Apple and where credit is due

I’m as inclined as any other interested pundit to give Apple a stinging thwok when I think it’s mishandled something. And what with the bungled MobileMe launch, wonky iPhone 2.0 update, and the capricious nature of iPhone application rejections, there’s been plenty to thwok about. But when I then step back and take a look at some of the very cool things Apple has contributed to my multimedia life, I recall that the company is capable of amazing work. I’d like to recount some of that work now.

AirTunes and the Remote application. Last week I wrote about filling your house with music and controlling it with the iPhone’s Remote application. If I didn’t make it clear enough in that article, let me say it here: This is awesome. The networking is really easy to set up and I’ve found the Remote app to be reliable. Oh, and about that Remote app, if you own an Apple TV, Remote is the only way to fly. It makes locating and playing media from the Apple TV a cinch. You’ll never go back to Apple’s clunky physical remote again.

Genius playlists. Every year the South-by-Southwest conference offers up hundreds (as in over 700) of free MP3 files of the work of artists who attend and perform. Because many of these artists are a mystery to me and I don’t have the patience to play through these hundreds of tracks to separate those I like from those I don’t, most sit in my iTunes library without a single listen.

Now that I use iTunes’ Genius feature to construct playlists, I’ve found that many of these tracks find their way into these playlists. In a very real sense, Genius filters what I’m likely to enjoy from those many SXSW tracks. This feature alone makes iTunes 8 my favorite iTunes update in years.

Apple TV movie rentals. Right, I understand that while Apple’s movie selection is getting better, it remains too thin. Still, if you can find something you want to watch, doing it with the press of a button and a wait of a few minutes is really sweet. Even in standard quality I find the content very watchable and you can’t beat the convenience.

The iPod classic. Sure, any iPod is a musical miracle, but I’d like to draw special attention to today’s nearly-forgotten iPod. I find that my iPod classic accompanies me on the road when the nano and touch stay behind. And it does so for a few reasons. The first, obviously, is its capacity. I can pack a hefty portion of my music and video library on the thing. Battery life is really good so this is the iPod to take when you need to get on a bus to get to a train to take you to the airport to get on a plane to land in god-knows-where to transfer to another plane to sit on the tarmac for three hours to finally get in the air for another four hours to get in a cab to get to your hotel. And in the car? Pure joy because, unlike the 4G iPod nano, when you play through a podcast episode it immediately plays the next episode rather than taking you back to the Podcasts screen.

AAC. Audiophiles, put down that keyboard and step away from the computer. I don’t care to hear how AAC files make your ears bleed. With AAC encoding I can pack 30-friggin’-thousand songs in my pocket and I can listen to each and every one of them knowing that while there may be audio compromises, I’ve still got 30-friggin’-thousand songs in my pocket.

iTunes sharing. Generally filed under “taken for granted,” it’s useful to remind myself just how convenient it is to access the massive iTunes library on my Mac Pro from the kitchen PowerBook G4. Now if only I could do that with my iPhone and iPod touch…. (Sorry, today is for compliments, not demands. Nevermind.)

[Updated to add] A couple of readers have suggested Simplify for streaming my iTunes library to my iPhone. While the idea of streaming a Mac’s content over the Internet is intriguing (and something I can do by other means), that’s not what I’m after. I mean AirTunes—straight streaming over my local network without an intervening service or the Internet to get in my way.

And that’s enough compliments from me. Any other multimedia marvels from Apple that deserve our attention? Feel free to offer them up by adding a comment below.

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