At the event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave a three-act presentation. In the first ‘act’, he announced a new version of the iMac, which is thinner, has more capacity, and an inbuilt iSight video camera with associated software.
The new 17-inch version of the iMac is the same price as the model it replaces, and the 20-inch version is $100 cheaper. It also has a six-button remote control (which looks a lot like an iPod Shuffle) for running the various media presentations on the iMac. As with Microsoft’s Media Center, this is positioning the computer as a central tool in entertainment in the house, but Jobs also pointed out that the equivalent Microsoft remote controls contain 43 or 45 buttons.
In the second ‘act’, Jobs announced the new iPod, which has a bigger TFT screen at two and a half inches, is available with either 30Gb or 60Gb capacities, is 30% slimmer than the existing product, and, as expected, will play video in the high definition H.264 format on its 320×240 screen. The larger model will hold potentially 150 hours of video, and alongside the customary white casing, there is a now a black version.
The third ‘act’ revealed how iPod owners can get the videos for the iPod (and iMac) via a new version of iTunes, where any of 2,000 music videos, or one of six Pixar animated short movies, can be downloaded for GBP1.89 each.
However, there is no use in having a portable version of the MTV television station. To make the investment in a mobile video player, most people will expect something more substantial to view. In the US, iTunes will also allow the purchase and download of one of five television programs from the ABC/Disney stable, including the popular ‘Lost’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’, from the day after they are broadcast, for a price of $1.99 each.
From the reaction of the attendees to the event, the video-enabled iPod is definitely seen as a new star. Not that it’s predecessor hasn’t been – the impressive numbers for the last quarter of Apple’s fiscal year are based upon sales of 1,236,000 Macintosh computers, nearly 6.5 million iPods, and one million iPod Nanos (purchased in the first 17 days of sale). It is also reported that iPods make up 75% of MP3 player sales in the US, and that the iTunes on-line store accounts for 84% of the legitimate music downloads.
The focus at the event, not only from a product perspective, but also the venue (in a BBC studio), shows that Apple continues to be very media-aligned and savvy (the BBC is also using iMacs and Apple video-editing software). It can only be a matter of time before we have downloadable programs from the UK, perhaps from the BBC’s back catalogue.
With its line-up of products, including the new Nano, Apple is hoping to seriously cash in this Christmas, and to maintain its impressive growth curve. This does, however, require that the company can deliver to the expected demand, and that there are no more quality issues with the screens on the iPods.