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  • Apple Rocks Again — Sort Of

    September 9th, 2008

    If you bought a 160GB iPod Classic last year, pay attention! You now have a “classic” in more ways than one, because Apple has discontinued the higher-capacity model in its Fall 2008 iPod lineup. Instead, the largest Classic, at $249, has a mere 120GB of storage space.

    Of course, it’s not that most owners ever come close to filling that capacity, so I suppose it’s no big deal. What’s more, as Steve Jobs says, not too many people bought the “thick” version, the one costing $100 more, so I suppose the higher capacity “thin” version is a suitable compromise. That is, unless you have a large collection of videos, and there will be more of those available now that NBC and Apple have kissed and made up. So get ready to download Heroes and all your other favorite NBC TV shows, assuming you have any favorites on that network.

    The star of the show, however, was the new iPod nano, which went from fat to ultra-thin in its latest update. But that’s not a retro step, because the new model, now available in nine colors, inherits the accelerometer from the iPhone and the iPod touch. This allows you to use Cover Flow to flip through album artwork, and to watch videos in widescreen mode. Were I to get a nano, I’d probably dig the “shake and shuffle” feature, which switches to another song at random if you shake the device — no, don’t throw it, just shake it!

    All this joy is priced at $149 for the 8GB version and $199 for the 16GB version.

    The iPod touch came for a minor touch up in terms of design and a lower price. But the strangest aspect about the product is not the slightly curved rear-end, but Apple’s decision to toss grammatical conventions out the window again, in the tradition of “Think Different.”

    So are you ready for “The funnest iPod ever?”

    I’ll let that phrase lie there for the time being, as if adding a speaker and dropping the price somewhat is going to make the late 2008 edition of the iPod touch than the model it replaces. So now the 8GB model is $229, 16GB comes for $299 and the 32GB variant is $399.

    Funnest? I didn’t think so.

    iTunes 8 also made its debut, sporting a new “Genius” feature that’s supposed to help you build better playlists and rediscover the tunes you may have overlooked. That is if you choose to turn over the selection chores to the software, and I have a mixed opinion about such things. Besides, it will probably take a while for Genius to check larger libraries and come to any relevant conclusions about them. No jokes please!

    In addition, you’ll be able to download HD movies direct from iTunes, without having to buy an Apple TV, a product that was off the radar for this particular event.

    The most intriguing aspect of this week’s press presentation, however, is not what they released, but what they didn’t release and didn’t talk about.

    Take iPhone 2.1. It is now available for the iPod touch, but won’t be released to iPhone users until Friday. The most significant feature is fewer dropped calls, so I suppose that means, if true, that those lawsuits against Apple and AT&T may have somewhat less significance. That assumes that 3G connections speed up too, and that is still largely the province of the network. Also, Apple promises to enhance battery life, improve application stability, and to speed up backups in iTunes.

    Once the download is here, I’ll definitely upgrade my iPhone 3G and take it through the areas that have chronic dead spots in this neighborhood and see if things have really improved.

    As to what Apple didn’t talk about, consider everything that isn’t necessarily music related. Take that major product transition Apple dropped broad hints about at last month’s financial analyst meeting. I don’t think a less-expensive iPod touch fits into that category, nor the revised iPod nano. Instead, we have been left hanging once again.

    Indeed, the drop in Apple’s stock price clearly demonstrates that Apple delivered at the low-end of expectations and Wall Street wasn’t terribly impressed.

    Where, for example, are those widely-expected updates to the MacBook and MacBook Pro? What sort of surprises will Apple deliver with the new models? Will they both sport built-in iPhone-style LCD displays instead of trackpads? What about a tablet Mac, or does anyone really care about such things?

    What, in fact, constitutes a major product transition anyway?

    However, it is always possible there will be yet another Apple event, possibly later this month, to fulfill the promise of some cutting-edge product designs.

    At least there will be less speculation about the state of Steve Jobs health, though. He came out and assured the audience of journalists and analysts that “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” As expected, he was greeted by a round of applause. He was, however, still quite thin.

    And the session was fairly short, clocking in at around an hour, including the musical presentation from Jack Johnson. And there was nothing whatever about “one more thing.”

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