Brief Observations Regarding the New Stuff Announced at Today’s Special Event

  • The new iPods do not support FireWire. Not just no FireWire cables in the box; no FireWire, period. Such is the price of smaller and thinner, I suppose.

  • Highest capacity iPod is still 60 GB. There certainly exists a market of people who want larger capacity iPods (I know at least four people personally who can’t fit their entire libraries on a 60 GB drive — and I don’t have many friends), but I don’t think Apple sees this as a significant selling point. Thinner and lighter seems to be what Apple thinks will sell — and judging by the Nano’s popularity, they’re almost certainly right.

  • The remote jack is gone from the iPods; the only I/O ports are the headphone jack and Dock connector. Peripheral makers like Griffin seem to have been already shifting toward using the Dock connector for things like FM transmitters and voice recorders, but existing peripherals that use the remote jack aren’t going to work.

  • The click wheel on the new iPods looks slightly smaller to me. Combined with the larger screen, this makes it look as though the width and height of the iPod have grown — it looks wider but thinner than previous iPods. But the height and width are in fact the same as before: 4.1 × 2.4 inches.

  • The gadget is called “Apple Remote”; the software for your Mac is called “Front Row”. (I.e. the remote itself is not called Front Row.)

  • Apple’s web site doesn’t make this obvious, but the Apple Remote is available separately, for $29. Shipping in “2–3 weeks”, at this writing, which probably explains why they’re not promoting it as a standalone item yet. However, “The Apple Remote requires the iPod Universal Dock and any iPod with a Dock connector.”

  • The remote attaches to the new iMac by magnetism.

  • The Apple Remote uses IR to communicate with the Universal Dock, and, I’m guessing, with the iMac. But where is the IR port on the iMac? Part of the built-in iSight? The lack of a visible IR port on the iMac has led some people to speculate that the remote supports Bluetooth, but if that were the case, it ought to work with any Bluetooth-capable Mac.

    Update: Several readers report that the IR sensor is behind the Apple logo on the front of the iMac.

  • Dial-up is dying: the new iMacs no longer ship with built-in modems, or even have the option of a built-in modem. Instead, Apple is selling cute little $49 USB modems, if you need one.

  • iTunes 5, we hardly knew you. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an entire x.0 version number series go by so quickly. I mean, shit, iTunes 5 was only released one month ago. I just can’t see why this isn’t called iTunes 5.1.

  • The full-screen UI of Front Row is just begging to be hooked up to a TV. Begging. Now that there exists a “video iPod”, the next new “Apple has to be working on this” mega-rumor is going to revolve around how Apple plans to bring this Front Row UI to your TV. What’s interesting about this is that while Apple has a reputation for making spectacular announcements, their long-term strategy for a media entertainment platform is unfolding incrementally.

  • $1.99 for each TV show, in only 320 × 240 resolution, doesn’t seem like a good deal to me. I already get these shows with my cable TV; paying for them again in a crummy low-res format strikes me as a bad deal — like if you had to pay for songs you already own on CD. Of course, I think ringtones sound like a bad deal, too, but people buy billions of them.

  • And so much for “the year of High Definition Video” — 320 × 240 not only isn’t HD, it’s too low to look good on regular (non-HD) TVs. It would appear as though Apple really expects you to watch these shows on the iPod itself.

  • The new iMacs now come with DDR2 RAM.

  • Battery life of 60 GB iPod: 20 hours of music;
    battery life of 30 GB iPod: 14 hours of music.

  • However, battery life for video playback on the 30 and 60 GB iPods is a mere “up to two hours” and “up to three hours”, respectively. That sounds sort of skimpy to me, but perhaps it’s just a reinforcement of Jobs’s statement that the iPods are still primarily about playing audio.

  • Stunt Software already had a Mac utility named PhotoBooth; it’s an app for printing photos. It even garnered a 4-mouse review Macworld.

  • Photo Booth (note that Apple’s app has a space in the name) is not available for download; I wish it were available to anyone with an iSight. I hope it’s not something they’re reserving for new machines with built-in cameras.

  • I’m sitting here looking at my year-old 40 GB iPod and the thing looks like a relic.

  • The TV shows on the ITMS are only available in the U.S.

  • Many people thought it was curious when Jon Rubinstein moved from head of Apple’s Mac hardware division to lead the newly-created iPod division in May 2004. It seemed like a bit of a demotion — as head of the Mac division, Rubinstein oversaw engineering of all Mac hardware, everything from the iMacs to PowerBooks to Power Macs. As head of the iPod division, he’d oversee engineering, of, well, portable FireWire hard drive music players.

    But nobody thinks this is curious or any sort of demotion now — Apple is simply kicking ass with iPod hardware engineering. In just one year, they’ve dramatically shrunk the thickness, added a larger full color screen, increased capacity, increased battery life, and added photo and video playback. Which is not even to mention how much better the Nano is than the iPod Mini. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other hardware company doing as much innovative product design and engineering as Apple’s iPod division.

  • The iTunes 6 “LCD” status display has switched to a subtle gradient background; in iTunes 5, they used a two-toned “glass” background, which many people found distracting. (I didn’t mind it, but the new appearance looks better.)

  • I love the way that the new iPods look like siblings to the iPod Nanos; it always bothered me that the iPod Mini didn’t much resemble the regular white iPods.