In case you missed it, Apple’s long announced, highly anticipated “One More Thing…” media event was held yesterday.
While not an event for the ages, it was an event to remember, as much for the “baby steps” forward; the apparent kiss-kiss with a new Disney head, and video.
Video is the key to the future. No one has mastered it. Yet. Microsoft’s trying. Others, too. But nobody is there yet. Apple just joined the party.
I didn’t get what I wanted in the list of goodies, but following a night of reflection, I’m confident we’re getting there. Apple is in the midst of an ‘evolution in the valley.’ No more revolution this time.
In some ways, all these goodies are nothing more than baby steps forward. In other ways, they set the stage for Apple to continue running toward the future much faster than anyone else.
At worst, Apple is now right in the middle of the “video” age of the Media Center that Microsoft has pushed for a couple of years.
First, let me give you a fast reader, next day summary of the ‘One More Thing…’ announcements. Then, I’ll give you all the reasons why it’s an ‘evolution’ not a revolution, but why that’s OK anyway.
Apple announced and is now selling new iMacs with a built-in iSight camera, a remote control, a new photo application called PhotoBooth, a new ‘media center’ application called Front Row which works with the remote.
Front Row lets a user control music, video, photos, movies (DVDs) via a wireless remote control that has only six buttons.
That contrasts sharply with the 40 plus buttons used on the Microsoft Media Center PCs.
There’s also a handful of new iPods. Color screen iPods with a 320×240 high res screen, in 30gig and 60gig versions. They’re smaller, thinner, with a bigger screen, come in black and white, and—get this—the iPods play movies.
Remember “320×240” because it will come back to haunt us later.
There’s also a new version of iTunes; version 6, which comes only a month after version 5. That’s good, because music videos and TV programs are now available for download from the iTunes Music Store at $1.99 each.
That’s all good news, right? What’s not to like? Plenty. On Page 2…
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1…
Apple’s shopping basket full of good news comes just a day after other good news that was treated as really bad news.
The company announced record sales, record profits, record unit shipments of nearly everything for the 4th quarter and for the fiscal year.
The numbers didn’t meet analysts expectations so the stock tanked about 10-percent.
The next day, Steve Jobs and company announce a hat trick of new goodies to further extend the iPod monopoly, venture into video with a defacto ‘media center’ and the stock rebounds. Mostly.
It’s a whole new line of iPods ready for the brisk holiday selling season. Music videos and TV shows. What’s not to like? Plenty. Here’s my list (not in order of importance; in order of what I can remember):
No Firewire in the iPods. Thin is in. USB is thin. Firewire is not. That bothers me a bit because Firewire is often considered the better technology.
No remote jack in the new black and white video iPods. The only ports are the Dock connector and the headphone jack. Everything else must connect to the Dock connector.
Apple wants a 10-percent ‘docking fee’ from the accessory makers.
The two new iPods are only 30gig and 60gig. Expect that to change. Why? Videos take up a lot of space. Lots.
The music video selection on the iTunes Music Store is horrible. 2,000 music videos sounds like a lot, but it’s less than paltry, it’s anorexic.
Is Apple having trouble getting record labels to provide music videos? I think so. However, that said, had there been 50,000 music videos available, Apple’s iTunes Music Store would have crashed and burned under the weight of users buying.
When Jack can buy Robert Palmer’s music videos and Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’ for $1.99 each, then I’ll feel more comfortable.
As it is now, 2,000 isn’t 2-percent of enough.
TV shows? I’m impressed that Apple got Disney to part with day-old versions of Lost and Desperate Housewives. I’m not impressed that there’s not much more (Raven? Get real).
I’m utterly disappointed that the encoded music videos and TV shows are 320×240 pixels. Do you know how small that is?
QuickTime 7.0.3 is needed to playback the music videos and TV shows and using H.264 as the standard, the quality is good. But not when stretched full screen.
Somehow I just can’t see many people gathered around in the living room and watching movies and music videos and TV re-runs on an iMac.
I won’t. I think that’s exactly what the record industry and entertainment industry wants. Not that we’ll watch it on a Mac, but that we won’t. We’ll stick with 32 inch LCD and plasma TV screens.
320×240 pixels? That’s a baby step. 2,000 music videos? That’s a baby step. A few dozen TV shows? That’s a baby step.
Does Apple have a ‘revolution’ left in its’ DNA? Nope. It’s all ‘evolutionary’ from here forward.
As you can see, I’m under impressed and overly disappointed.
But wait. There’s more. And there’s hope. More on Page 3…
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 2…
Apple moved iTunes from version 5 to version 6 in about a month. So, the new version must have all kinds of new goodies, right?
Nope. It’s ‘evolutionary, my dear Watson.’ There’s music videos. There’s ‘gifting’ so you can send a song or video to a friend or relative and it’s theirs to keep. And reviews.
Then, there’s… what else? Nothing. Yep. Nada. iTunes should be 5.1 or 5.5 at best. Not 6.0, which signifies something substantive.
The new iMacs don’t ship with a built-in modem. You’ll need to buy a USB modem to connect to the internet if you’re a dial up user (over half of Americans are now on broadband).
The Apple Remote (sold separately at the Apple Store, included in the new iMacs) uses infrared, IR, to communicate with the Universal Dock which you plug your new video iPods into.
I can’t find the IR port on the iMac but it’s there somewhere. Inside the iSight camera housing, maybe?
Since it’s IR and not Bluetooth, will the Apple Remote work with any IR-equipped Mac? Oh, the Unviversal Dock is IR, too.
Front Row is the application that makes the new iMacs a ‘media center’ to compete with Microsoft’s Windows Media Center.
From what I can tell, Apple does it better all around. Almost. There’s no TV tuner, but there is a six button remote (better than 43 buttons), and Front Row brings a familiar interface for navigating through music, DVDs, movies, photos, and slideshows.
Front Row looks slick. Will it work on any other Mac? We don’t know. Yet. I’m not buying a new iMac just for Front Row.
Is all of this bad news, boring news, not news, or good news? It’s a little of everything.
320×240 resolution for music videos and TV shows is sad. Apple and Disney could do better but can’t because the rest of the entertainment industry wants ‘restraints’ and ‘control’ on the process of delivering digital entertainment.
What’s missing is Airport Express A/V which lets your Mac send photos, music, DVDs, movies, direct to your TV set via wireless. Why isn’t that included?
Again, the ‘entertainment industry’ doesn’t want it.
2,000 music videos is anemic, paltry, anorexic (I’m repeating myself), but I expect it to get better, especially in the run up to the holiday buying season.
Apple is on a roll. A big roll forward. They’ve done so well with iTunes and iPods that to do the same thing, overnight, for video would be asking too much.
But that’s what I’m asking. Apple has delivered only incremental steps, albeit steps that just might work.
It’s an ‘Evolution in the Valley.’ The ‘revolutionaries’ have all grown up.
Now, ‘One more thing…’ I talked with Tera today. Twice. Once this morning and once after lunch. Click Here for details and an update.