Saturday, September 08, 2007

Touchy Touchy

There it is, the new iPod Touch from our friends at Apple. It's literally the iPhone minus the phone, but you can see for yourself. Apple made an announcement on Wednesday that could be construed as ruinous as it was amazing. They decided to drop the iPhone price to $400 (only an 8GB model now), and strip off the phone part of it to make this new iPod available for only $300, in addition to revamping most of its iPod line. Considering that it only has 8GB, that's a big pricey, but you can double the capacity for another hundred bucks. I love Apple's strategy: making you feel warm and fuzzy about handing your money over to them by selling it you at a ridiculous price at first and then stripping it down for a much cheaper, but still high, price. What's you're clearly paying for here is the style and design, but that's arguably what you pay for in all Apple products, I suppose. I'm not here to trash this new iPod though, because I think it's something that was bound to happen and will do extremely well. The iPhone is an amazing mp3 player. If you're ok with not being too fancy though, you can get an 8GB iPod Nano for $200, and a 4 GB for just $150. Here's where I think they fell short: why do you need two Flash-based mp3 players at the same capacity? Why wouldn't they put more capacity in the Nano rather than doing a re-design? Did it really need a fatter screen to play video and have a visual interface like the iPhone?

One can't deny though that their iPod line looks pretty damn cool now. It's pretty and what's really nice is that they've really fleshed out the gamut of prices. Heck, they even have the jukebox market covered with the iPod Classic at a paltry $249 for 80 GB and a hundred more 160 GB while sporting a visual interface almost identical to the new Nano. Some say this is dumb, but I think it's smart. You have to have a hard-drive based mp3 player to keep it cheap but with a large capacity.

The worst thing they did though was to have such a big change so early and the best thing they did was the iTunes WiFi store. Ok, so I know that the Apple marketing guys are brilliant and they always have a plan, but why would you alienate iPhone first adopters so early? We all knew it was going to have to happen at some point, but if you did it in like mid-October then surely no one would criticize Apple as having made the price artificially high at launch or anything like that. I know it's been a little over 2 months now, but that's not a long period of time for technology to advance them to cutting the price by a third. At least they're going to give early adopters a $100 rebate. Plus, if they had waited a little longer they could start selling these other iPods and opening the WiFi store the day of the announcement, and maybe even put more capacity on the Nano (theoretically). So why, Apple? Why did you shoot yourself in the foot? They have to have something up their sleeve here. There's something I'm not seeing, and it's driving me a little nuts. I'll try hitting up some tech podcasts and see if any of the other pundits have reasonable ideas. Could they really be planning for something bigger just before the holiday season? Because it looks like all their cards are on the table, unless they're going to have new laptops or something out in November.

Ok, well now back to what they did right: that WiFi store. Totally genius, and a long time coming. I wonder if Microsoft is kicking itself at all knowing that this should've been then. It should've been their gravy train. They totally dropped the ball on the Zune and handed it right over to Apple. Apple took that ball and filed a patent, and ran with it. The iPod Touch and the iPhone will both soon be able to buy music (not video content, yet) wireless, and when you dock to your computer it'll sync up so that your iTunes will also have the music. Quick, easy, and pain-free. Of course, it's stupid that you have to pay another buck to convert songs you bought into ringtones, but I'm sure that's for royalty purposes. Anyhow, people bored on buses or in class can now use that time to quickly hand over more money to Apple, which they can now use to keep labels on board since no other mp3 player does this. Smart, huh?

Of course, not everything is well with the iTunes music store. NBC isn't happy. Apple claims that they want to double the price of shows, whereas insiders retort that Apple actually wants to cut prices in half. Things are so heated that NBC has even turned to the DRM-restrictive Amazon Unbox for more flexible pricing. Now I love Amazon, but Unbox still has serious issues. For having so many developers who love Linux, it amazes me that Amazon Unbox doesn't support Linux because they're using that stupid Microsoft DRM technology. Anyhow, Apple must be out of its mind to think that they can cut prices in half. We'll see what happens though, but I think they'll find that these studios are even less open-minded than the record labels are.

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