Yesterday saw Steve Jobs These improvements put me one step closer to buying an iPod and maybe two steps closer to getting a nanounveil some serious upgrades to all three of the Apple iPod line, putting them in a strong position to compete with Microsoft's Zune. In fact, it sounds like Apple has listened to criticisms and and taken the opportunity to make some core changes to the iPod, iPod nano and iPod shuffle.
Let's begin with the new iPod 6g. Core changes here include:
- Brighter screen (complete with brightness control)
- Gapless music playback
- 75% better battery life (now allowing for 6.5 hours of video playback)
- Games available for download from the iTunes store (Tetris, PacMan, that sort of thing) - these will also work on the 5g iPod
- Music now searchable
- New headphones
- Price drop - the 60GB iPod costs $249 while the 80GB will set you back $349
The iPod nano also gets some major upgrades to take it to 2g, although much of these are cosmetic. These include:
- Revamped interface (bringing it in line with the iPod)
- Brighter screen
- New, tougher aluminum case in a number of colors (depending on capacity)
Major changes for the iPod shuffle 2g:
- Dramatically smaller - now making it the world's smallest audio player
- All metal construction
- Long life 12 hour battery
- 1GB capacity
Now I have to be honest and say that I'm not an iPod owner, but these improvements put me one step closer to buying an iPod and maybe two steps closer to getting a nano. The increased size and tougher aluminum case on the nano make it particularly compelling. Yeah, I know that you're still locked in to Apple's format and DRM, but the lock-in is getting sexier.
In other Apple hardware related news, also announced were details of a set-top box I'm certainly not going to pay $12.99 for "near DVD" quality video that I don't really own when I can buy a DVD and own it and play it anywhereprovisionally called iTV which is due to hit the shelves January 2007. The iTV wirelessly bridges the gap between the PC/Mac and the TV and allows users to stream downloaded videos directly to their TV. The iTV has connectors galore - USB 2.0, Ethernet, HDMI, RGB, RCA and optical audio - and will be controlled by the familiar white remote control. All this is slated to cost $299.
Personally, I'm not interested in yet another set-top box (YASTB) and I'm certainly not going to pay $12.99 for "near DVD" quality video that I don't really own when I can buy a DVD and own it and play it anywhere.
There's no doubt that by combining a movie download service with hardware, Apple is taking on a lot of competition (much more than it did with the iPod/iTunes). Part of this competition will come from the movie studios themselves, who might at this point enjoy the additional cashflow, might later on feel too much under Apple's control. Apple is also taking on other fiercely ambitious companies such as Amazon who launched their Unbox video download service (who already have 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros on board, while Apple is left with Disney).
By adding hardware into the mix Apple is no doubt trying to entice partners by demonstrating how serious they are, but it's still risky because they're not the only hardware players (think Microsoft and the Xbox 360). There are a lot of competitors in this market, and many are interlinked in very deep ways and I doubt that there is enough interest at present in movie downloads for all these companies to survive.
Who will survive and who will fall by the wayside? We'll have to wait and see.