Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Disney Movies, iPods, and iTV but Still No Mac for the Rest of Us

Apple, in an incredibly non-essential media event today announced upgraded iPods, a new version of iTunes (v7), and movie downloads from Disney (75 movies; how many times can you watch The Lion King?) Apple "hopes" to add more movies next year.

The movies will take about half an hour to download using cable Internet and an estimated two to five hours on DSL.

A home theater device called iTV was also revealed that will be available¬ónext year. iTV is not a HTPC; it's a media interface with the internals probably much like an AirPort Express with added I/O ports. HDMI and component video. This is astoundingly underwhelming.

Ho-hum. Apple dragged out the media presumably to pump up December holiday sales of the beefed up iPods, to counter-attack the similarly anemic Amazon.com movie download service, and to trump Microsoft's up-coming MP3 player. The new iPod nanos and the redesigned Shuffles are welcome, though. More good industrial engineering from Apple.

Notwithstanding the sleek new iPods, I must wonder what in the world Apple is doing over there. The company seems to be iPod-centric. I suppose it's a savvy move from the perspective of the "suits" who don't understand computing. It's a narrow pecuniary world-view.

It's the computer, stupid.

Most of us work for a living wherein we require computers that are more than iPod attachments. The center of the Apple world is the iPod and your Mac is now a mere iPod accessory conduit for more Apple cash flow in the guise of iTunes music and movies.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love music. Some of my best friends are musicians (chuckle) but, where are the Apple computers for those of us who work? Apple has lost focus. Manufacturing a small tower Mac with upgradeable processor and video cards, two hard drive bays, FireWire 800 and e-SATA ports, and one PCI slot won't make Apple rich in the short-term and may very well cannibalize the iMacs, so why build it? Because of the hidden iceberg of G4 users. Some SOHO businesses have been hanging on to their aging G4 towers waiting for Apple to offer a computer for the working creative professional. It doesn't exist. It's not the Mac mini and it's not the current crop of iMacs, either. These Macs are not well suited for graphic, video, or audio editors.

The Mac Pro at close to $3000 (with RAM) is fine for the corporate market but it's extreme overkill, and too expensive, for most SOHO operations. The Mac mini is perhaps best for the PC convert, and the iMac is a good, serviceable machine for common office uses such as Microsoft Office, e-mail, and Web surfing. Still, no Apple computer model for the SOHO creative niche.

iPods are sexy. iPods make Apple a bundle of cash. A working-class computer will not entice Time Magazine to put Jobs on the cover again, but I really don't know what to tell my SOHO graphic artist clients.

Wait until next year? Not really. They've stretched their G4s beyond any reasonable lifetime. Waiting.

Steve Jobs, what should I tell them? Buy a new iPod?

It's the computer, stupid.

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