October 13, 2005

Need. Want!

Apple has done it again with their iPod line, striking for the second time in the past few months with new products that continue to push the envelope on size, style, and features -- leaving existing and would-be customers drooling and giving competitors new headaches.

The savagely sexy iPod Nano effectively put an end to the iPod Mini. And soon after, rumours began to swirl about the non-conventional (i.e. non-convention!) media event Apple planned for yesterday.

The leading rumour was that iPod would release a video player, and indeed the company did -- though not the little horizontal layout number that was circulating in the usual photoshop mockups. In discussing the rumours with a few friends during the lead-up, we noted that there was a real question about whether people would want to play videos on a screen that small. And what videos? If Jobs could strike a major movie studios deal like the one he struck with the five major record (how quaint) labels, then he might be able to put some affordable content behind his device and make it worthwhile.

Well, the deal is not quite as impressive. The initial content offering is mostly music videos with a few Pixar shorts thrown in (nice!) and, most significantly, day-after downloads of several major ABC television hits (e.g. Lost, Desperate Housewives). Apple cleverly made up for the content short-coming by weaving the video feature into its main iPod line, completing the transition that started when the original iPod line merged with the iPod Photo line. So the video capability is essentially a perk on the standard player, which also boasts some other technical improvements (slimmer, longer battery life). The journey from "need" to "want" is thus complete -- Apple keeps making it easy to drool over the latest iPod offerings, whether you would use the new features or not. You may not think you want video, but now you get it even if you want just audio/photos. And once you have it, who's to say you won't eventually drop in on the iPod video store? Just for a look, of course.

Several articles have also pointed out the real coup -- Apple has created audio/video content protection software that content creators trust and users seem willing to accept.

Personally, I think the real coup is the Harry Potter licensing deal. Accio!

Posted by anatole at October 13, 2005 11:58 PM

Hmmm... did you see this V-iPod skeptic on Slate?


I haven't really figured out the mystique of iPods; it seems that other players do these things too. It's amazing how just the right combination of convenient interface and marketing can create a near-monopoly in what you would expect to be a vibrant market (small media-replay gadgets).

But what amazes me most is that iPods seem to be one of the few mass-consumer, "everybody has one" items that young rebellious people actually want to buy... not _despite_ of the iPod's widespread acceptance, but somehow precisely because of it. Isn't that weird?***

Add to that the incredibly conservative aesthetic of the things (practically International Style Modernism). I just don't know what the kids are thinking. I don't even know _that_ they are thinking.

But then, I don't own one, and don't have the listening habit to support one. I'm really psyched to have gotten a mini-disc player from a friend for free -- I love its weight and the way it whirrs when it plays.

*** ... okay, it's not that weird, because it's really the sharing and pod-casting and all the other means of interaction that the iPod's market dominance makes possible that have the kids hooked

Posted by: George at October 15, 2005 01:12 PM

Hey - FYI - Tyla told me that Mike got her one for her birthday....


Posted by: Hilary at October 20, 2005 11:03 AM

Wow...$249 for the complete Harry Potter Audio books...and it's still missing book 7 which will probably cost another $250 since everyong that buys this will want the set.

Might be nice if the Hogwart's logo was on the front somehow...make it clear to everyone!

: )


Posted by: Mike at October 20, 2005 05:40 PM