In keeping with tradition, I’m commenting on new Apple product announcements, and since Steve Jobs did a presentation yesterday, my post is overdue.
We’ve come to expect consumer product announcements from Apple in the fall, and in plenty time for the holiday season. This year was no exception.
So what did we get this time?
Minor updates to the iPod product line, and a brand new iPod shuffle, that looks really really cool, and at $79 it’s great value, and it’s now truly wearable, and sports an integrated clip. I really, really want one. I would have liked wireless (Bluetooth) or an integrated USB, eliminating the need to carry a cable, but that would have hurt estetics.
The iPod nano was also updated (or re-mastered as Apple puts it so brillantly), now looking much like the Mini. Aluminium is back in fashion with Apple, and I like it, the green nano is tempting (surprise I’m a sucker for green), now if it only came in a 8 gig version.
iTunes was given a make-over with version 7. At first I didn’t find the new look too attractive, but I guess that this a preview of what Leopard will look like, and it is actually quite attractive – it grows on me. The inclusion of “cover flow” is great, but I expect that Apple will be getting a lot of flak over the way they implemented the download of cover art, by requiring that you have an active iTunes account.
I predict that Apple will remove the requirement to register with iTunes for the cover download feature to work, quite soon, but I’m sure that Apple has increased their iTunes user base by some percentage points before then. iTunes is a Trojan, Apple knows it, and they will keep trying to leverage it, like Steve Jobs said at a presentation “we now have x millions active accounts in iTunes – and they come with credit cards!”.
The big content announcement was that you now can buy movies on iTunes, so far only in the US store, the rest of the world might follow in 2007. Apple has also increased the quality of the video you can purchase by a factor 4 to VGA quality, approaching DVD quality.
Apple is also selling games for the iPod 5th Gen, this hints that Apple is opening the iPod platform for 3rd party development, this is a very welcome development.
The big hardware news was, breaking with the tradition of not commenting on unreleased products, the announcement of a digital set-top box code-named the iTV. The iTV is a “real” digital set-top box, it looks like it’s a thin iTunes/FrontRow streaming client, think of it as “AirVideo” or “AirPort Express/Video”. Apple seems to be skipping analogue all together for their entertainment centre strategy, this makes good sense, and was somewhat what I expected, but it’s still somewhat visionary and definitely an example of different thinking, and I applaud the boldness of Apple here. I’m looking forward to more details on this cool new product.
The reason information about the iTV has been disclosed at the late prototype stage, could be in order to deter people from investing in Windows Media Centre solutions, that supports old style broadcast. No other company in the industry has the infrastructure, and deals with content providers in-place. It can only be a hit, but Apple should consider a much lower price point than $299, this is the hardware that could take iTunes to the next level, yet another Trojan from Apple.
iTV is the way TV should be, bringing you in control, but I think that the Mac mini is more for me. I like the concept of a general computer at the centre of my digital media, and the Mac mini is already up to the task. Again I’m looking forward to hearing more details. Will the iTV for instance be a gaming platform? The availability of games on iTunes hints at that. Then again: it looks as if Apple is going to use the same old dogmatic remote from the newest Macs, and that they will not be introducing a game navigation feature, like a click wheel.
The new products, and a Steve Jobs looking a little more enthusiastic than during the WWDC Keynote, made me wonder if Apple should change it’s name to Apple Consumer Corporation. Apple: I need a sub-note book with record breaking long battery life, PLEASE remain a Computer company.