Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 20/9/2005We're not supposed to write about the iPod, you know. We leave that to the jolly crew on cnet.

Tuesday 20/9/2005

We're not supposed to write about the iPod, you know. We leave that to the jolly crew on, while concentrating more on important grown up stuff like ERP and CRM and storage and... you see my problem.

But here, you see, down in the basement where the Fun Police rarely check, I think we can get away with it. So put a towel along the base of the door and pass that MP3 stash, man.

I played with my first iPod Nano today, and if you haven't had the chance to fondle one you should as soon as you can. It's not that it's any better as an MP3 player than any of the previous models, nor that it's really that much more portable: I've been lugging around my third generation full-fat device for nearly two years now and size, as they say, has never been a problem. But divorced from function and considered merely as an object, it's clear that the Nano has hit some sweet spot — big enough for comfortable interaction, small enough to qualify as exquisite, sparkling and colourful and cool. It would be great whatever it did.

It's certainly chucked the iPod Mini out of the nest, which has had a surprisingly short period as cutest. This is all possible, of course, because Apple has ditched the hard disk in the Mini for flash memory in the Nano: not only is this smaller, it also uses much less power so the battery can be shrunk alongside without sacrificing uptime.

This illustrates an interesting point: here is the battle line where solid state storage is beating back magnetic. Consider the tiny hard disk in the Mini — it is a superb piece of high technology. By bagging most of the production, Apple kept a strict hold on the market: in any light, a hard disk that small and that capacious was a wonder. Yet it couldn't hold the line against flash, and had a very short time at the top of the tree. It's been the same with the IBM Microdrive, which looked like a winner when it first appeared, and yet which has never really been a stonking winner over flash of similar capacity.

It's not just an issue for consumer electronics. 4GB isn't going to make much of a dent in servers, but there are applications where 40GB might have its uses — and elsewhere inside servers there are plenty of moves towards lower power and smaller size without sacrificing performance. Is there a market for a blade server where each blade is silent and the size of a packet of cigarettes? I can think of applications in mobile, health, domestic and environmentally sensitive areas. Doubtless you can, too.

Flash versus magnetic will bear discussion for a while yet, but if you want to know how the fight's progressing you could do worse than watch the consumer market.

You see. I said we had to talk about storage round these parts.