Spoutin' Off: Touchscreen functionality continues with new 'iPod Touch'

By Michael Rau

September 10, 2007

I can't imagine that it was hard to guess what I'd be writing about this week. Apple's pushing the paradigm again, and I can't resist weighing in on the new announcements.

As I've mentioned in previous columns, I continue to marvel at this company's ability to utterly dominate the news. You would have been hard pressed in the days leading up to Steve Jobs' trademark melodramatic rollout of their new products to find a story that generated more buzz.

And before we discuss the products themselves, I have to say that I'm feeling pretty smart for not running out and buying an iPhone. To me, the fact that Apple has dropped the price of this gizmo by a third — from $599 to $399 — is about as dramatic as the new products themselves.

It makes perfect sense. The hardcore "Apple-istas" who would run out and buy an iPhone based solely on the branding have made their purchases, and now it's time to reel in the fence sitters (which may or may not include me).

Should those of you who already bought one be angry? Maybe a little bit, but surely you can't be surprised.

Personally, I think it's rather classy that in a letter to iPhone customers released the day after the big announcements, Steve Jobs says he understands initial buyers' anger and that Apple would give previous iPhone purchasers a $100 Apple Store credit.

Oh — and I should also mention that the 4 GB model of iPhone has been discontinued already. Now, about those new iPods ...

The biggest newsmaker has to be the new touchscreen iPod, called the "iPod Touch." Prognosticators, including me, had said that this was the next logical step in the evolution of the iPod, and bam! — there it is.

It's basically an iPhone without the cell phone functions. It uses the same marvelous touch-screen technology and has wi-fi capability for downloading media. But more significantly, it uses OS X as it's operating system and has the same version of Apple's Safari Web browser as the iPhone. With it's wi-fi connectivity, this iPod is now a true Web appliance, as well as being the gold standard in media players.

It's still not quite a true portable computer, but it's certainly headed in that direction. It's priced at $299 for an 8 GB model and a hundred bucks more for a 16 GB model.

As for the rest of the new lineup, let's start with the Classic iPod, priced from $249 to $349. This still most closely resembles the original. What sets it apart from the rest is its storage capacity.

All other iPod models, as well as the iPhone, use solid-state, or "Flash" memory. As I said in a recent column, I believe solid-state memory will dominate the future for smaller scale storage. But right now, it's expensive and limited in how much data it can hold.

The Classic iPod still uses a mechanical (albeit very small) hard drive. This gives the Classic the capability to hold up to 160 GB of data, as opposed to a maximum of 16 GB for the "Touch" and 8 GB for the new "Nano."

Speaking of the new Nano, it's the most radically evolved model as it now has video capability. Although considerably smaller, it now more closely resembles the "Classic" in form factor than did the previous model.

The screen is only two inches wide, but as with other video iPod screens, it has an exceptionally high pixel density, the results of which are reported to be rather stunning. Although it looks a bit stubby at first glance, it's also quite slim and light.

I predict this model will be the biggest seller, with it's very nice balance of size-to-capability-to-price. It retails for $149 to $199.

Last but not least is the "Shuffle." The tiny but powerful media player is actually unchanged, except for a wider variety of colors. It still sells for $79.

There are many other quality media players out there. Pocket MP3 players are extremely common, and most work very well. As for portable video, I've always liked the players made by Archos. They're well thought-out and have excellent functionality. What continues to set the iPod, as well as Apple's other products apart is this: They always assume their customers are NOT tech-savvy — even though most probably are. Their interfaces, whether in their hardware or software, are intuitive and user-friendly. People are always factored into their equations, and thus their products become more than just tools.

Apple treats people as more than just a commodity. and the public responds. That's not hype — just common sense — the same quality reflected in the new line of iPods.


Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, go to http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.


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