• The Mac Music Report: Rumor Sites Partly Successful

    September 10th, 2005

    Over the years, one of the popular all-night radio shows, “Coast To Coast AM,” has featured guests who claim to be able to predict the future. At the beginning of the year, they’d present a set of predictions for the next twelve months, and, the following year, they’d look at the actual events and compare them with the predictions. Now I’m not about to suggest that people don’t have abilities that we cannot understand. I’ve lived long enough to know that there is an awful lot we do not know about human behavior, despite all the advances of science. On the other hand, when all is said and done, most of those predictions turn out to be wrong.

    In keeping with the spirit of that show, it’s fitting that we look at the predictions preceding Apple’s latest round of music announcements and see just how well they fared.

    Well, nobody was surprised to learn about the iTunes Phone, the Motorola ROKR. Maybe it won’t store quite as many songs as you want. Some suggested several hundred. But a capacity of 100 songs is close to that of the basic iPod shuffle, and the operational methodology is the same, down to the Autofill feature where it downloads a random selection of tunes each time the unit’s docked with your computer. It does seem strange, however, that you can’t download a song, although perhaps that’ll come later. By the way, some of the more detailed predictions suggested you would be able to use the ROKR to download, but it would cost $2.00 a track. Now who would you expect Steve Jobs to allow that to occur?

    A so-called “candy bar” phone, the ROKR may not have quite the panache of the RAZR, a clamshell model, but I actually wonder if it isn’t more convenient. Do you ever find yourself struggling to open the lid on a phone when it’s ringing and you just miss that important call? Just asking. I’ll let you know more when I have a chance to spend some real face time with the new phone.

    All right, the predictions were nearly on track there, and how well that phone fares in the marketplace will be known in a few months. I’m also curious to see whether the other major GSM cell provider in the U.S., T-Mobile, will jump on the bandwagon. So far, at least, Cingular has the exclusive.

    iTunes 5? Well, it apparently wasn’t on anyone’s radar, unless I missed something along the way. Not that it’s a momentous upgrade. It’s just a natural evolution of the application, and the parents among you will no doubt appreciate the ability to block songs with explicit lyrics, although that happens to include at least one track from the latest album from The Rolling Stones and some of the tunes from the artist who performed at Apple’s special event, Kanye West.

    Then there’s the iPod nano. Yes, the rumor sites were mentioning a Flash-based replacement for the mini, which implied at the very least a similar, if somewhat smaller, form factor. Here Steve Jobs had the upper hand in nearly every respect. While the nano may not necessarily break new ground, and you may wish it were a little cheaper, it’s one slick device. “Breathtaking?” Well, Steve Jobs will sometimes exaggerate. Make that often.

    More to the point, it wasn’t on the radar of the likes of AppleInsider or ThinkSecret. So what happened? Have these rumor sites become afraid to reveal too much information, fearing the legal wrath of Apple, or have their sources begun to dry up? Or maybe Apple has found a way to more forcefully assert its secrecy policies to its employees and policies. Whatever the reason, it was nice, once again, to be mostly surprised at the introduction a new Apple product. Why mostly surprised? Well, there was actually one story out there that mentioned the nano by name.

    So what is left to do with the iPod line? Well, based on the price of the nano, I wonder if Apple could deliver a 1GB version at $149 and a 512MB version at $99, meaning it is a potential replacement for the shuffle. Or perhaps Apple could drop prices on the shuffle, and deliver the cheapest model for, say $69. But then what do I know about marketing?

    But I do know this. Apple’s competitors are going to have an even more difficult time to get some traction in this market. But then there are those patents out there that allegedly precede the ones Apple filed for the iPod and maybe it’s time to get the courts involved. But don’t get me started.

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