Fun New Products: Part III, in which we say WTF to a new iPod stereo system and leather iPod cases

Oh, my it's a new iPod Hi-Fi speaker system. Well gee whillikers. Oh, look! And there are some new $99 leather iPod cases as well. Jumping Jehosephat?

Yes, the stereo, at least, signals Apple's further move into the home entertainment space. But it's pretty hard to get revved up about yet another portable iPod stereo system, even if it does come from Apple. It is nice and pretty, in the same way your microwave is pretty, I guess. And not one, but two different product shots on the Apple Store show an Apple Remote sitting next to it, looking remarkably like an Allen wrench. So, it's got that. UPDATE: the more I read about this, the better it sounds. Er. Or seems. It's hard to actually hear it via the electronet.

And, um.... what else? Oh! Did I mention the $99 leather iPod cases? Why, that's a mere $24 more than a leather case from Kate Spade would set you back. But the Apple one is much better, as it only comes in black and won't let you access your controls. I think what Apple meant by "fun," in this case, is "overpriced." Because nothing says fun like paying way too much for something just to get it with an embossed logo.

UPDATE: From the wow that was fast department, iLounge has a picture-laden first look at the iPod Hi Fi up on its site.


Fun New Products: Part II, in which there are new Mac Minis

First out of the gate today: new Intel-based Mac Minis. Intel single and duo core processors, a new version of Front Row, and they're already shipping. Or at least, the single core system is. One bummer, the entry-level Mini is $100 more than the entry level PowerPC based system. I thought one of the Intel pros was that it would make for cheaper machines. We'll see.

But in any case, what welcome news to see Front Row is on the new Mac minis (and, yes, I do think that it justifies the price increase, though I'm still hoping for a cheap Intel system). This has been a long needed-addition to the Mac mini lineup. And Front Row file-sharing via Bonjour also seems like such an obvious piece, it's amazing that it hasn't always been there. As a Mac mini owner, I can attest to how badly the system needed a few more USB ports as well.

This is great addition to Apple's lineup. I don't normally feel the need to run out and buy a new system every time Apple releases one. But in this case, I might seriously consider trading in my current (four-month old!) Mac mini for the newer model. Not because it's faster, but because it's got such great media center capabilities, which is my minis raison d'etre.


Fun New Products: Part I, in which news is broken here first and promises are made

A lot of people, myself included, have speculated that we're going to see films added to the iTMS today at Apple's Fun New Products thingiemaneedle. If this morning is any indication, that appears to be on track. Apple added Academy Awards-nominated shorts to its short films section. It's a significant step as these are the first films produced by companies Apple doesn't have a relationship with. (Previously, all the short films were by Pixar and Disney.)

But, but, but...

This leaves me with a question: If Apple is adding movies to the iTMS today, why add the Academy shorts separately, and with no announcement? It's the standard Chewbacca defense; it makes no sense. Unless, that is, that today's announcements are going to be so big, and so time-consuming, that there's just no room for this. So what will it be? Movies? New iBooks and Minis? New Video iPods? A new Apple-branded TV? I don't know, but my gut tells me it's going to be all about entertainment. After all, Apple is an entertainment and digital lifestyle company now. They were the first big company to realize that computing--at least as we thought of it in the 80s through the first few years of this century--is only one of the many tasks we expect our processor boxes to do. Others include communicating, creating, and entertaining.

In any case. Stay tuned. I'll be writing up news stories on all of Apple's Fun New Products today for Macworld, and addding entries here as we roll.

UPDATE: I almost forgot. Also new on the iTMS today are three new TV shows from Bravo, Project Runway, Inside the Actor's Studio, and Top Chef. For more info, see my story on Macworld/Playlist


Is this what a funeral looks like?

iTunes Song Purchases plotted on a graph

This iTunes sales chart easily demonstrates the power-curve we're seeing at the iTunes Music Store. Lots of analysts and journalists have foretold the death of the 99-cent single at the hands of a subscription model. Bullshit. It's a pure power curve. A hockey stick. The reverse long-tail.

Okay, so, maybe it's too soon to tell. Maybe this is the just the first third of an eventual bell curve. But I don't think so. Lots of people have talked about how the iTunes Music Store is just a promotional vehicle for the iPod. But the iPod can also be viewed as the showroom for the iTunes Music Store. Apple sold 500 million songs over the past seven months. Apple's production cost on the iTMS has to be low enough that it doesn't take many units before the economy of scale kicks in. A billion songs here, a billion songs there, and pretty soon we're talking about real money. Throw some movies in the mix, and you've got the next-generation home-entertainment company.

Years ago, Bill Gates famously declared that he wanted to put a computer on every desktop. I've got a feeling Steve Jobs wants to put an Apple in every living room.


MacBook Pro Reviewed

Jason Snell reviews a MacBook Pro for Macworld, and also publishes his "reviewers notebook" providing an extra dollop of details. The verdict? Jason gives it four mice, and concludes, among other things that "the MacBook Pro, despite its mouthful of a name, is a PowerBook." Although Jason notes that apps running in Rosetta will run at speeds two-or three-year-old PowerBook G4 users (me) are accustomed to, while Universal apps will run much faster, I'm afraid I'm with Phil Michaels on this one; until there are a few more Universal apps I'm going to wait. When Photoshop and the MS Office suite are Universal, I'll make the jump. But until then, I'm going to wait.



I've been playing with Podbop some, and it's pretty damn cool. Like most great ideas, it can be summed up really simply. You tell the site where you live, and it returns a list of bands coming to your area sorted by date, with venue information, and MP3s of their music. You can either play songs in the Podbop interface, or download the MP3. It uses the Eventful API to grab event information, and gets the MP3s from band and label sites.

But that's not the best part.

The best part is that you can subscribe to the feed to get all that info podcast to you. Here's the feed for San Francisco, for example.

Give it a shot with your town, it's pretty neat.

It also got me thinking about the way podcasts are organized on the iTunes Music Store. It's quite easy to add geographic information to a feed. My site feed has gps data embedded in it, for example. There should be a way to search the iTunes Music Store's podcast page for feeds based on their location. It's such a no-brainer, and uses information that a lot of feeds are already publishing anyway.

In fact, I'd so like to do this that I hope somebody makes me look like a dumb-ass by showing me exactly how it can be done in the iTMS.


Playlist: Make mine with music: Preloaded iPods

I have a new story up on Playlist on the trend of selling loaded iPods. I thought it was pretty interesting. Playlist: Make mine with music: Preloaded iPods:
There’s a hot new trend in iPods, and for a change it has nothing to do with Apple: iPods for sale, pre-loaded with content. Shuffles, videos and nanos. Classical, Jazz, and Hip-hop. Pick your player and your musical poison, and a reseller will ship it directly to your doorstep. No more ripping CDs or DVDs. No more downloading. Just Gigabytes of audio and video, pre-loaded on the world’s most popular player.
While eBayers and others who want to sell a used player laden with copyrighted music are most definitely courting trouble with the copyright watchdogs such as the Recording Industry Association of America, a handful of companies are exploring legal avenues to sell loaded iPods. These services are typically marketed as timesavers and solutions for anyone without a high-speed Internet connection or who wants to give an iPod as a gift.


The Olympics on iTunes

You're probably reading the title of this post and saying to yourself, whoa, the Olympics are on iTunes!? Well, sort of. And by sort of, I mean no. They're not.

Which is a real missed opportunity. NBC is already licensing content to Apple's iTunes Music Store, and not putting the Olympics up there is simply stupid.

Let me back up. I've got Olympic fever. I've been watching ice dancing, for crying out loud. Ice dancing! Have you seen how completely inane ice dancing is? Nevermind. I'm hooked. Dance, oh, you billowing masters of the chilly cha-cha. Dance for me across the frozen fields of passion and time.

Okay, so I've actually been fast-forwarding through most of the ice dancing. But I have been watching the Olympics every night. Except for one, when I fell asleep early and missed the finals of the men's figure skating competition. Which I wanted to see, because I'm completely emasculated.

And I wanted to see that troublesome scamp Johnny Weir mince his way into America's hearts. But I didn't see it. And TiVo purged it before I had a chance to watch. Oh, TiVo, why do you hate us?

I've tried to find it on NBC's site, but I keep having problems navigating the pages with my eyes closed, in an effort not to see the spoilers plastered all over the place. Oh, and I have another problem, too, which is that it's not two freaking thousand anymore and NBC seriously needs to update its Web presence.

Hey! I have an idea! Why not use a proven distribution method to sell content the day after it appears for free over the air? Wouldn't that be great?

Apparently not.

Come on NBC. Give me my own Olympic moment conveniently located in my home office. I'll pay you for it.


New Apple Gee-Gaws, Shim-Shams And Whatz-Its, But no BonoPod

Invites have gone out for a new Apple event on February 28. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail. Or maybe it's just hidden underneath the couch cushions. Perhaps it was eaten by a grue.

In any case: new! new! new!

Gartenberg reports that the invite says "Come see some fun new products from Apple." This is, apparantly, an entirely different invite than the recent and already notorious fake invite promoting the new red BonoPod that donates a percentage of its profits to battle AIDS.

I'm a believer in the red BonoPod for a variety of reasons. There's been speculation about it for months, and I think it's probably on the way. It seems like a good PR move for Apple, and a red iPod would be kind of sexy.

But I don't think it's coming February 28th.

Why not? Well, remember that Gartenberg reports the invite says "Come see some fun new products from Apple." Call me mr. sensitive pony tail man, but somehow I don't see "combat AIDS" and "fun new products" going together like peas and carrots. That just seems a little crass.

Not that fighting AIDS has to be dreary. It doesn't. But I'll eat my sock if any of Apple's famously hard-working and humorless PR people thought to put those two ideas together.

So what will it be? Who cares. I'll take two. Despite Apple's obsessive secrecy, the company loves the speculation and press it generates with these product announcements. You don't see the Web getting into a tizzy every time Mickey D fires off a press release about a new Dell DJ, do you?

(What's a Dell DJ, you ask? Exactly.)

That's just One More Thing for you to think about.

UPDATE: My colleague Peter Cohen just published more details on the invite. Cohen says the invite features "a large rendering of an iCal-style icon with the date set to February 28, 2006." My thoughts? Steve Jobs just bought leap year. But that's just a hunch.


Libraries turning to iPods and iTunes for digital collections

My Playlist story last week was on how libraries are turning to iPods and iTunes to help with their digital collections:
When you think of an iTunes or iPod music library, odds are you think of a folder stored on a hard drive somewhere, full of music files, videos and podcasts. But iTunes and iPods are starting to take hold in traditional libraries as well—the kind with stacks of books and card catalogues—as a solution for librarians who are seeking to provide access to their digital collections.

Just as the iPod transformed the way individuals connect with their personal media collections, so too is it changing the way libraries help the public connect with mass media collections. Both iPods and iTunes enable libraries to provide new distribution methods for digital collections of books, music, and now, video. Yet with these digital collections come issues of copyright and access that pose new challenges for modern librarians.


One Billion Songs, and No Respect

As I write this, Apple is creeping up on one-billion songs sold on the iTunes Music Store. Despite bigger giveaways, bigger numbers, and a chance to use all kinds of Dr. Evil allusions, I don't get the sense that the Web is abuzz over this as it has been with previous Apple song milestones.

Why not?

We're talking about a billion dollars in sales here. (Well, 990 million, give or take fifty million dollars or so.) But perhaps that just it. Duh, Apple is creeping up on a billion songs. Last year, the company was the fourth largest music retailer. This year I would expect it will surpass that, even.

The iTunes Music Store is no longer a surprise; it's an expectation.


Macworld Review: RapidWeaver 3.2

My review of RapidWeaver 3.2 went up on Macworld today:
RapidWeaver 3.2.1 is a basic Web site-creation tool that anyone can use—even people without Web-publishing experience or HTML knowledge. I used RapidWeaver to design and build a personal site complete with a Weblog, photos, and contact-information pages, as well as a four-page site designed for a home business. Despite some minor problems, I found RapidWeaver to be a very effective application for simple Web publishing.


Playlist Interview: Digg founder Rose talks podcasting

I really, um, dug, this interview I did with Kevin Rose of Digg
Digg.com came into its own in 2005, practically exemplifying the Web 2.0 with its user-defined content and categories, and integration with popular blogging applications like Blogger, Typepad and WordPress. The weblog-style site relies on member-submitted entries, similar to Metafilter, Slashdot and other group weblogs. Yet it takes the traditional group weblog concept a step further by letting its users define which stories are prominently featured. Digg users sort through entries each day and vote, or “digg,” for the submissions they like best. The entries with the most diggs are then featured on the site’s front page.

Every week, Digg founder Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht, both TechTV veterans, put out the Diggnation podcast, highlighting the best stories of the previous week while they crack jokes and drink beer. It’s one of the most popular podcasts on the iTunes Music Store, and was an early podcast to offer video as well as audio. Playlist spoke with Kevin Rose about the Diggnation podcast.


Playlist Review: MobiBlu DAH-1500i

I've got a recent review up on the MobiBlu DAH-1500i on Playlist
MobiBlu’s diminutive MP3 player, the DAH-1500i, packs a few miles of features into a player that measures less than one cubic inch. In addition to the MP3 player, it sports an FM tuner and recorder, voice recorder, file storage, and a clock. It also has an equalizer with five presets and one user-defined setting, and an SRS function to enhance bass and surround sound.

In short, the MobiBlu does a lot of things in a little space. Unfortunately, while it does some of them quite well, others features suffer thanks to the player’s size restraints. If you want a gee-whiz gadget that’s the smallest (for now) thing out there, and you don’t necessarily care about the interface, this is a great little device. However if you’re more interested in an on-the-go music player, there are a number of flash players out there that accomplish everything the MobiBlu while being easier to use—granted, other players are slightly larger, but they’re still small enough to slip easily into a coin pocket.


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