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January 6, 2004

MWSF 2004

Apple will doubtless sell a boatload of the iPod mini, despite it being only $50 cheaper than the 15Gb version - it's so darned cute. And they've ticked all but one of my 'things I'd really like iMovie to do' boxes, the most important being 'rethink the way clips are trimmed and do it better,' which will make a huge difference to the scope of project it's sane to do before falling back to Final Cut Pro. Very impressive. Then there's Xgrid, not mentioned in Jobs' presentation but the sort of thing that makes the ex-supercomputer researcher in me perk up and take notice. I'll be interested to see where that goes.

Only a few disappointments: no word on the iTunes Music Store for the world beyond the US, bah! No hardware updates beyond the (much-anticipated) Xserve G5 machines, which is a bit of a pity since I'm in the market for a laptop in the near future.

But most bitterly: Douglas Adams isn't around to play with GarageBand. Until people get their mitts on it, it's rather hard to tell, but it looks like it's around the iMovie sort of level, possibly a bit more advanced - so, complex enough to do real work with without losing approachable simplicity. Limited, sure, but Apple's genius with the iLife applications was to realise that, sometimes, if you get the balance right, 'limited' is enough.

One thing, though: what's with the neither Aqua nor Metal 'dark metallic but not quite Final Cut Pro' interface stylee? Did we really need a fourth 'standard' Mac OS X GUI? Harrumph.

[update:] Everybody's favourite shareware author, Brent Simmons, is clearly excited about GarageBand. 'I've waited 20 years for this,' he says. John Gruber, meanwhile, points out that it exemplifies exactly what Apple is all about.

[update 2:] Er... they don't call it the 'iPod mini' for nothing. Want to see it alongside an Ericsson T68i? Try here, here, and here. That's tiny.

7 Comments

Xgrid - allow computers all around the world to connect and process power. Something I’ve thought I could really get into with my broadband connection and server sitting idly awake all night while I rest. Sounds most excellent, to coin a phrase over Xmas :-D

Well, that’s until the firewall crashes and my PC becomes a haven for more bleedin’ spam :-(

Xgrid is really intended for local networks, I think - for building systems like the Virginia Tech ‘Big Mac’ cluster (#3 supercomputer in the world, as of last November) or just making use of lab networks for doing genetic database searches. In most cases, I’d expect the bandwidth between compute notes to be relatively important, in that you’re pushing quite large datasets around. Gigabit ethernet is pretty much where it starts for these things.

However, there are some cute little side-effects; for example, the current ‘Xcode’ development tools for Mac OS X will distribute compile jobs across the local network Configuration takes about two clicks. Neat.

What is it about Apple products being cute? I’ve always think that Apple products looked nice, and I think my Powerbook (Pismo) is pretty darn sleek and sexy. But what is it with the cute? Ever since the iMac, Apple is on this cute kick. Now, in theory I don’t mind it, but in fact, I won’t buy the cute ones. (Titanium powerbook, on the other hand…)

But I had a realization looking at the mini iPod. I think that the cute products remind me too much of Disney and Disney characters. They are small, pastel, seem harmless, but in fact, subversively desire to take over the world. :) If I bought one, I would constantly be worried about what it was plotting to do under that cute exterior faceplate.

Small, seems harmless and yet plots to take over the world? Are you guys talking about me again? Hmm, pastel. Maybe not then.

Funnily enough, I’m not sold on the appearance of the mini pods. I like the concept, and I admire some of Apples design choices (perhaps because the combination clicker/scroller was something I’d thought about a while back), but I just don’t like the whole package. The white scroller just looks tacky against the aluminium, the height/width ratio just looks all wrong and the choice of colours is… interesting.

Still I’m sure when I get the chance to play with one in real life my opinions will likely change.

I’m reserving judgement on the iPod mini until I see one in person - most of Apple’s recent stuff has looked significantly better in the plastic/metal than in photos (notably the LCD iMac, which i still consider hands-down the best desktop yet built, and the G5 which unexpectedly exudes ‘professional’ and ‘solid,’ rather than ‘cheesegrater’ ).

It’s a fairly crucial aspect of the iPod philosophy that one should be able to use the thing single-handed, with either hand. I suspect this has dictated the aspect ratio. The colours strike me as a bit scary too, but (a.) Japan is a huge market, and largely unfathomable, and (b.) anodised aluminium usually looks awful in photos.

Jobs was very interesting talking about the pricing, incidentally. Current iPods have something like 30% of the handheld audio player market, he claimed. Players in the $100-$200 range account for another 30%. However, at the lower end of that, Apple reckon most purchases are shoved in a drawer and not used. The ones that are used have been loaded with extra flash cards - I think Jobs claimed the typical total expenditure is something like $220. So $249 for the iPod mini may be absolutely right, particularly since they’ll be keen to maintain the ‘premium brand’ image, even if it’s a bit close to the ‘big’ iPods. Plus, it really is a slighly different device for slightly different uses; the iPod is tiny and lovely, but it’s surprisingly heavy - I can see people buying iPod minis to supplement their 40Gb units, not to replace them.

However, I’m appalled that $249 will evidently translate to �199 and not (current exchange rate+VAT) �170. Ugh! How come we’re not benefiting from the sliding dollar?

Well, there are several Brits that we know of heading Statewise in the not-so-distant future. And I believe that they will even be in the near proximity of an Apple Store. Hmm…

Of course, by upping the price in Europe, Apple is benefitting from the sliding dollar.

I also liked the bit about the unfathomable Japanese. LOL.

The Guardian managed to get somebody at Apple to allow that they will look at the intended pricing before the iPod mini arrives here in April. Hell, who knows, maybe they’ll look at all their prices…

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on January 6, 2004 9:58 PM.

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