All Things Tarun

  • 12:06:49 pm on September 2, 2010 | 0
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Apple’s media event in September provided the usual suspects: a word about music, and iPod revamp, and an iTunes refresh. Additionally we saw the rumors of a revamped Apple TV and previews of iOS 4.1 (due next week) and iOS 4.2 (later this year).

    Apple’s iPod revamp could leave much to be desired, depending on which iteration of the iPod lineup you are currently using. If you have an older iPod touch, the new one is everything you could want in an iPod without being an iPhone: a “retina display”, a front facing camera, a rear facing camera (no flash and a depressingly low resolution), a thinner and sleeker design, and the Apple A4 chip. The iPod touch will undoubtedly further penetrate the gaming market as well as be the device to want for anyone ages 12 and up. You can clearly see the marketing clientele Apple is after on the website, particularly in their use of language (“from HD to OMG!”).

    The iPod nano is…curious. It is a small 2” x 2” touch screen with a primitive version of iOS and lacks games and many other features you may have enjoyed on previous versions of the ever evolving product line. There are no buttons anymore so you have to basically use ESP to navigate the device (like in the commercials), or you can use the “voice control” technology that was in the iPod shuffle if you have microphone enabled headphones. It seems delicate to navigate as Steve Jobs pokes at various areas of the screen, and we may find that the device falls to being a niche product as it is cannibalized by the super-powerful iPod touch at $199 for 8GB.

    The iPod shuffle is everything you wanted in the shuffle: buttons have returned, voice over is still there, the clip remains in place, and the design has colors again. If you like to use voice over and can handle having a device as small as a dollar coin, the price is definitely right at $49 for 2GB.

    With iPod comes iTunes, and iTunes 10 was released yesterday night with some tweaks to the interface but mainly towed a new service called Ping. Ping is marketed as the “social network for music” and is basically (in Steve’s words) an in between of Facebook, Twitter and music. Users who opt-in to the service can share what music they like, follow artists or people who they feel they want to know more about their musical tastes, and they can get reviews and previews of songs that the people the user follows is listening to. As far as I have seen playing with the service, it is crippled by the fact that Facebook connect is conspicuously absent. In an article in AllThingsD, Walt asks Steve where the connectivity is to the biggest social networking giant today. Steve suggested that negotiations are stalled, and Facbeook may have asked for a little more than just an acknowledgment to the website. The loser here may not be iTunes (although the service may take longer to kick off). Facebook could use more people and a partnership to monetize the service by, perhaps, charging Apple for every song that is bought based off of a “like” from a user on the Facebook connect platform. Hopefully we will see the relationship progress and come to a compromise, as this symbiotic relationship really needs to get off the ground if Ping is going to flourish as a useful service. At the very least, Twitter integration with followers should be added in the next weeks.

    What is the more avant-garde feature (and “one more thing”) of this event is the new Apple TV, Steve Jobs’ self proclaimed “hobby”. The Apple TV is now basically a box with an HDMI out and the ability to get onto the internet. As a result, there is no storage in the device itself. Instead, the black box relies on streaming over the air via wi-fi to your Mac or using TV rentals via iTunes. Steve believed that people “don’t want another computer” in the living room. I think this is an accurate claim because if I wanted a computer, I’d take my mac and dock it next to my TV (using some CableDrop holders and some extra cables). The Apple TV is really made to serve as a middle man for content for those of us who don’t want to mess with details. If you want limited control of how you organize your content and don’t mind the Apple TV “cinematic” interface, the device may not be a hard sell. It definitely becomes more intriguing with Netflix integration, but you cannot necessarily alter your disc queue; you can only change your instant queue and watch those movies.

    As a result, the Apple TV is really just a device to plop your content in the living room, and not much more. You cannot surf the web, there are no “apps” (as rumored in several places), and HD video still is at 720p (30 fps, though). The renting of movies is competitive at $4.99 for HD quality, but a Netflix subscription is still $8.99 (and only $2 more for HD movies unlimited delivered to your door with a two day turnaround). While the $.99 TV rentals are a pull for a newcomer, consider that many TV shows still have their content at HD quality sitting on the web for days. Besides, how many times are you actually wanting to watch normal TV at 1080p anyway? Yes HD did win the battle years ago, but it does not mean consumers will not settle for mediocrity at the price of…well, free.

    In summary, the event to me was just something to plop more eye-candy in front of us and is certainly not pulling this macintosh/iPhone user to purchase another device. If I was an editor getting paid to actually review products that are fresh off the block, I would consider getting the iPod nano simply for the novelty of a touch screen that small. And even then I’d still go back to my Jesus phone anyway.


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