I Dream of iPod
By the time you read this column, it could very well be out of date. Unfortunately, between our production schedule and my life as art director for two monthly publications, there isn’t anything I can do about it, other than maybe write an addendum and update with links.
On February 21, AppleInsider reported that Apple will be hosting a “Special Event” on February 28. These “Special Events” have sometimes brought with them new product announcements, so they are anxiously awaited, and I’ll be interested to see if in fact a new product is en route. But since it’s February 22 as I write this column, I don’t know what will be at this event. Keep your eyes open, folks. AppleInsider suspects an “iPod boombox”; my money is on a new iBook, which I would expect to be called the “MacBook” (minus “Pro”). I suspect Steve wanted to introduce both at the same time, but only one product was ready to intro. Anyway, we’ll have to see.
February is normally a fairly quiet month in the Apple world. With Macworld Expo in the past, there aren’t many rumors or many exciting things happening, and not much chatter to pick up on.
But this month, something was different. It was very much an iPod month.
This shouldn’t surprise any of you all, given the frequency with which I’ve reported on it, but the iPod has remained an item of significant interest, probably because it didn’t get any innovation at Macworld.
Probably the best food for thought I’ve seen in a while was Apple Matters’ wonderful essay on the iPod and the way that Apple’s learned from its mistakes. We’re all too familiar with the mistakes of the past, from the ADB ghetto and OS licensing to minor details like the stillborn Apple-shaped sticky rubber feet on the bottom of the first Macintosh. Writer Chris Seibold has excellent insight and a great grasp on history, and he makes several points that it’s worth considering for future Apple products, as well as the ghosts of products past. He reminds Apple to work at both ends of the market, and to save room for software innovation to make sure that a future title can save their product (viz., VisiCalc, PageMaker, Photoshop), for instance.
It’s worth considering Seibold’s argument to enlighten the difference between the iPod and the Mac, in modern-day Apple. It explains, for instance, why Apple has continued to make the same mistakes with the Mac that they have been making from the beginning, like crowding out software developers. (Remember “lightning struck twice”?) The iPod team doesn’t have all the hardware team’s baggage, so perhaps they can afford to take a step back and really reconsider the past. The iPod is marketed better, it’s got vastly better market share, and it’s all Steve can talk about most of the time. The Mac team should be required to read his essay.
On that note, the New York Times notes that the market for iPod accessories is red-hot, and requires a huge amount of attention by accessory makers. There’s no question that Apple keeps them on their toes…to the tune of $1 billion. What an amazing number. The Times interviews Belkin’s director of product management, and Kensington’s director of marketing, and comes away with the impression that it is the entire ecosystem surrounding the iPod that makes it so successful.
Because of its power in an otherwise crowded market, everyone is always looking to the iPod for innovation and direction. Wired reports on an up-and-coming extension to the MP3 format from its creators, Thomson: surround sound. Its previous attempt, MP3Pro, failed because only its players (and now-dead Audion) supported it—and Eliot Van Buskirk can’t let the point pass by: “Thomson would also need to convince Apple to put MP3 Surround on the iPod.” No if’s, and’s, or but’s.
I should add that the iPhone rumor is once again back, tied to the iPod and MVNO rumors once again. It’s amazing, how often this is resurrected. Like Andrew Sullivan, I’m going to start giving out awards for recurring themes.
So I am creating my first award. Let’s call this the JFK Shot By LBJ Award—given to the month’s most ridiculous, most credulous, most conspiracy-oriented wild product speculation. Good candidates, if you want to win this award, write an article involving speculations about Apple-as-MVNO, Apple-to-buy-Disney, or Sony-to-buy-Apple. (Or not.)
To whom does this month’s JFK Shot By LBJ Award go? Jonathan at Amphetameme, who resurrects the MVNO story (of course!) with a creative twist: ubiquitous, total marketing driven by cell service tied into your computer.
You walk in[to an Apple Store] and as an added bonus you get a credit on your iTunes account for 6 free songs, just for walking in the store standing in front of a particular display, or walking around the store for 2–3 minutes.
Imagine never having to worry about having a network connection ever again. Your MacBook Pro would have a connection just like Verizon’s VZAccess solution, which is essentially a card connecting you to their mobile data network. Add a Vonage or Skype type of solution and you’ll be VoIPing your way happily regardless of the Apple device you use. Always connected means Apple gets ahold of you 24 hours a day to feed you content of all kinds, and to market you to death (gently and with style of course).
Sounds like a world I want to live in.
And then, there are always court cases surrounding the MP3 player. This month, it’s a class-action lawsuit alleging that the iPod can damage your hearing. Plaintiff John Kiel Patterson, a Louisianan, argues that the iPod’s maximum volume output of 115 decibels is too high, and that this makes it defective. I think you can probably predict my response, but here goes: When you turn the volume all the way up on a device, in general, you assume the risk of listening to something at maximum volume. There are exceptions to this rule—several years ago, Siemens recalled its 65-series cell phones because it was possible for them to play too loudly by accident—but whether the iPod produces 115 dB or just 100, like in Europe, full volume is full volume. Should a music player’s maximum output be physically limited to the highest possible without significant damage—and just what is that? I have never gone above 3/4 of my iPod’s volume, for good reason, and anyone who’s willing to put up with 115 dB is asking for damage.
Not What You Expected
- Is it reasonable for an application to install itself silently, and, when deleted, reinstall itself? Isn’t that what we call spyware? Bill Bumgarner discovered that Unsanity’s Smart Crash Reports was being installed on his computer by Karelia’s Sandvox, and posted about it, being angry that the software was being so abusive of his user rights as to keep reinstalling itself. (This, not iTunes, is the real malware.) John Gruber analyzed, and found that SCR isn’t to blame in and of itself, but rather, applications can choose to automatically install and reinstall SCR if it’s deleted…which wouldn’t be a problem, except that it’s actually a system (versus application) hack. Karelia has since backed down from installing SCR automatically; and, as a consequence of all the to-do, Gruber reports that SCR will now prompt users with a dialog box.
- One of the theoretical benefits of dual-core CPUs is that they consume less power than having two CPUs—they need less power for cooling as well as for operation. Apparently, the Intel iMac is making good on that promise, and one-upping the Intel competition: Andrew Fergusson at Enterprise Mac tested his 20″ iMac and found that, minus monitor, it draws 63 watts at peak; including monitor, it’s 95 watts. Apple rates it for 120 watts. I would just like to note how ridiculous a 95-watt dual-core computer operating at 2GHz is, for the record: according to a Macalester College survey, a 1.6GHz Power Mac G5 draws 120 watts, not including monitor, and a 1GHz PowerBook G4 15″ pulls 18 watts on a full charge. As Andrew notes, find a PC as powerful as the Intel iMac that uses as little electricity.