July 18, 2004

iPod Bumpin'

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My previous post pretty much made the announcement of new iPods official. Now the Gen-4 iPod graces the cover of the July 26th Newsweek:

iPod Nation by Steven Levy, Senior Editor

In just three years, Apple’s adorable mini music player has gone from gizmo to life-changing cultural icon

Steve Jobs noticed something earlier this year in New York City. "I was on Madison," says Apple's CEO, "and it was, like, on every block, there was someone with white headphones, and I thought, 'Oh, my God, it's starting to happen'." Jonathan Ive, the company's design guru, had a similar experience in London: "On the streets and coming out of the tubes, you'd see people fiddling with it." And Victor Katch, a 59-year-old professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan, saw it in Ann Arbor. "When you walk across campus, the ratio seems as high as 2 out of 3 people," he says.

They're talking about the sudden ubiquity of the iPod, the cigarette-box-size digital music player (and its colorful credit-card-size little sister, the Mini) that's smacked right into the sweet spot where a consumer product becomes something much, much more: an icon, a pet, a status indicator and an indispensable part of one's life. To 3 million-plus owners, iPods not only give constant access to their entire collection of songs and CDs, but membership into an implicit society that's transforming the way music will be consumed in the future. "When my students see me on campus with my iPod, they smile," says Professor Katch, whose unit stores everything from Mozart to Dean Martin. "It's sort of a bonding."

The glue for the bond is a tiny, limited-function computer with a capacious disk drive, decked in white plastic and loaded with something that until very recently was the province of ultrageeks and music pirates: digital files that play back as songs. Apple wasn't the first company to come out with a player, but the earlier ones were either low-capacity toys that played the same few songs, or brick-size beasts with impenetrable controls. Apple's device is not only powerful and easy to use, but has an incandescent style that makes people go nuts about it. Or, in the case of 16-year-old Brittany Vendryes of Miami, to dub it "Bob the Music Machine." ("I wanted to keep it close to my heart and give it a name," she explains.) +++

Still debating on purchasing one for my birthday. If recent history is a guide, I'll pass and wait till the next revision to decide. Or I'll forever keep putting it off because I don't want to get burnt by a bump in the iPod that leaves me behind technologically speaking. That happens when you buy a minidisc recorder less than three weeks before the introduction of the iPod. *sigh*

Levy gives the skinny on the slimmer, improved Gen-4 iPod:

The click wheel. The iPod keeps getting slimmer and more streamlined. While the initial version had a relatively boxy feel, subsequent versions have been curvier and smaller. This one is about a millimeter thinner and, more significantly, eliminates the control buttons that sat under the display screen. Instead, it uses a "click wheel," where the controls are placed on the compass points of the circular touchpad that lets you scroll through menus. This is an innovation carried over from the diminutive iPod Mini. "It was developed out of necessity for the Mini, because there wasn't enough room [for the buttons]," says Steve Jobs. "But the minute we experienced it we just thought, 'My God, why didn't we think of this sooner?' "

More efficient menus. There's less thumbing required to get to your favorite stuff. "Music" is a first-level entry, and now a single click initiates the popular technique of shuffling your library for playback.

New features. You can create multiple on-the-go playlists and delete songs from those ad hoc mixes. And audiobooks are not only easier to find, you can listen to them at normal speed, slower or 25 percent faster, without its sounding like a Munchkin.

Longer play. Coast-to-coasters rejoice: the new iPods are rated for 12 hours of rockin' between charges—a 50 percent boost in battery life. This is accomplished, Apple says, not by a heavier battery but diligent conservation of power.

Lower price. The top-of-the-line iPod, holding 10,000 songs (40 gigs, as geeks will tell you), now costs $399. The lower-capacity model, with room for 5,000 songs (20 gigs), costs $299. That's a $100 price reduction for each. (There's no more 15-gig model.)

Color. Fuggedaboutit. Despite rumors to the contrary, the wide-bodies are still as pure as the driven snow.

Bottom line: If you have yet to jump on the iPod bandwagon, it's cheaper and more attractive to do so. If you're already plugged in, the question is whether you should engage in the "iPod Bump," where you snap up the spiffy new version and pass Old Reliable to a grateful friend or family member (or the highest eBay bidder). If your music collection has exceeded your iPod's storage space, or your listening binges exceed your current iPod's battery life—or if you want to hear Bill Clinton's abridged book in 4-1/2 hours rather than six—consider the Bump this time around. Of course, if your heart went aflutter at the very sight of this year's model, you're probably in line at the Apple Store already. +++

I thought this next generation of iPods would sport different colors, a color screen and finally, in-line recording. I hope these features find their way in the Gen-5 iPod by MWSF05.

In the third article from this weeks' issue, Bret Begun peers into the future with an ode to the iPod:

iPod, there are a few things that I've been needing to tell you for a while. This really isn't easy, but here goes...

You know, when we met I had hopes and dreams for us, just like any other iPod owner would have. I thought about growing old together and how, in 2050, when the Smithsonian came calling for an iPod to put in its permanent collection, they'd pick you. Why? Because of your unparalleled playlists. On "Summer Lovin'," as an August sun set, we'd start with Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," which would transition, almost too perfectly, into Gershwin's "Summertime," then merge, seamlessly, into "Legs." OK, well, maybe we could do without the ZZ Top, but you know... I'm sorry, I'm just really confused right now.

What I don't understand is why you choose not to be so many of the things you could be to me, mainly a means to expand my musical horizons. (Thanks, though, for drowning out the impromptu mariachi bands on the subway. That's nice.) +++

I'm sure there's someone out there that owns every generation of iPod and an iPod Mini, and probably has a pre-order for this one.

And for you true fanatics, Newsweek will have a live discussion on the iPod:

Steven Levy joins us Friday, July 23, at noon ET to discuss this week's cover story on iPods

To three million plus owners, iPods not only give constant access to their entire collection of songs and CDs, but membership into an implicit society that's transforming the way music will be consumed in the future. People obsess over their iPods, talking incessantly about playlists and segues, grumbling about glitches, fixating on battery life, and panicking at the very thought of losing their new digital friend. And the introduction of the new iPods this week extends the Apple's digital music dominance. If Apple, as promised, manages to get enough drives to satisfy the demand, the Mini iPod may achieve the ubiquity of its wide-bodied companion. And later this summer, when computer giant HP begins selling a co-branded version of the iPod, consumers will be able to get Pods in thousands of additional retail stores. How did iPod appear to take over the world? Are you a part of the iPod revolution or don't you believe the hype? Join Steven Levy in a Live Talk to discuss this week's cover story on Friday, July 23, at noon ET. Submit questions any time.

I'll be worn out posting and reading about the new iPods at Mac news and rumors sites all over the place. And probably answering emails sent by family members and friends with tons of Mac-related questions. Y'all just need to make the total switch away from MicroSloth.

Posted by ronn at July 18, 2004 01:39 PM

Now you know what to get me when I get up there next weekend! ;-) Posted by: ej [TypeKey Profile Page] on July 18, 2004 08:31 PM
and i'm still sporting a 5 gigger. time to get an upgrade. Posted by: lynne on July 18, 2004 08:59 PM
ej: Sure. I have a subscription to Newsweek, so I'll save it for you. Now as for me... LOL Papi if I could, I would. I'm still going over my budget to figure out how I'm getting one for myself. Lynne: I think you should wait till after MacWorld-Paris end of August. There's supposedly 60-giggers to be introduced along with the G5 iMac. I'm sure you probably need something that big and bad. Posted by: ronn [TypeKey Profile Page] on July 18, 2004 11:02 PM