• Newsletter Issue #303

    September 19th, 2005

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE UPDATE

    Back in 1994, we were busy struggling to make ends meet when David Pogue called and asked for help on a new book, Mac Secrets. A single chapter ballooned into several chapters, and before long, new book projects were in the offing. But I still remember David, because his offer came at a time when the money was sorely needed, and I’ll always be grateful to him for coming through in the nick of time.

    What does this have to do with The Tech Night Owl LIVE? Well, David these days, in addition to his regular output of books, is a technology columnist for The New York Times and he’ll join us for an extended interview on our September 22nd episode. Topics will include Apple’s digital music business, Macs on Intel, and lots more. Unlike some of the “other” radio shows out there, we don’t interrupt the proceedings every five minutes for half a dozen commercials, so you’ll get to hear a lot more of what David has to say, unfiltered. We’ll also be talking to Ryan Rempel about his newest version of XPostFacto, which lets you run Mac OS X Tiger on older Macs. More guests will be announced soon.

    On our September 15th show, Joe Wilcox of JupiterResearch brought us up to date on a number of computer industry developments, including a brief comparison of Mac OS X Tiger and Windows Vista beta one. We also heard about the new features in Macromedia Studio 8 from Jim Guerard, Vice-President of Product Management and Product Marketing for MX Tools. In addition, author Kirk McElhearn offered some hot tips and tricks from his new e-book, “Take Control of Customizing Microsoft Office.”

    And don’t forget our weekly contests. So far we’ve given away such prizes as iPod shuffles, iPod accessories, memory upgrades, network music players, software and books. More great prizes will be offered in the weeks to come.

    If you haven’t heard our program, be sure to visit The Tech Night Owl LIVE Web site to listen to our archives. Enjoy.

    A EULOGY FOR AN EXPO
    I wasn’t surprised at the news. Macworld Boston had been on life support for two years and it was time for IDG World Expo to recognize the reality and pull the plug. The main reason for its decision to cancel the event can be described in two words: Apple Computer, which abandoned support for the east coast exposition in response to the decision to move it back to Boston from New York City.

    As most of you know, I come from the eastern U.S., and so Macworld Boston, in its original format, was my first exposure to a Mac trade show, and I was a regular for a number of years, even after it moved to New York. I still remember when I first took Grayson, then barely in kindergarten, along with me, and he seemed to revel in the attention he received from company representatives across the two sprawling exhibit floors.

    Of course in those days, you didn’t have widespread broadband Internet, or an Apple owned retail store chain. Print magazines and trade shows were the only ways to learn about the newest Macs, peripherals and software. At one time, as many as 60,000 people attended the east coast event. And, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, his keynote at the east and west coast expos were the showpieces, like watching your favorite movie star hold court. That is, if you were lucky enough to be among the few thousand who would be shoehorned into the auditorium.

    But Apple, as special press events such as last week’s session to introduce the iPod nano and Motorola ROKR phone demonstrated, trade shows are no longer regarded as the best places to make new product announcements. The introduction of faster Macs, for that matter, are usually accompanied by simple press releases, a few interview opportunities with Apple executives, and a big spread at Apple’s Web site. A Steve Jobs keynote may happen at any time a new product is ready for release. All Apple has to do is send a few hundred email invitations to the technology press, and we will drive across town or even fly halfway around the world to bask in his presence.

    So why does Apple need an Expo? Maybe no. Even this week’s Paris Expo will not feature a keynote address. Jobs and other Apple executives will be present, but you can see the handwriting on the wall. For now at least, you can depend on a Jobs keynote at the San Francisco event in January, but don’t be surprised if Apple decides that event is no longer worth the time and expense, even though it’s so close to home.

    Of course, a Macworld Expo wasn’t just a place to touch and feel the latest gear from Apple or your favorite software companies. You had a chance to meet fellow Mac users, share gossip and just hang out. Although I’m not the party animal, I realize that many of you enjoy such things, and will miss them most of all should the San Francisco Expo disappear too.

    From a marketing standpoint, though, you’ve got to look at the numbers. This year’s Expo in San Francisco had nearly 36,000 visitors, an 11 percent increase over the previous year. That may seem a lot when you compare it to the Boston event, which attracted just 8,000 to a far more intimate setting. In fact, few major companies showed up in Boston, and little news came out of the event. Consider, for example, the tragic picture of a couple of amateur radio hosts reportedly wandering around the tiny exhibit hall in search of something to talk about.

    When Apple was just a niche company, an event that attracted 36,000 people in one place must have seemed a tremendous opportunity to build up demand for new Macs. But the iPod has nearly three quarters of the digital music player market. A single TV ad reaches millions of potential customers. The members of the press who couldn’t make it to last week’s music event, and anyone else for that matter, can simply watch the streaming video online, and probably get a better view of the session than they had squeezed into the press area. Missed a pithy quote from Steve? No problem. Just play it again.

    Of course, with one Macworld Expo left, maybe more people will choose to make the uncomfortable flight to the west coast to attend. In fact, there’s a lot of anticipation as to what’s going to happen in San Francisco in January 2006. Will Steve Jobs pull off the wraps on the first Macs with Intel inside? What about a video iPod, or some breakthrough digital device even the Mac rumor sites haven’t dreamed about yet. Will you see the first demonstration of the next version of Mac OS X, Leopard? Or will Apple hold that for the next WWDC in June?

    The bigger question in my mind is whether there will be a Macworld in 2007. I wouldn’t take any bets.

    THE TECH NIGHT OWL: APPLE’S IPOD NANO IS IMPOSSIBLY CHEAP

    How should I review a product that has already been covered by dozens of other reviewers? You must know the basics by now. There are two iPod nano lines, one with 2GB Flash memory, good for up to 500 songs, and one with 4GB Flash memory, good for up to 1,000 songs. There’s a white version and a black version, and the latter seems to be the hot ticket, considering that may dealers have already sold their initial allotments.

    Prices are $199 and $249, and the latter may seem expensive for a 4GB music player, until you compare it to the competition. Is there another Flash-based player with a color screen that carries a better price? When you begin to look over the product catalogs, you’ll quickly to realize that Apple, for now, has apparently cornered the market. There is no competition! The best you might find is a comparably priced player with just 2GB of storage.

    To think at once time the a cheap Apple product seemed an oxymoron.

    If you want to really appreciate just how tiny the iPod nano is, just put it next to a standard sized model, as I did. My 20GB fourth generation model fits snugly into my shirt pocket. It weighs just shy of 6 ounces, heavier than a typical mobile phone, and feels rock solid. The nano also feels rock solid, but it’s almost wafer thin and weighs in at 1.5 ounces. Put them side by side and you think you are looking at father and son, or mother and daughter if you prefer.

    iPod nano packaging is simple and elegant as usual. It comes with the standard white earbuds, a dock connector, an adapter and a CD with the Mac and Windows versions of iTunes. Documentation consists of a tiny Quick Start pamphlet that covers basic operation and a few simple troubleshooting steps. For additional assistance, you can consult the iPod section of the iTunes Help menu or Apple’s support site.

    There are minor functional differences between the full sized iPod and the nano, of course, hardly worth mentioning unless you cherish the photo storage capability. For all practical purposes, they operate in precisely the same fashion, with essentially equal audio quality. If anything, the iPod nano’s color display seems to react just a little faster, benefiting from the use of Flash memory rather than a tiny hard drive. No doubt it’ll also withstand the rigors of regular use with less opportunity for damage. In fact, I’ve already read a couple of articles where a nano survived a severe drop or two with nothing to show for it other than a few extra scratches.

    Speaking of scratches, sad to say the iPod nano is as susceptible to face and back plate scratches as the original iPod. After just a few hours of handling, mine was filled with smudges. I suppose that’s the charm of an iPod in some perverse way, and I expect I’ll just wipe them off and deposit the unit in a case before long. Maybe that’s why the black model is so popular, since you’re less apt to see the blemishes.

    Apple is advertising 14 hours for the nano’s miniature battery. Based on the reviews I’ve examined, you can take this figure realistically. One site claimed just 12 hours, but the others have verified the 14 hour claim and then some. My particular approach with a rechargeable battery is to run a couple of full charge and discharge cycles before testing, and if I find anything amiss, I’ll let you know.

    In the meantime, I will say this: The nano is a stunning engineering marvel that packs virtually everything you know and love about the iPod in an impressively tiny case. It looks great, and it sounds great. What more could you want from a music player?

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Mac Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing and Marketing: Sharon Jarvis



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