Pundits compliment, criticize iPod

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Apple's unveiling yesterday of the iPod certainly generated a huge amount of advance buzz and interest from Mac users, industry reporters and industry experts alike. Consensus following the iPod's introduction runs the spectrum for complimentary to ambivalent to downright critical.

The iPod's price seems to be a major sticking point for many experts, especially given the expectation of soft consumer spending this holiday season. Some analysts and pundits seem to have been expecting the introduction of something different -- completely different -- from Apple, while others cite the iPod's Mac-only status as a sticking point. On the other hand, many are impressed by the iPod's industrial design, ease of use and features, suggesting that Apple may indeed be breaking new ground with the iPod.

Writing for The New York Times, Matt Richtel quoted one analyst who said that iPod's exclusivity to the Mac (at least for now) severely limits its audience. Another analyst said that iPod "raises the bar" for ease of use, portability and storage capacity in the MP3 player market, however.

CNet News.com writer Ian Fried quoted analysts who knocked the iPod's high price and timing given the poor consumer market right now, but he found others who think the iPod could help Apple draw new converts to the Mac platform.

The Mercury News' Jon Fortt said that the introduction of iPod caps a year in which Apple has "thumbed its nose at a looming recession." He said that while other Silicon Valley companies are cutting back, Apple is innovating. Intel, for example, just made the decision to axe its consumer electronics division, at a time when Apple is just getting into the game. And while iPod is pricey, Fortt noted, "[it has] engineering on its side," with small size, light weight, and impressive battery life compared to other hard disk-based players on the market.

SmartMoney.com's Monica Rivituso said that the iPod's introduction "might not score high on the significance meter" but gives some insight to the efforts PC makers are making to stay afloat as their core market changes dramatically. Rivituso also referred to NPD Intelect analyst Stephen Baker's analysis that home entertainment equipment and computer hardware will continue to converge. In this respect, Apple's clearest competitor seems to be Sony.

ZDNet Anchordesk contributing columnist Stephan Somogyi said that Apple is jumping into the MP3 market and doing it right with the iPod. He likes the device's design and says that it will be "a snap to learn" for anyone with experience with hierarchical menus. He's clearly pleased with Apple's decision to use FireWire as a transfer interface and as a power medium. "Apple understands the value of FireWire to consumer electronics; Sony clearly doesn't." He does, however, knock the high price of the iPod: "At $199, this product would probably fly off the shelves."

Writing for ABCNews.com, Paul Eng suggested that the $399 iPod may face an uphill battle. Eng quoted an analyst who said that the iPod is priced at the upper end of the MP3 market, and another who suggested that the digital music market needs better definition so that consumers can understand what makes the iPod different from other MP3 products. The significance of this isn't lost on Apple executives, by the way -- the company plans an aggressive iPod marketing campaign this fall.

IDG's James Niccolai also reported on the iPod's introduction, and he found an analyst who agreed with Apple executives that they "won't be able to build enough of these things." Long-time Mac pundit Tim Bajarin told Niccolai that the inclusion of a 5GB hard drive was "extraordinary," and explained that the ease of use will be iPod's biggest advantage against other similar products.

An analyst speaking with Reuters' Peter Henderson suggested that iPod may be a cash cow for Apple. Chris Le Tocq from SageCircle Inc. told the reporter that Apple may be making as much profit on iPod as it would on a $1,000 laptop.

This story, "Pundits compliment, criticize iPod" was originally published by PCWorld.

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