Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Apple news...some neat stuff probably.

The iPod iPod got upgraded with a few new features. Much brighter screen, longer battery life, bigger model is 20GB bigger, at 80GB. Disappointing was the absence of the awaited "real" iPod Video, with the display taking up the full surface of the thing. At this point, the large screen iPod video seems somewhat overdue, even by a company that rarely announces products and release dates. Most exciting thing is probably the cost-- $249 for the 30GB. This is apparently a price drop, but I don't know what the original 30GB price is, so I can't say what this does for me.

Interestingness of products increases as it goes down the line. iPod Nano has been redesigned. Basically, they took the look of the iPod mini and injected that into the iPod Nano (w/ expected increases in memory capacity). So you've got the size of the Nano, plus the colors and aluminum finish of the mini, minus all the scratches that was all the fuss last year. By some feedback on digg, some like it, some don't, but it mostly depends on how minimal you like your products. I think this is just fine.

Neatest product upgrade was the iPod shuffle, which does not even quite look like the iPod Shuffle anymore. It has also received an aluminum case, in silver, and perhaps more resembles Apple's FM receiver accessory than the original shuffle. With it's silver brushed metal design and built in clip, it is a huge improvement over the plastic white pack of gum that was the original shuffle. Moreover, while the new shuffle was pictured clipped to a pocket of a pair of jeans, I find it just as likely, if not more, that the very same device will be seen clipped to dress shirts or suit jacket lapels. It looks good enough to be able to get away with that. Or at least, much easier than having the white stick of gum hanging around your neck with a lanyard attached to it.

iTunes 7 got a bunch of new stuff, neatest was an "album flow" sort of cover. iTunes will now download all of the album art for your CDs, including for albums that you did not by off of iTunes, and there are a fwe new views to shuffle through them (including one that looks rather inspired by the Windows Media Player 11...but Apple's album flow is sufficiently innovative to trump this little bit of copy catting).

For movies, resolution has gone up to 640 X 480, in "near" DVD quality. I can only guess that this is somewhere between VHS and DVD, and that's ok. I probably don't have high enough resolution of any sort of display that this'd make a huge difference (though I wonder how wide screen movies will appear on the still-square iPod). Movies available now from all Disney labels, new releases will be $12.99 during preorder and the first week, but they will then jump to $14.99 immediately thereafter. I smell compromise with film studios.

On the more interesting end, though, it's $9.99 for most older films (that is, not recent). I think I kind of dig this. I didn't think I would, but when I think of the number of times that I've thought-- man, I'd buy this movie if it were $9.99 at a Walmart or something...and then have been disappointed not to find it....then I think I can justify this movie store existence, to fulfill that particular need of mine. Now to get it to my TV, though...the cost of a DVD to burn it on...and the hassle of burning it...could be an offset. But what could sell me on it a bit more, is the thin silver box that will make it possible for your TV display menu to look like this:

Product codenamed "iTV" was announced for 1st Quarter 2007. Looks like a flattened Mac Mini that'd attach to your TV. Which would allow you to access all media on your computers running iTunes, and stream it through to your television. So I could by my $9.99 iTunes edition of the original "Superman" or "Batman" (2 titles that fit into the, I'd buy it only if category...), go to my TV set w/ this box attached to it, cue it up, and just sit on the couch and watch it. The video never had to be burned to a DVD, it's sent wirelessly over my home network to my TV.

There are reservations here. The display of the movie is contingent upon the wireless network in your home being fast enough. And then there's the business of buying the "iTV."

If we look at the Mac Mini as any sort of reference guide (which...might work), we'd see the low end model at $599 (it was the Mac Mini that was originally rumored to be Apple's gateway into the living room, but if anything, perhaps it was the first step towards developing the "iTV" product). So, Mac Mini is at $599. By contrast, other set top devices go from $70 - $200 for a DVD plaer, TiVo goes $30 to $130 models. Blu-Ray or HDVD takes it up there to the $500 - $1000 range, but this is quite an exception. So perhaps we may be able to look between $99 - $549 as my crude, slightly educated guess. This, of course, works under the assumption that a use-specific device, like a media hub box for your TV should cost less than a desktop computer. But perhaps it's too early to say.

My favorites, from what I saw, (webcast cut out on me), the new enough I'd almost buy it...and the $9.99 movies. I'd almost buy those, too. Runner up in interest, the new Nano (nothing shocking, but stil kind of neat). iTV...ok...not bad...but it's far enough away that it doesn't do much for me, and I'm not too impressed with such an early product announcement from Apple. I can't quite imagine why they'd announce a product that is going to come spefically AFTER the holiday season. "Hi, Honey! It's spring time! Time for you to shell out the cash to buy that gadget that you would have much rather received a few months ago at Christmas for free!" Can only push so far though, still, so close to the Christmas buying season, why bother telling people. At the very least, though, the announcement won't cannibalize sales, except for perhaps those of Mac Minis whose perspective owners would be interested in getting one during the holidays to hook up to their TV.


NOTE 9/13 9:52PM: I watched the rest of the webcast yesterday and saw that they actually did reveal their price point for the iTV device: $299. I kinda don't think that's so bad. And I found myself trying to make up reasons to get it. It'd be great to be able to stream content and movies from my computer, but I don't ahve a lot of movies on my computer...but I could. I do also have bunches of DL.TV or Diggnation video podcasts, I think I'd really enjoy the opportunity to watch those from sitting on a couch, or to show them to friends.