The Macalope Weekly: The machine that goes Ping!
Apple held its annual iPod show this week and the Macalope’s here to give you the final take-away. Truth be told, he’s not even going to talk about Ping because he doesn’t get it, but you know how it is with nerds: we can’t pass up a chance to make a Monty Python reference.
The “one more thing” at the event was, as predicted, the new Apple TV. What wasn’t really predicted was the feature set. The new Apple TV is nice but, let’s face it, it’s not the prophet that’s going to lead us out of the entertainment wilderness and into the promised land of ubiquitous cheap content.
Apple is betting on an all-rental model which is an interesting gamble but seems unlikely to be a huge winner. For starters, Amazon sells shows for the same amount Apple rents them. Of course, Amazon’s service isn’t without its quirks, too (like not working on the Mac), but it’s hard to get excited about spending a buck to be loaned something that someone else, for the same dollar, gets to keep.
Apple still hasn’t been able to up the 24-hour limit on watching a movie (and, yes, the Macalope knows they let you get through it at least once even if you go outside 24 hours). Of course, it’s at least easier to watch a 45-minute episode of Glee in 24 hours than, say, Cleopatra . Particularly when you decide you can only bear to watch half of the Glee episode because there’s only so much twee-ness you can stand. Other systems allow longer viewing periods. (Correction: the time limit for movies remains 24-hours, but the limit for TV show rentals is actually 48 hours.)
It’s rather annoying that current Apple TV users are apparently going to be shut out from watching rented TV shows, even streamed from a Mac. While it’s possible this restriction is Apple’s doing in order to avoid additional development costs (the new Apple TV is iOS-based, the old Mac OS X-based) or simply to drive sales, the horny one wonders if the deals it cuts with media companies aren’t device-specific.
The Macalope’s point here is that the TV and movie companies love these varied and ridiculous rules because they’re in a game of divide and conquer. It’s in their best interest to keep the cable companies, Amazon, Roku, Microsoft, Apple, and anyone else they work with on an uneven footing so that no single company becomes the market leader. The last thing they want is to end up like the music industry and be a bit player in someone else’s game. Apple’s got the chops to own this business and the industry is determined to make sure that never happens. Alas, the Apple TV remains a hobby.
Well, could be worse. Steve Jobs could have taken up scrapbooking.
Some of the items in the event might make you wonder “Was this trip really necessary?” The iPod nano in particular strikes the Macalope as an odd choice. The last three generations of the nano let you watch video—and you could even record video with the last one—but the new model completely eschews video just to make it smaller. It’s really less of a multitouch nano than it is a multitouch shuffle.
Add to that the vertical positioning of the close/minimize/resize buttons in iTunes 10 and some of these announcements look like the company’s saying “Hey, look what we can do! Look! I SAID LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO. NO, LOOK, DAMN IT.”
This isn’t exactly new with Apple and at least the company has talent to go along with its flair for exhibitionism. There’s even some method to the madness. Well, not about the iTunes window buttons. That’s just nuts. But the bereft-of-video nano seems to be positioned to drive sales of the very-video-capable iPod touch.
And that, kids, is the moral of this week’s Apple event: very little matters besides the iPod touch.
You can laugh at the backtrack on the shuffle form factor, you can scoff at the red-headed stepchild that is the nano, you can chuckle over the idea of Steve Jobs following Lady Gaga on Ping, and you can question whether the Apple TV will ever get to be a real, live boy. It’s not going to matter because the iPod touch, already a killer device, just got stronger. Thinner and faster with more screen resolution and front and back cameras.
Really, it’s all about the touch.
Listen, when even George Ou says the iPod touch makes Android mini tablets obsolete, you know there’s no longer any doubt that it’s a big deal.
Down is up
Oh, no! According to Internet usage trends, the Mac’s in decline. Quick, everyone go out and browse something!
Wait, you are browsing something. Silly Macalope!
But what’s worrying is that while Apple is keeping its eye on on the iOS spinning plate, the Mac OS plate has stopped spinning and it headed dirtwards.
This would be worrying, except for the fact that in terms of actual sales numbers, the Mac’s plate is spinning so fast it’s actually lifting off the ground. [NOTE TO EDITOR: PLEASE COMPUTE PHYSICS OF THIS TO SEE IF POSSIBLE. TIA.]
According to Needham & Company’s Charlie Wolf last week, Mac sales grew at 31.5 percent compared to 20.9 percent for the rest of the market. This would mean that Apple’s market share is increasing substantially, not decreasing incrementally as the net usage survey would indicate. In fact, according to Wolf, the only part of the market where Apple is not increasing market share is in education.
Of course, the kids love the Internet, so maybe that makes the Internet usage statistics make more sense. Or does it? Maybe it’s just that Mac owners are also buying iPhones and iPads and using them to surf the Web. It’s all so confusing!
Don’t obsess over Internet usage share. It’s just one indicator. Better indicators are growth and making money hand over fist. And in both those metrics, Apple is doing just fine, thank you very much.