So, yeah, something happened yesterday. Apple did their annual September music event to release new iPods. The keynote was available live, streaming for SL and iOS users. Yeah, Snow Leopard. I had to use my iPad to watch it. 🙄
Anyway, I’m just going through the keynote chronologically.
1. Updates on retail stores. Blah blah blah, nice stores. Update on iOS, blah blah, revolution, blah, blah, Google you suck, blah, blah, apps. Next.
2. iOS updates. Take home note is that 4.1 is coming next week with bug-fixes, and will feature HDR photo taking capabilities. I hope this feature will be available for the 3GS too, as we 3GS users have been gimped from iMovie already. New to 4.1 is Game Center, and Epic is showing their new game, powered by Unreal Engine 3, running on an iPhone. Pretty amazing, considering it’s running on a phone. Nintendo and Sony, be very wary. Hardware on mobile phones are advancing much more rapidly than the hardware on Nintendo DS and Sony PSP. iPad users will have to wait longer for iOS 4.2, coming in November, and it will feature wireless printing and AirPlay (AirTunes part deux), in addition to all iOS4 features.
Jobs demoed 4.2 on his iPad, showing the same old stuff such as “multi-tasking” (I rather call it task switching), threaded mail, folders, etc. One thin I notice in the 4.2 Safari browser on Job’s iPad, the “multiple tab” button seems to show a number now (can be handy to show you how many tabs are opened), and the “plus” icon is now an arrow “send to” icon.
3. Finally, the new iPods. Apple decided to renew all the iPod lineup (except the classic).
-First, the shuffle. The main complaint of the 3G shuffle is the fact that it has no buttons. Well, 4G shuffle brings back the buttons. So it looks like the 2G again, except that it’s square. Meh. At least Apple recognize that going obsessively minimalist doesn’t always work. It has all the voice over features from the 3G. 5 colors, 2GB, $50.
-Second: the nano. All the rumors were true. The 6G nano is square, has a clip, and uses a touch screen. It’s so small that it’s only a tad bigger than the shuffle. Sounds cool, right? Well, Jobs kept saying how it’s better, but he obviously skipped the features that are gone from the previous nanos. First, it’s a smaller and lower res screen than even the 3G nano. The video camera is obviously gone. Oh, and guess what, no video playback. Yeah, talk about going backwards. Also based on the demo screens, looks like the playback feature will mimic iOS, meaning no shuffle-by-album. The kicker? It still carry the same price as the previous nano: $150 for 8GB and $180 for 16GB. So, do you want to pay the same price and get less? Apple thinks so. We’ll see how the market responds. Pretty disappointing imo, and not even as much color options as the 4G/5G nano.
-Third: the Touch. Freakishly thin. It has the high res “retina” LED display, although Jobs conveniently didn’t say whether it’s the same IPS display as the iPhone 4 or not. My guess is that it’s not, and it won’t have oleophobic coating either. Looks like Apple really wants to make sure that the iPhone holds its value over the Touch. The new Touch will sport the A4 chip, although whether it runs as fast (or faster) than the iPhone 4 is not yet known. Gyroscope is included, and also a front facing camera for facetime. Rear camera is also added with HD (720p) video recording. The rumors are pretty much spot on. The pricing is a bit odd, with 8GB for $230, and jumps to 32GB for $300, and 64GB for $400. I guess Apple want to keep their good margin, not willing to reach the $199 price point, nor do a 16GB version.
Funny how Jobs demoed the nano, but not the new Touch. Also funny that Jobs went through the new iPods fairly quick, only halfway through the whole keynote. So what’s next?
4. iTunes. New iTunes 10, new icon, slightly updated UI, and Ping. Yeah, Microsoft has bing, and Apple now has Ping. It’s social networking inside iTunes. Errr, sure, that’s assuming that your friends are also using iTunes. Nobody I know uses or buy music from iTunes. They use bittorrent. 😛 At best, Ping is probably just going to be a niche amongst hip Apple/iTunes users.
5. One more thing/hobby, a 2nd gen Apple TV. Super tiny, just HDMI and optical out (no component), ethernet, wifi. No purchases, just rentals. Err, yeah, not sure if that’s what people actually want (hint: bittorrent). HD movies is $5. Sure, it’s HD, but Red Box DVD rental is just $1 per day (bittorrent is free). At least the new Apple TV supports Netflix streaming, so Netflix users don’t have to spend more money. TV shows rental is 99c. Err, sure, they’re cheap enough, but I already have Netflix, and spending more money just doesn’t jive with me (again, bittorrent is free). You can stream content from Youtube (interesting since Google is doing Google TV), Flickr (alas, no Picasa, Facebook, or other online photo storage support), and mobileME. You can still stream from a Mac/PC running iTunes. No Apple, I want to be able to stream my own videos form a simple NAS/Windows Home Server. 😦 In addition, there’s still also the codec support issue. I’ll stick with my HTPC running XBMC.
The new Apple TV is going to be just $99, shipping in a month. So, who’s Apple competing with this new Apple TV? The obvious one is Roku, a netflix client at a similar price point. The upcoming contenders are Google TV boxes and boxee box. Add on top of this, a lot of devices and even TVs today have a netflix client built-in already, and some also offer youtube/Amazon video capability. It seems that the market feels too crowded for the wrong reasons.
…and that’s it. The keynote re-run cut off the Cold Play music.
So, what’s my take on the new iPods? How was my prediction?
1. iPod shuffle
Well, I only got the price right, 2GB for $50. Apple usually is pretty strong headed in terms of the design choice they did (button-less shuffle), so I wasn’t expecting they would go back to the 2G design. But I guess consumers win this time.
2. iPod nano
I did better this time, due to the leaked cases pictures. New form factor, touch screen, no camera, and same price points. One should question the value of the new nano. Sure, it’s smaller, but you’re basically paying the same amount of money for less (no camera, smaller screen, no video, presumably no shuffle-by-album). Also, the competitors are way cheaper than Apple now. Just for example, Sony’s entry level E-series MP3 player can be had for less than $100, and you’ll get 16GB! Previously, Apple has a reason to retain the higher price point with the video camera. I don’t know if the consumers are willing to shell out twice the money just to get something smaller (with less features to boot). Imo the only reason Apple could do this is simply because they owned the MP3 player market. iPod as a name has become the Kleenex of MP3 player. This also shows that a standalone MP3 player as a device is a dead end. There’s almost nothing else to innovate (to the point that Apple added a camera on last gen nano). Now the only way to go is backward, I guess. Disappointing. However, it is still tempting to get one just for the cute/collectible factor. I mean I have bought pretty much all generations of iPod nanos (all of them, 1G to 5G). I mean gotta catch ’em all, right? 😀
3. iPod Touch.
Most of my guesses hit the mark: retina display, facetime, front face and rear camera. I just didn’t expect Apple to completely replace the lower end with an 8GB version of the same generation (instead of using the 3rd gen Touch). The surprise is HD video recording. Sounds awesome right? You gotta wonder though, that new Touch is even thinner. How the heck Apple did it, considering that even the 3GS camera is too thick for the 2G/3G Touch. Well, looking at the spec, you’ll see the ugly side. Yeah, the new Touch can record 720p video, but it’s obviously a cheapo crappy sensor, as its picture taking ability is only 960×720 resolution. That is not even 1MP. I mean come one, find a dumbphone/cheap digicam that still do less than 1MP picture. Extremely pathetic. This is yet another Apple’s obsession with thinness, sacrificing feature. I rather have a thicker Touch with the 3GS camera in it. I guess Apple just want to make sure they have more stuff to roll out for September 2011. Still, it’s a good buy, especially 32GB for $300. Plus you can do facetime, and it’s iOS. There’s virtually no competition here, yet. Heck, Sony is still selling their 16GB X series for $300. The only contender is the ZuneHD, which is due for an upgrade too. Rumor is MS is going to do a Winpho7 Zune HD without the phone, but the bar is already set fairly high, with the Touch having Facetime, HD video recording, and retina display.
Oh, how about the iPod Classic? Jobs didn’t even mention it at all, but it’s still alive, 160GB, same price $250. Yeah, Apple is the only player in town here, so they see it they they don’t need to do anything.
In the end, the MP3 player is dying. Everybody is using their cellphones as their MP3 players. We already see this as Apple is now very confused on what to do with the nano. Heck, ever since I have an iPhone, I hardly use any of my iPods anymore. The only surviving market will be the low end cheapo MP3 player, and the “PDA” replacement like the iPod Touch, where it’s turning into a mini computer at the $200+ price points, where people is expecting more than just an MP3 player.
How about the Apple TV? Well, my kind of content is J-dorama and Tokusatsu, with Anime sprinkled all around. No content providers in the US, including Apple, offer those, so my only source is fansubs. The most common codecs use in fansubs are Xvid + .avi, or H.264 + .mkv. Neither of those are supported by Apple TV (or any Apple iDevices). So far my solution is a plain Windows HTPC with XBMC. The new Apple TV would be an interesting Netflix client though, and for people that like to rent movies. As for the 99c TV shows, well, it can be pretty expensive if you like watching TV shows. Paying $10 per month for hulu plus may be a better deal, unless you hate ads. Apple TV could’ve been more. Apple could’ve been more aggressive (apps). But I guess they have to play nice with the studios and network providers. Oh well, I’m not interested in it anyway unless Apple added more stuff later on. It seems nice to be able to stream videos from my iPad/iPhone to the Apple TV.
So there you go, my impression/rant of Apple’s 2010 September event. Will I get any of those new iPods. Well, the new nano is interesting for collecting sake. The new Touch is interesting also, as I cannot have iMovie on my 3GS. But I dunno. I rather save my money for a Canon S95. My guess is the big seller will be the new Touch as it finally has camera. People had been lusting over a camera, and the 3rd gen Touch disappointed. Now those people will get this new Touch. Also, there are people that don’t or cannot get an iPhone, so the iPod Touch is the obvious gateway for the app store. To be honest, I don’t think the shuffle and nano will sell much, especially at those prices.