Performa like it’s 2005

Okay, so I was going to write a pre-event article to try and sort things out in my head, but it obviously didn’t come together in time. And, benefit of hindsight and all, now I have more tangible things to say.

It was quite obvious to me that Apple wouldn’t hold a “One more thing” special event if the only thing debuting were updated PowerMacs (overdue, but not sexy) and last-legs updated PowerBooks (overdue, even less enticing). The question was: what?

That is a question easily answered by hordes upon hordes of fans who eagerly awaited the announcement. I’m very pleased to hear about the “Media-Centre” iMac, and I’m nicely surprised by the Video Store & Video iPod. I’m less pleased about the PowerMac/PowerBook situation, but that will surely rectify itself in time.

First, about the Media Centre iMac. I had incredible flashbacks back to, oh, 1997 or so, when I had my Perform 6400. This little beast was underpowered and overpriced, but there were two things it had that made it solid gold. One: IR remote control, that could even turn on the computer. Second: a TV Tuner, and software to record TV onto the hard drive.

Can you believe that it’s 2005 and we’re turning the corner on returning to this design? The computer industry rarely goes around in circles, but in this case I don’t know how else to describe the situation. I find it all quite amusing, at any rate.

Moving on to what is available in the 2005 Perform 6400 (on average, it’s exactly 10 times the clock speed, too. Coincidence? Well, probably.) Integrated iSight is nice, in a value-add kind of way. PCs have been including web-cams in their ridiculous bundle deals for years, now, but they’ve never really been that useful to that many people from what I gather. Even with broadband levels increasing as they are, will that change in the future? My guess is probably not really.

And what’s missing: TV connectivity. It is extremely true that this would make a great dorm room TV (but where’s the TV Tuner?), but a living room (much more common in space-available Adelaide) situation is another story entirely. I haven’t looked at the bandwidth figures, but if Apple could stream video à la Airport Express, I think they would have announced that today as well.

Now that I say that, of course, I realise I’m kind of lying. 320x240 movies from the iTunes Music Store will stream just fine, and higher quality wouldn’t be out of the question, either. I suspect the cost of integrating a Quicktime decoder into an Airport Express is a little expensive right now, given the hardware that would require.

And now that I’ve mentioned that thing where people who aren’t from Australia can buy music, I’d like to segue into the video iPod. Thinner, flat-faced (same as the iPod nano, if you didn’t notice) design with a bigger screen really is quite nice.

But whoever’s in charge of the iTunes division really needs to get a clue. The iTunes’ features are just been tacked on here and there, without any thought for what used to be the best-designed media interface in the world.

I’ll pay the thought that Apple didn’t really consider selling video too seriously when they started the iTunes Music Store, but now that they’re branching out, it would be a really great idea to stop with the damn music label for something that is now quite blatantly not exclusively related to music. Hell, even keeping podcasts in iTunes was a bit of a stretch, and now we’re (if we could) buying video there as well?

I respect that Apple has a huge brand in “iPod”, but I don’t think the same is true of the “iTunes Music Store”. I predict they’ll drop the “Music” part sooner rather than later, and probably about the same time that the video store becomes actually popular.

But what to do about iTunes? I suspect that there is a significant investment in that name, explaining Apple’s desire to piggy-back it with features that don’t make sense. This rapid version shift from 5 to 6 is certainly one of drunkenbatman’s “canaries”, from my point of view, and I simply don’t understand what they think they’re doing.

Two side notes that I’ll never manage to flesh out an entire article with

Apple’s earnings thing was certainly very interesting, and they seemed to display some great results. I don’t understand what the hell they’re doing with $8 BILLION cash when the Finder is still pain-inducing. And that’s pretty lucky they brought out the Mac mini: 202,000 sold out of 600,000ish desktops is well done in my eyes – Bill Palmer may end up not to have been proved correct after all. (I like the guy, don’t get me wrong.)

Finally: iPod has market share of 75% of all MP3 players? That’s some numbers. With the iPod nano, I’m sure they’ll keep it up. Let’s use some of that clout to get the iTMS down here in Australia already.