.
Remember that iPod packaging designed by Microsoft video that was going around a few weeks ago? The iPod Observer reports that the video actually came from inside the company. The video was made to point out the challenges Microsoft faces regarding their packaging and design aesthetic.
We all know the first step to recovery is knowing you have a problem. Good for Microsoft. I wonder if we'll see simpler, more refined Vista packaging or if they'll play it safe and boring again.
Apple's new Mac mini, with Intel Core processors, were announced today. Specs are here.
The specs are decent and fit in-line (enough below) the iMac and MacBook Pro but it is way overpriced. Gone is the magical $499/$599 price tag of the PowerPC mini, replaced with $599/$799 price points. I specced a mini as close to the $1299 iMac as possible (2×1.66 vs 2×1.83, 120GB vs 160GB, Intel GMA950 vs ATI X1600 128MB) and I'm at $1151 after adding the iSight. That leaves $150 to find a 17" display capable of displaying at least 1400×900. I don't really think this is possible and that makes the Mac mini overpriced or the iMac a great deal.
Now, the mini may not be such a great deal when compared to the iMac, but it would be fair to wait and see what Dell et al have to offer. Considering that the megahertz myth is alive and well in most consumer's minds, I wouldn't be surprised if they don't offer any desktops with the Core processors, which may be faster than P4s but at slower clock speeds.
Don't even get me started on the iPod Hi-Fi, which at $350 is more expensive than all but one version of the iPod. It may look pretty, but my Klipsch THX 2.1 are great speakers (some of the best 2.1 available) that I picked up for less than half the price of Hi-Fi.
The New York Times is reporting that Warner Brothers will be offering free downloads of classic TV shows on a P2P network run by AOL. The catch, they say, is that users will have to stay on the network and take some of the burden of distribution off of AOL servers. The TV shows will also have 1-2 minute ads that will help generate revenues for Warner Brothers and create an incentive for people to go out and buy the DVD sets.
This sounds like a good plan, but with every network doing their own thing (and their own DRM), will there be one portable video player that will be able to handle all these different formats? Is portable video really necessary to succeed in the downloadable video space? After all, video is an active medium, you can't really be doing anything else while watching it like you can with music and so the appeal of a portable device is diminished.
From personal experience with my video iPod, I can tell you that video isn't "there" yet like music is. In the month or so I've had with the iPod, I've watched 3 hours of video max. First off, getting the video on to the machine, while not difficult, does take some time. I have to download a video, then convert it and finally transfer it over. Second, if I have the time/resources to sit down and watch a video, I probably have the opportunity to watch it on a bigger screen. Like I said before, portable video requires much more attention than portable music. I can't watch a video while walking to class without looking up every few seconds to make sure I don't run into anything. I also can't watch a video if I am doing something that requires both hands, like eating, since I need one hand to hold the device up (yes, this is easily fixed with some kind of stand, but without it being integrated into the device, it's easy to not carry a stand around and so the problem still exists).
As much as I don't want to run a seperate player for each network's shows, its much easier to do so than it is to carry (and purchase, for that matter) a seperate device to take the video with me. Who's to say I want to watch the video on a portable device anyway? "Free as in speech" arguments aside, I for one welcome our new proprietary (but free) video overlords.
Apple's big "One more thing…" media event that I mentioned last week took place today at the California Theatre in San Jose. Here's a recap of what was announced:
- New iMacs with built-in iSight video camera and remote control. New software called PhotoBooth takes advantage of the new camera by simulating old arcade photo booths with a countdown timer, "flash", and real-time effects. Another piece of new software is Front Row, a Windows Media Center-type application that gives an iPod-like interface to the music, photos, and videos on your Mac. Also comes with a remote control with 6 buttons that looks just like the iPod shuffle with an extra menu button. In addition, the iMacs feature slightly upgraded processors, a SuperDrive standard and PCI-Express graphics (the first Mac to feature PCIe) for the same $1299 for the 17" and a $100 lower price for the 20" ($1699).
- New iPods in 30 and 60 gigabyte models featuring 2.5" 320×240 pixel screens and offer video playback. They look like larger nanos but are much smaller than the previous generation iPods. Both models are now under .5" thick. Like the nano, they include the World Clock and Screen Lock apps and come in both black and white.
- iTunes 6 released 5 weeks after iTunes 5. Some minor UI issues were fixed (anti-aliasing of window corners), but the main feature is support for video syncing with the iPod (one of the iTunes 4 point releases supported video playback in iTunes itself). In addition, the iTunes Music Store has a few new features, including the ability to give music, a "Just For You" recommendations section, customer reviews, and support for the sale of videos. Music videos and Pixar short films are just $1.99 each. Apple also announced a partnership with Disney (parent company of ABC) to offer 5 TV shows for sale, including Lost and Desperate Housewives. The shows also go for $1.99 an episode and new episodes are available the day after they are broadcast. Previous seasons are available also for $1.99 an episode or $35 for the entire season.
Seth Godin links to a NYTimes story about how much space people actually use on their iPods. Well, of all the people surveyed by the Solutions Research Group in Toronto, half of them had less than 100 songs stored on their MP3 players and the average among those with iPods was 505 songs.
Now, this news comes a few days after I lost my 30GB iPod and started considering my replacement options. My iTunes library clocks in at 19.68GB but a Smart Playlist I made revealed that I only listened to over 4.27GB in the past 19 weeks. The new iPod nano is only 4GB and absolutely perfect. The problem is those few times when I would want to listen to one of the songs I don't have on the iPod. It's not so much the inconvenience of not having the song, its the disutility I get from the fear of not having a particular song.
Despite all this, I decided to go with a 1GB shuffle as a temporary solution. My rationale behind this is that Mac Expo is a week away and with the rumors that there's a video iPod coming out (or even larger capacity 4G iPods), I want to have the smallest investment in hardware as possible at this time. Even when I get a larger iPod, the shuffle still has its uses as a much smaller solid-state player and USB drive.
Getting back to Seth Godin's piece, he argues that a larger capacity iPod is more of a status symbol than a necessity:
We don't buy a bigger iPod because we need a bigger iPod. We buy one because we identify ourselves as the kind of person that doesn't squabble over a few bucks when it comes to buying the best.
Nobody buys "best" in everything in their life. But in every category that's not a commodity, somebody is buying "best" because they want to, not because they need to.
While I agree to some extent, I think his theory doesn't take into account that Apple positions the feature sets of their iPods to upsell people to the larger iPods they don't necessarily need. Look at the difference between the iPod nano and the iPod lines: anyone with >4GB of music has to get the 20GB iPod whether they have 4.5GB or 19GB of music, and for only $50, you bet that guy with 4.5GB is going to get the 20GB player. The same enormous storage gap (and small price gap) exists between the 20GB and 60GB iPods. With that type of upsell strategy and the fact that Apple doesn't offer iPods in, say, 2GB increments, of course there's going to be a trend to move up along the iPod lines.
I also think the Long Tail (as a proper noun) has a large part to do with Apple's offering of large iPods. The average iPod user might not need more than an iPod nano in terms of storage, but what about those on the Long Tail that do? I know several college students with fat internet connections who have over 50GB of music in their iTunes library (legality notwithstanding) who are more very happy Apple offers 60GB iPods. For all intents and purposes, the R&D cost of the 60GB iPod (or a hypothetical 80GB iPod) is zero and the cost of going from a 20GB to a 60GB drive is minimal. Being in relatively small packaging and easy to manufacture (and switch back to the 20GB "mainstream" iPods), a Long Tail does exist for the iPod and so it is viable to offer these huge iPods despite the statistics showing that "average" users don't need nearly as much storage as Apple offers.