MacCentral Week in Review
Editorial: Take a picture, it'll last longer
By Peter Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two new iPod offerings catapulted Apple's music player back to the forefront of the news this week. At a special event held in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday, Steve Jobs was joined on stage by U2 front man Bono and guitarist The Edge to introduce the color screen-equipped iPod Photo and a new black and red-clad iPod U2 Special Edition model. What's more, Apple timed the event to coincide with the release of the iTunes Music Store to an additional nine European countries.
Although a color iPod capable of displaying photos has been widely rumored and equally widely hoped for, the real device itself has gotten a somewhat mixed response from industry experts and users alike. Some critics say the iPod Photo doesn't go far enough -- that it should have a way of reading photos straight from a camera, for example (it depends on newly minted iTunes 4.7's "Auto-Sync" technology to grab your iPhoto images on a Mac, or photos from a Windows user's "My Pictures" folder), or that it should have had the ability to play video too. Others suggest that sharing photos isn't as much of a big deal for most people as listening to music, and predicted a tepid response for the new device.
During his presentation, Jobs pointed out that there are no copyright issues with your photographs: You own them and you can do with them as you please. This telling comment may be one reason why Apple is so reluctant to produce a portable video playing device. Such a product -- like Microsoft's recently introduced Portable Media Players -- open up a quagmire of digital rights management issues with powerful forces in Hollywood and Washington, who frown upon devices and services that encourage people one way or the other to copy films and television shows to their computers. There's a great deal of distrust for the nascent digital rights management technology that accompanies these products. It's a trend that Steve Jobs himself -- who also wears a hat as the boss of the hugely successful movie-maker Pixar Animation Studios -- has said he's reluctant to foster, when he spoke out against HD-DVD burner installation in computers during a meeting between Hollywood executives and technology bosses earlier this year.
There are other practical reasons why the iPod Photo just isn't the right device for video, as well. The screen is too small and too low-resolution for long-term viewing. And continuously backlighting the iPod Photo's color display murders its battery life: It goes from 15 hours of play per charge for just music alone to 5 scant hours of play, if you have a color slideshow accompanying your song, according to Apple. To get something to really work well as a portable video player, I suspect Apple will really have to rethink the iPod concept all together. And they appear no more willing to do that right now than they have when people have suggested that Apple should produce a PDA or cell phone, either.
The iPod U2 Special Edition model is a plain-vanilla 20GB unit under the hood, though the hood itself is what makes it special -- it has a black case with red scroll wheel, and on the back is engraved the signatures of Bono and his bandmates. It's nifty for U2 completists since it comes with a $50 discount that can be redeemed for a "digital box set" of U2's complete studio records coming out next month which also includes some rare and unreleased tracks. That discount will help to offset the $50 more the U2 Special Edition costs over the regular white 20GB iPod. It's an interesting twist to the iPod phenomenon, but I don't expect it's going to make a major impact on iPod sales. Lots of folks dig the eye-catching black and red motif, though some are wondering why Apple didn't opt to develop matching earbuds.
iPod Photo notwithstanding, it's the addition of nine new European nations to the iTunes Music Store that's likely to have the strongest impact on Apple's bottom line going forward. With the exception of Denmark, Sweden and Ireland, iTunes music can now be downloaded in all of the original 15 member nations of the European Union. Apple said that it now reaches almost 70 percent of the global market for legal music downloads.
Jobs said that Apple has seen a 64 percent growth rate in iTunes Music Store sales since May, the month before Apple rolled out the iTunes Music Store in the UK, France and Germany. The company sold 10.8 million songs in May and projects it will sell more than 17.7 million songs by the time October is through. While Apple hasn't said how many of those sales came from Europe, there's no question that music lovers in the UK, France and Germany have helped along Apple's music success and sales of the iPod. It'll be interesting to see how those numbers track now that folks throughout most of Western Europe can now buy music from Apple. What's more, Canada is coming online in November, much to the apparent relief of many of MacCentral's more vocal forum posters.
At a special music event featuring Bono and The Edge from rock group U2 held on Tuesday, Apple took the wraps off the iPod Photo, a color iPod available in 40GB or 60GB storage capacities. The company also introduced the iPod U2 Specual Edition, Apple's 20GB player clad in black, equipped with a red Click Wheel and featuring engraved U2 band member signatures. The iPod Photo is available immediately, and Apple expects the iPod U2 Special Edition to ship in mid-November.
Shortly before Apple's special music event on Tuesday featuring Bono and The Edge from U2, the iTunes Music Store was updated with links to allow residents of nine new European countries to buy music online. In addition to the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, iTunes now supports Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. At long last, Apple also announced plans to bring the iTunes Music Store to Canada in November.
Lynx Studio Technology on Thursday introduced its new Aurora line of Analog-Digital/Digital-Analog (AD/DA) converters designed for use in professional audio studios. The converters are designed to work in a standard 19-inch equipment rack and take up 1U of space. Available in eight and 16 channel models, the Aurora converters feature 192kHz analog to digital and digital to analog conversion, with front panel control for routing and sample rate options.
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Intuit Inc. officially announced QuickBooks: Pro 2005 for Mac, the latest release of its small business accounting software. Major changes in this new release include integrated iCal support, the ability to back up data files to .Mac, easier file sharing with the Windows version of QuickBooks and the ability to add PDF backgrounds to forms.
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Around the Web
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak joined 10 other inductees at the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) Hall of Fame awards dinner, held last week in San Francisco, Calif.
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