• The Apple Hardware Report: Jobs Said it Wouldn’t be Done

    October 15th, 2005

    So what can I say. One day, Steve Jobs poo-poohs a product, and a few months later, he brings out a version of the very same thing. But the question remains the same: Are you ready to watch Lost and Desperate Housewives on a 2.5-inch screen? Are you ready to pay $1.99 for each episode in low resolution versions? That’s a serious question that will have to be answered over the next few months as the new iPod, with built-in video playback capabilities, hits the stores for the holiday season.

    In any case, the predictions from both the mainstream media and Mac rumor sites were right on the mark about this product, including pricing and configurations. The 30GB version is $299 and the 60GB version retails for $399. I wonder, however, whether we’ll hear any complaints about scratches on its “gorgeous, phenomenal” screen. Clearly Apple doesn’t regard this is a terribly significant issue with the nano, where demand apparently continues to outstrip supply.

    One interesting sidelight in Apple’s presentation in San Jose, CA Wednesday morning was a new iPod commercial, featuring Eminem, the very same rap singer who had apparently objected to playing one of his songs in a previous ad. I suppose money talks, however, since it’s clear he got a nice paycheck to feature one of his tunes in an Apple spot. Now maybe that’s not a terribly significant issue, but a sidelight for the idle curious.

    Perhaps the biggest story is the iMac. Apple says it sold a million of them during its first year, and the new model is Apple’s first foray into the media center arena. No, you don’t have built-in TiVo software to record your favorite TV shows; you still need a third party product, such as the Eye TV, for that task. However, I think the handwriting is on the wall, and we’ll see that capability soon enough. In any case, the rest of the stuff, such as the Photo Booth software, which lets you take self-portraits with the iMac’s built-in iSight camera in a variety of forms, including silly special effects, seems sufficient to entertain kids and those young in heart for hours.

    The other media center element is the super-simple remote control, Front Row, which provides unique iPod-like simplicity to a product that can be mighty complicated. I mean how intuitive is your standard remote, with dozens of buttons, usually the same sized. I still have to take a second glance at the one I use for Dish Network, and occasionally press the wrong one. I know I’m not alone in this.

    However, in the move from over 40 buttons to six, it seems as if there’s going to be lots of menu jumping to get to a specific function. More clicks for the same result, but at least you won’t need to figure out what button does what, and I rather suspect this is going to smoke the flagging media center PCs in the months to come.

    The pricing of the iMac continues Apple’s increasingly aggressive posture. Compare any media center PC with the $1,299 17-inch iMac or the $1,699 20-inch version and you’ll see what I mean. No, those $299 Dells aren’t regarded as media center computers, in case one of your friends who extols the questionable virtues of Windows complains Macs are still too expensive.

    The other notable development from Apple’s new product media event didn’t occur during Steve Jobs’ presentation. The eMac has apparently been quietly pulled from the consumer market, although it remains available for educators. I suppose the success of the Mac mini has thrown a wrench into eMac sales, which were never stellar. In a sense that’s unfortunate, because the eMac was a perfectly decent all-in-one computer, although rather a bulky product. At $799, it was a good value, although you could put together similar parts based on the Mac mini for less.

    in any case, I’m not at all surprised by Apple’s optimistic forecasts for sales this quarter. I can see great potential for the new iPods and the iMac. The only fly in the ointment are those low resolution, 320 x 240 pixel videos. Remember, that standard definition TV is 640 x 480 and that’s not too great. I suppose it won’t make much of a difference on a 20-inch LCD, if you don’t look too close, and it certainly will look marvelous at 2.5-inches. But what about full resolution? Would that be worth, say, $3.99 for an episode of your favorite TV show? I’m asking.

    And, no, folks, rumors of a pink Madonna iPod didn’t come to pass. Ah, all is indeed right with the world. Oh yes, the U2-flavored iPod is also history.

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