Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More goodies from Apple

So I spend a couple of days debilitated by a nasty GI bug, only to wake up today all bright-eyed and back to normal, and with an Apple product announcement awaiting me. Cool. Because I was so busy traveling across the globe today (Beverly-Cambridge-Saugus-Peabody-Essex-Gloucester-Gloucester-Essex-Beverly-home), I only read the recaps and spec info - I'm going to watch the stream later. A Steve presentation is always a trip. But here's the basic gist of things, followed by my take:

- iPod: gone. Replaced by a newer, thinner iPod in two capacities (30GB and 60GB), with longer battery life, a bigger screen, thinner size, and - oh yeah - video playback capability along with an Apple-provided remote. Now in either black or white (like the nano) New prices: $299 and $399.

- iTMS: Now supports video - music videos, Pixar shorts, and plenty off ABC/Disney TV shows, all for $1.99. Standard FairPlay restrictions apply. Also a few new features to the iTMS as well.

- iMac G5: Now thinner, with slightly higher speeds (1.9 and 2.1 GHz), DDR2 RAM support, PCI Express video via ATI chipsets, Bluetooth 2.0 (I forget, but 2.0 might also be in the last generation of them, too - I'll check mine at some point), and both a clip-on Apple Remote (see the iPod stuff above) and an integrated iSight camera with some new software. They removed the modem and made it a USB add-on. Same price for the 17" model ($1299), but $1699 for the new 20" model is a little cheaper.

- eMac: Dead. Still available for the short term, but only to educational institutions.

What's slick about these announcements? Apple increased the value of the "classic" iPod, lowered the effective price, and made the video functionality a neat add-on rather than the only reason to own it. If anything, it should build upon the old version's sales. The iTMS video store is obviously a work in progress, with only Disney on-board (and you know the reason they signed was to try and sweet-talk Jobs into a new distribution deal for Pixar - big bucks are at stake). But it's a great way for Apple to dip their toes in the video market, a good starting point to determine if digital movie distribution is viable, and it's at virtually zero risk. The iPod will sell like hotcakes, regardless, and if the videos don't sell Apple can just de-emphasize them. The new iMac G5 was a surprise, but a nice one. It replaces a version that was a pretty good value already, and only four months old to boot (I've only had mine about a month). It's an even better buy - especially the 20" model. The eMac won't be too missed - not many folks have been interested in them of late anyways, and the mini is a better value with a third-party LCD for most users who want a budget Mac. The eMac was originally developed for the EDU market, and it returns there for now.

The only major negative I see in the new iPod is for the diehard Mac user - the iPod no longer includes FireWire support. Only USB 2.0. Which makes no difference for the typical user, especially a Windows one. But FireWire hard drives have one handy capability you don't get in a USB 2.0 drive on the Mac - you can boot from a FireWire hard drive. My existing 40GB iPod, for instance, has about 12GB of music on it, plus a fully bootable copy of Mac OS X and the install image to reinstall to any Mac if needed. It was a great tool to have. While far smaller and cooler, the new iPods won't be able to do that kind of double-duty anymore. So sad.

Still to come from Cupertino? Sometime real soon there should be one final PowerBook revision as the pre-Intel speedbump. I was kind of expecting it today - instead look for a quiet announcement in the next couple of weeks as likely. PowerMacs will also get another rev pretty soon. That one may be played up a little more, depending on what Apple is going to put under the hoods. I figure if they haven't announced it by the first week of November it won't be out until 2006. They aren't nuts about any product updates in the November-December timeframe.

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