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Innovation

Has the iPod idea train hit the buffers?

Maybe I was expecting too much, but yesterday's iPod lineup revamp really didn't deserve all the hype and build-up that Apple gave it.

Maybe I was expecting too much, but yesterday's iPod lineup revamp really didn't deserve all the hype and build-up that Apple gave it.

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Let's sum up in a few bullet points what the got from Apple yesterday:
  • A revamped iTunes that offers the end user little more than extra spending opportunities.
  • A camera integrated into the iPod nano ... Remember when people were jazzed when companies integrated a digital clock into something? Well, that wore off a long time ago, and an integrated camera is starting to feel just as long in the tooth.
  • The nano also sees a pedometer and an FM radio tuner ...
  • Performance and capacity bump for the iPod touch. Oh, and a price drop ...
  • Introduction (or is that re-introduction) of a 160GB iPod classic at $249.
  • A POLISHED STAINLESS STEEL iPod shuffle for $99. Oh joy of joys ...

I'm actually starting to feel that the biggest roll-out at the event was Steve Jobs. Given what he's been through, he looks pretty good.

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In fact, I'm almost certain that Apple knew the event would ultimately be seen as a let-down and that's why most of the event was taken up with Apple patting themselves on the back, congratulating themselves, spending a lot of time telling everyone how brilliant the iPod touch is, how rubbish everything else is, and how Apple makes the best products ever, no questions asked. Apple had no tablet to announce, which is what most had worked themselves up into a lather waiting for. Heck, Apple didn't even have the Beatles to offer.

To me the whole iPod lineup is starting to feel stale, and I think that part of the reason is that Apple has created a platform that it has to support and foster (the iPhone OS platform) and any major deviation either to that platform, or the creation of a new platform, would mean loss of momentum and loss of iTunes store revenue.

Another problem is that Apple is building arbitrary differences between the iPhone and iPod touch. Why no camera and GPS on the iPod touch? Because Apple is playing the same game with customers as Microsoft is doing by having a Windows Ultimate edition ... it's called up-sell. NYT journalist David Pogue asked Steve Jobs why the touch wasn't given a camera during the Q&A sessions, Here's the exchange:

POGUE: You put a camcorder on the iPod Nano. Why not on the iPod Touch?

JOBS: Originally, we weren’t exactly sure how to market the Touch. Was it an iPhone without the phone? Was it a pocket computer? What happened was, what customers told us was, they started to see it as a game machine. Because a lot of the games were free on the store. Customers started to tell us, “You don’t know what you’ve got here — it’s a great game machine, with the multitouch screen, the accelerometer, and so on.”

We started to market it that way, and it just took off. And now what we really see is it’s the lowest-cost way to the App Store, and that’s the big draw. So what we were focused on is just reducing the price to $199. We don’t need to add new stuff — we need to get the price down where everyone can afford it. 

But the camera didn't bump the price of the nano? Also, isn't the iPhone just as much of a gaming platform as the touch? It has a camera ... so does the new Nintendo DSi. I also get very suspicious when phrases such as "customers told us" and "customers started to tell us" are trotted out.

Oh, and be careful of that iTunes update too ... that whole "it just works" stuff is little more than a catchphrase ...

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