We didn’t see Powerbook, Powermac, and Mac mini revisions like most level headed analysts thought. Macrumors’ Buyer’s Guide still has the bright red “Don’t Buy” description next to the Powerbooks. The typical cycle is 185 days, and we’re now 255 in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them next revised in January as the first Intel Macs (as they stand to benefit the most, being stuck with maxed out G4s).
Instead, the long-awaited video iPod arrived, the iMac got revised (in a rather interesting way), and the eMac has returned to its proper status as an education product.
The iPod has returned to its original name, simply “iPod”. No more “photo”. No “video”. They’ve added video capabilities, which will please some. Naturally, they’ve started selling music videos to play on it. But really, who watches music videos more than once or twice? Who’s going to speculatively buy a music video without having seen it first? And if they’ve seen it first, why wouldn’t one just buy the song and save some cash?
That was my problem with that being Apple’s bread and butter for the video iPod. Music videos simply aren’t compelling content. Save the “old fart” arguments. Don’t tell me that I don’t understand kids today and that they will come out in droves for them. It’s simply not true. If kids do buy them, it’s because they have no notion of money and music videos on the iPod will be a novelty. At best.
The staying power for video on the iPod is TV (and later, movies). That was the key move that Apple needed to make to lock its position in the consumer video world. Until this, the problem was content. Sure, there were hacky (and illegal) ways to get television content and movies into portable devices, but for the consumer, it was virtually unavailable. Portable video players were very pretty, expensive bricks.
Apple has combined time shifting with a portable player to capture market share previously untapped by both Apple and television producers. Not everyone can stay up to watch shows when they are shown. TiVo has captured a lot of that market, but for many consumers, it’s still a bit too complicated. Many people have rather extended commutes (I’m now excluded from that group, ha). With rising gas prices, mass transit is increasing in popularity, leaving some with an hour+ ride. Bring able to watch one’s favorite TV shows during that commute is not only a good way to pass the time, but effectively frees up even more leisure time. That’s big.
Next will be movies, the hesitation point there being a couple things. First, bandwidth. Despite consumer perception, it costs money. For movies, that can be a lot of money. Further, high quality movies can take a long time to download. Compare that with things like On Demand, and the value begins to dwindle. The second issue is quality. Currently, only 320 x 240, 768 Kbps movies can be handled by the iPod. That’s a quarter of the pixels in standard television. Also, that level of compression can create artifacts.
That simply comes nowhere near DVDs, which has become the gold standard for movies. That means that although you can play those movies on your TV, the video quality will be severely lacking and you also won’t have surround sound. Apple will need to have another revision before the iPod will become everybody’s home for movies.
The direction for the iMac has become much more clear. It’s moving away from the prosumer status it had and back firmly into consumer. I’m not saying it’s no longer a capable machine. Really, it’s more capable than ever. However, it’s not targeted at pros. It’s all about the consumer.
First off, an iSight built into the computer itself is brilliant! Of course, it’s not so great if it breaks or you get a new computer and want to migrate it, but it makes the iMac much more complete out of box. Immediately you can start video conferencing with your family. This would be ideal for people like my dear mother. She could set it up in the kitchen and practically use it as a videophone.
Add to that the new Front Row software, which includes a remote, you’ve got a really easy to use computer. In fact, I’d say that this single application adds all the media center functionality that many people desire. What’s missing is some kind of TV device for TiVo functionality. Had Apple included something like that, I’d be ordering one. Even without I’m still considering it because there’s always El Gato and their EyeTV line of hardware/software. I could even use my existing USB version.
The iMac upgrade has gotten less attention from the public at large because the video iPod was talked about so much. I’m much more excited about the new iMac than the iPod. That strikes me as odd because the iPod is much cheaper and generally computer revisions do little for me (well, except the iMac G4 previously).