Most of us at Mac360 view our Macs as the center of our digital lives. It’s the digital hub. We all have iPods, most of us have iPhones, all of use iTunes, and a few of us have Apple TV.
Apple went all holiday shopping event and introduced a new line of iPods, new features for iOS, a new iTunes, and an all new Apple TV. We view all of these as toys for Mac users. What’s ready for the holiday season? Plenty.
Apple’s Live TV Shopping Channel
For the first time since 2002, Apple streamed a nearly 90-minute major event, in live video, over the internet. Using new HTTP streaming technology, Mac and iPhone users anywhere in the world (broadband required, of course) could view the show.
How was the live video streaming? It was an impressive feat.
Your mileage may vary, but reports from Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and North America indicate the streaming was excellent, despite a few hiccups here and there.
Apple fans and Mac users rejoiced as the streaming video was available only to Mac and iPhone users, though the video event was available for streaming to everyone within a few hours of the event.
New Toys For Mac Users
As is usual in the weeks and days prior to an Apple event, speculation on new products was rampant. In this case, Apple delivered enough to meet most expectations, and left some room for future upgrades.
iPod shuffle – Apple’s smallest iPod got a new facelift to resemble and old friend. Gone is the shuffle without buttons, replaced with a familiar iPod—with buttons and VoiceOver and playlists and engraving and a wearable clip, all starting at $49.
Basically, Steve Jobs admitted that last year’s button-less iPod shuffle was a dud with users. This year’s model brings five colors, 15 hours of battery life, 2 gigabytes of storage, and VoiceOver in 25 different languages.
iPod nano – Once Apple’s biggest selling iPod, the nano has shrunk in size over the years while sporting a larger screen. The new model is even smaller, ditches the video camera, reduces screen size, but adds a touch screen, iPhone-like buttons and navigation, and gets the wearable clip.
nano is available in six colors, comes with an FM radio built-in, a scrollable, rotatable touch screen (requires taps and swipes but is familiar to any iPhone or iPod touch user). Album art shows up on the color screen. The nano also does up to 24-hours of music and is available in 8 gigabyte or 16 gigabyte models and is priced starting at $149.
These new models substantially smaller than previous iPod nanos, and are positioned more as an accessory item, and won’t compete with iPhone or iPod touch models.
iPod touch – Apple made the touch an iPhone without a phone. And without 3G. But there’s always next year. The touch carries similar prices to last year’s model, but this year features a front and back facing camera and FaceTime video calling built in.
The touch does HD video recording, and uses the same high resolution Retina display and Apple’s custom A4 processor—both of which debuted in the iPhone 4. Battery life is up to 40 hours for audio and seven hours for video playback. Video is H.264 at 720p. Three models are available—16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes, and 64 gigabytes.
Apple did not announce any changes to the iPod classic, which features a built-in hard disk drive. And, no 3G (similar to the iPad), so VoIP calls will be WiFi only.
iOS 4.1 – Apple announced an iOS 4 update which adds bug fixes and a few new features, including Game Center.
Steve Jobs said Apple now sells more iPod touch devices (as game consoles) than Sony and Nintendo, and has more games available in the App Store. Clearly, iOS for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch is a game platform.
iPod touch gets FaceTime video calling, too.
iOS 4.2 – Unusual for Apple, Steve Jobs provided a sneak preview of IOS 4.2, which is expected to ship in November, and be available for all iOS devices—iPod touch, iPhone 4 and 3G, and the iPad.
Two main features of the update including wireless printing, and AirPlay, which will stream video and music from the portable iOS devices (movies, TV shows, music, videos, photos) to your TV—via Apple’s latest toy, Apple TV.
Apple TV – Apple still considers Apple TV a hobby effort, but the latest version may sell more because it’s significantly lower in price and it does more. Say hello to $99 and 99-cent TV show rentals.
Say goodbye to movie purchases. The new Apple TV is 1/4th the size of the original, runs on iOS four, comes with a remote control, and is decidedly rental oriented. HD movies are available starting at $3.99. HD TV shows are 99-cents.
The box itself is tiny and has only the basic connectors in the back. Micro USB, power, Ethernet, optical audio, and HDMI for video out, and a built-in Infrared receiver. 802.11n Wi-Fi is built in, too.
The new Apple TV will stream video from your Mac or PC, or iPhone and iPod touch (with iOS 4.1 upgrade) to your HDMI capable HD TV. All the browsing and management is done using the remote control. There’s no need to sync iTunes with Apple TV. All media is streamed from other devices to Apple TV and shoved out to the television.
Apple TV features Apple’s custom A4 processor, handles 720p video, and Dolby 5.1 surround sound audio (via pass through).
iTunes 10 – To make all these toys work together, Apple had to revamp iTunes. Again. Version 10 is still iTunes, though the interface may be easier to discover apps, music, TV shows, and movies.
Gone are TV show and movie purchases, replaced by HD TV and movie rentals. Whatever is on iTunes can be streamed to Apple TV (with the future iOS 4.1 update).
AirTunes, which streamed music from iTunes on your Mac to other devices, is replaced by AirPlay, which does the same thing with music and video. iTunes 10 also introduces Ping, billed as a social network for music. Like Facebook and Twitter, you can follow your favorite artists and friends to discover what they’re listening to on iTunes.
More details for each of the new products are available on Apple’s web site.
What’s missing? Not much. 3G in the iPod touch would make it an iPhone without the phone but with VoIP phone capability beyond Wi-Fi. There’s no camera in the new iPod nano, which becomes wearable, ala the iPod shuffle. Clearly, the iPod is not yet a dead device.
Apple TV is a substantial improvement in capability and with a lower price will be more attractive to holiday shoppers, but the much desired DVR (digital video recorder) capability is nowhere to be found. Game center is expected to become a huge hit as game users can connect online to play each other in the next generation of high resolution games.
Of all Apple’s recent major product announcement events, this one seemed to deliver up to expectations better than most. Two iOS upgrades are due by the holiday shopping season (iOS 4.1, then a unifying iOS 4.2 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch).