Two iPods are better than one

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a healthy debate. So you can imagine how pleased I was earlier this week when I clicked over to Chris Breen’s iPod Blog and saw that my colleague had denounced me and my fellow Macworld editors as wishy-washy cowards for bestowing Eddy Awards on both the iPod nano and the iPod with video. Or if we may quote Chris’ (uncharitable) words directly:

When it came time to choose the outstanding iPod of the year, they punked out by selecting both the iPod nano and iPod with video.

Babies…

Seriously, I understand Macworld’s desire to honor the two iPods, as they’re both worthy devices. But each represents a particular stage of development in the iPod line. One iPod summarizes the best of the iPod’s technology and another looks to the iPod’s future. When choosing the year’s “best” model, [Playlist] selected what we considered to be today’s most complete iPod experience—the iPod nano.

Now some people might read those hateful words and have themselves a good cry or swear vengeance at the office Christmas party or simply send obscene, anonymous letters to the Mac 911 desk from a phony e-mail account. Not me—I simply shrug my shoulders and move on. Because I am mature enough to realize that Chris is as entitled to his opinion as he is to live in a delusional world where one and only one iPod may be recognized as a top product of the year.

But Chris does raise a valid question—say, what gives with two iPods getting slapped with the Editors’ Choice label?—that maybe a few readers were asking, too. So I thought I’d provide a glimpse into the reasoning we used in awarding these particular Eddys. Maybe you’ll find it enlightening. And, if nothing else, it gives Chris something to mull over, as he packs for his exciting new assignment in Macworld ’s Antarctica bureau. (Tip for Chris: dress in layers, my man.)

We use the Editors’ Choice Awards to recognize our favorite hardware and software from the past year. And those choices don’t have to conform to any preset categories—if we’re wowed by multiple products of the same kind (two printers, say, or two cameras or, in this case, two iPods), we’re going to hand out statues to both. The key is that both of these similar products have to boast something unique about themselves. And I think it’s safe to say that both the iPod nano and iPod video, while sharing the “iPod” moniker, serve two very unique purposes.

The nano is, quite clearly, just a superb music player. Astonishingly compact and with a striking interface, it will help you lead the league in covetous looks from passersby when you take it out in public. If you want a mobile music player that slips easily into a pocket, causes heads to turn, and sports handy features like the ability to show off color photos, the nano is clearly the best product out there.

That’s the thinking of most editors around here, anyway. I’m already on the record as preferring the iPod mini. But I got outvoted.

The iPod with video is noteworthy not just for what it is—a music player with much larger capacity than the nano and, oh yeah, that whole video-playback capability thing—but for what it represents—the arrival a portable multimedia player that boasts iPod-like simplicity. Forget for a moment about some of this fifth-generation iPod’s limitations—the paucity of video content at the iTunes Music Store, the rigamarole you have to go through to get videos of your own on the device. When portable video players are as ubiquitous as cell phones in a few years, this will be the iPod that started that ball rolling.

And if that doesn’t merit a statue that some Apple executive can use as an oversized paperweight, I’m not sure what does.

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