Details about Apple's new iPods, iTunes and Apple TV
SAN FRANCISCO -- After Wednesday's media event, Apple afforded journalists a little time to inspect some of its new hardware and quiz its PR reps. Here's what I was able to learn from that, and from catching up on stories from other reporters afterward.
iPods: With this revision, Apple has shrunk the iPod nano and the iPod shuffle down to their interfaces. The former has shriveled down to its screen -- and lost its video playback and recording capabilities -- while the latter has been built around the smallest possible ClickWheel dial. The new Shuffle looks easier to use than its predecessor, but I'm not sure about the revised Nano.
The updated iPod touch, meanwhile, didn't capture every feature of the iPhone 4. The new version incorporates the smartphone's faster A4 processor and 960-by-640-pixel "Retina Display," but its cameras don't match its big brother's hardware. The back-facing camera, usually the more powerful one, only captures video at a 720p resolution (that is, 1280 by 720 pixels) and records images at a still-lower 960-by-720 fidelity.
The iPod classic and its internal hard drive aren't dead, formally speaking, but they might as well be. Neither model has changed this year; in a year, flash memory's declining costs should erase the Classic's price advantage.
iTunes 10: The most striking revision here is its new icon -- the CD or DVD backdrop is gone. Otherwise, you might easily confuse the updated program with a 9.0 version of iTunes.
I would like to speak to the Ping social networking option wired into this release, but I can't. The searches I've tried have yet to unearth friends using this. On the other hand, iTunes 10 hasn't been available to the public for more than a day or so.
But I can report that iTunes 10's suggestions for artists to follow seem wildly off-base. Here are its first 14 recommendations, in the order displayed to me: Lady Gaga, Yo-Yo Ma, Katy Perry, U2, Jack Johnson, Linkin Park, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Coldplay, Shakira, Mark Ronson, Dave Matthews Band, Diddy, U2.
I have bought about as much U2 releases as you'd expect for somebody of Irish ancestry, but otherwise those suggestions could not fall further off the map.
Another possible problem awaits in Ping's privacy settings. It defaults to showing every song, album or artist you like or suggest, and to having every interested person follow you.
Apple TV: The updated Apple TV is the hardest thing to assess, mainly because of how Apple ignored earlier versions of it. Will other online video sources -- say, Amazon or ESPN3.com -- show up on its on-screen menu later on, or will Apple silently decide that the Apple TV's doors are shut?
The new Apple TV could be easily duct-taped to the back of an HDTV, except that would stop its iPod-esque remote from working. Even its Apple logo is easy to miss, as the photo here might suggest.
But with its limited capabilities, this won't be kicking cable boxes out of a job anytime soon. Apple built this to complement your existing TV-tuning hardware, not replace it. That should be clear if you set aside the sense of "we were here first!" in blog posts and statements from developers of competing, more ambitious media receivers from Roku and Boxee.
(10:50 a.m. To correct a little confusion about this point, the new Apple TV isn't limited to media streamed from the Internet; it can also play media off your own computers over your home network, including iTunes TV and movie purchases.)
What if Apple succeeds in this strategy? That's the most unsettling question. Apple's victory in digital-music distribution was a win for listeners, too; most music hardware and software on sale today can play an iTunes download. But Apple's new video streams require using Apple's products.
That's why I was happy to see Apple's two major network partners in its video-rental venture, ABC and Fox, move to sell -- not rent -- episodes for 99 cents each on Amazon.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to try out Apple's new gadgets, software and online offerings. What should I look for as I do that? Post your review suggestions in the comments.
September 2, 2010; 8:31 AM ET
Categories: Gadgets , Music , Video
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