Today was a big day for Apple. At 1PM EST, they held a big media event. This event was a great 'mystery'. The only thing the invitations said was 'Its Showtime'. Now it doesn't take a genius to figure out what this is hinting at. Apple has been dabbling in video for about a year now on their iPod. They have been selling TV shows for that entire time. The next logical step is to sell movies. In fact, that is what they did today - the announced that they were starting to sell movies on iTunes. They also updated all of their iPods today! Below is a list of what they announced and my thoughts on them.
New, smaller iPod Shuffle
Apple announced a new, smaller iPod Shuffle. The old Shuffle was already an amazingly small device. It was about the size of a stick of gum and the thickness of a pencil. It weighed practically nothing and (at least in my experience) seems to last damn near forever on a single charge of the built in battery. It also was very unusual in that it did not contain any display at all. The new Shuffle is even smaller. Instead of being the size of a stick of gum, it now is about the size of a matchbook. It is 1.07 x 1.62 x 0.41 inches. It looks to be about the size of the remote on the iPod Radio Remote. The only model of the new iPod Shuffle that they offer is a 1GB model.
What do I think of this new Shuffle? On first glance, I'm impressed. They took something that was already tiny and made it even smaller. I have to confess that I'm puzzled as to why they would even bother with redesigning the Shuffle. It only holds 1GB, which is a relatively small size these days. Yeah, it's cheap at $79, but for $149, you can get twice the space, plus a full color screen and a real click wheel in the 2GB iPod Nano. Up until today, the also offered a 1GB iPod Nano. I would think that the 1GB Nano would fit this job better than the Shuffle, since it has the color screen and real click wheel. The new Shuffle seems to be sitting in a lonely spot on their product lineup.
New iPod Nano
Apple also announced a new, redesigned iPod Nano. Previously it was available in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB sizes. Now it is available in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB sizes. The case of the Nano has also been redesigned to be an aluminum case and it now comes in several colors. I had heard rumors for some time about the nanos coming out in larger capacities, so this wasn't very surprising. What was surprising to me, is how much this new Nano resembles an updated iPod Mini. The iPod Nano replaced the iPod Mini back when it first came out. A lot of people were not happy about this. The iPod Mini was very popular. This new Nano comes in a selection of bright colors, just like the old Mini did, and it also has the rounded sides, just like the old Mini did. I strongly suspect Apple redesigned the look of the Nano to intentionally resemble the old, popular Mini. No doubt they did this in an attempt to bring back those fans of the Mini and get them to upgrade to the Nano. All in all, it looks like a nice little player.
Apple also introduced a fairly minor upgrade to their hard drive based iPods. They did not introduce the long rumored widescreen, touch-sensitive iPod, as I hoped they would. Instead, they simply increased the hard drive size from 60GB to 80GB, increased the brightness of the screen and increased the battery life. All in all, a fairly minor upgrade in my opinion.
Apple also changed the picture on their iPod boxes from Bono of U2, to a scene from Disney's Pirates of the Carribean movie. I have to say I'm glad they did this. I was so sick of seeing Bono's face all over the damn place. I never did like that guy. He always struck me as very arrogant. Also, I'm sure they switched it to a scene from a movie to emphasize the fact that you can buy and play movies on it now. Plus, since Pirates is a Disney movie, and Steve Jobs (the CEO of Apple) is also the largest private shareholder of Disney, there's an obvious connection there too.
Apple introduced iTunes 7.0. This is the newest version of their software for buying and downloading music, movies etc. for your iPod. I downloaded the new version and will post some detailed thoughts on it later. Right now, I'll just say that it looks like they made some very nice changes to the software. It still doesn't burn videos to DVD though, dammit! Apple get with the program! I will never buy video content from you until I can burn it to a DVD and watch in on my TV. Why pay $10-15 for a movie and only be able to watch it on a computer screen, or the tiny screen on an iPod. It just doesn't make sense.
Movies for sale on iTunes
Apple announced that effective today, they are selling full blown movies on iTunes, in addition to the TV shows they've been selling before. This was hardly a surprise. It was the next logical step after selling TV shows. These movies range in price from $9.99 for older movies, to $12.99 for new releases, to $14.99 for newer movies. While $9.99 is a decent price to pay for older movies, you can often buy the movies for that price or cheaper on DVD, so to me there is really little point in it. Plus, since the movies are 'trapped' on your PC and cannot be burned to DVD, they aren't worth the money. Right now, only Disney movies are for sale, due to the Apple / Disney connection, but I suspect more movie studios will join up very soon.
Games for sale on iTunes
Now this is the one that really caught my eye! You can now buy little arcade games on iTunes that can be downloaded and played on the iPod. These games only work on the 5G iPods (i.e. the 'video iPod'). They have nine games up there so far - Vortex, Tetris, Pac-Man, Cubis 2, Zuma, Texas Holdem, Mini Golf, Mahjong and Bejeweled. In those nine games are two of my absolute favorite games - Tetris and Bejeweled. I have both of those games on my cell phone, and now, after buying them on iTunes, I now have them on my iPod. The games are $4.99 a piece. This is about the same price as games on cell phones and seems to be a reasonable price to me. I spent $10 buying those two games today. That's more money than I've ever spent on the iTunes music store in my entire life! Apple may have finally found a way to get money out of me on this one.
What I find especially interesting about these games is that the games they have for sale were not made by Apple. They were made by other companies. No doubt this means that there is a development kit available to write games for the iPod, and these other companies have it. My question is:
How can I get my hands on this development kit???
Why is it only these companies can write games for the iPod? Why doesn't Apple create a way for anyone to write and sell games on iTunes? Think of all the money they could make doing this! And for that matter, why leave it to only games? The iPod is essentially a portable computer with a massive hard drive. Think of the possibilities there! I can already envision dozens of programs that could be written for that thing. Give me and API and give me a way to sell programs for the iPod! It would make me and Apple more money! Come on Apple, give me a damn development kit! I know it exists. By releasing this development kit, you will massively increase the market share of the iPod!
So there you have it. My thoughts on Apples (latest) big day. What do you think?