by Giles Turnbull

Apple made a bunch of Podtastic music-related announcements today. The U2 iPod (U2pod, anyone?), the iPod Photo, iTunes 4.7, and (less headline-grabbing) expansion of the iTunes Music Store to nine more European countries.

No doubt when analysts at Merrill Lynch predicted new iPods soon, they didn't anticipate their words becoming reality the same day (or maybe they were tipped off ;). Anyway, there's been the usual flow of drooling coverage from gadget sites and weblogs, many of which reported the rumors about these devices in recent days and weeks.

If there's anything that's a surprise, it's the choice to make the U2 iPod the lead story on the apple.com front page (see screenshot below).

Screenshot of apple.com on the day the new iPod Photo, and the U2 iPod, were jointly announced
apple.com, today. Can you see iPod Photo promo?

The iPod Photo is surely going to appeal to far more people than the U2 iPod, which will be a niche product even among keen U2 fans. The decision to make it the lead item on the company web site reflects, perhaps, the model's reason for being. It's a stunt, one designed to reflect good things on both parties. U2 gets to show that despite being in a position to offer a box set of 400 songs, it remains on the cutting edge of music and technology. Apple gets to show that despite the "Rip. Mix. Burn." strategy when iTunes first appeared, it has the hearts and ears of smarter individuals within the music industry clamouring to join the digital music revolution.

So what's there to notice about this overshadowed iPod Photo? The screen resolution is 220x176 pixels. That's this big:

Image of some sunflowers, illustrating how big photos will appear on an iPod Photo
The size your pictures will appear on an iPod Photo -- well, roughly, depending on your screen resolution. But you get the idea

Big enough to be useful? Possibly. As friends pointed out to me today, some users might decide that their money would be better spent on good quality framed prints of their best photos. Others might worry about sustaining decent battery life.

In the long term, though, there are far more important things that Apple needs to worry about. The new generation of pocket media devices, most of which play video as well as music, store photos, and lots more besides - these are the things likely to be competing with the iPod in buyers' minds in the next 12 months or so.

Perhaps I'm being overly cynical. I can't deny that if I had the spare cash, I'd probably be buying an iPod Photo and smiling about it.

Like the sound of the new iPods?


2004-10-26 16:31:02
Ad changes
The "lead story" on apple.com changes, seemingly randomly; the lead was about iPod Photo one time and the U2 iPod another.
2004-10-26 17:41:14
You're right to be cynical
You're right to be cynical. If Apple wants new revenue stream, they've got to get the price point of the iPod down to a level where it can be "one of" the presents given at Christmas rather than "the one" present given at Christmas. Until they do that, displaying photos on a dock you have to carry around or on a cell-phone-sized screen just isn't worth the extra $200.

Me, I'd rather get the iPod mini and spend my savings on guitar strings. Here's hoping Apple iPod magic continues... I'm just not compelled by the Photo iPod.

2004-10-26 20:02:35
Apple front page
If you repeatedly reload the Apple front page, you'll see that the lead story rotates between the (1) U2 IPod (2) Photo IPod - 25 small pictures & (3) Photo IPod - cute couple.

So they don't really make the U2 version the lead story. It's only 1/3 of the time.

2004-10-27 01:47:20
Apple front page
Aha! Fair enough then. Serves me right for not hitting reload a few times before writing up the post...
2004-10-27 03:58:27
You're right to be cynical
Like many of these things, it'll start off expensive, and then end up as standard across the line. Though I can't say it appeals to me that much as it is, this thing has possibilities...

...once they sort out direct download/upload to various devices which aren't computers (I believe there's a standard for this from cameras).

Imagine if you have a little LCD picture frame on your desk at work, and others at home round the house. Your iTunes (probably eventually iPhoto) syncs your latest photos (chosen at random or with a 'smart folder') with your ipod when you plug it in to charge it, then when you go to work you can plug in the ipod via USB to the picture frame, upload your file, and change the image. Or if you're visiting someone, you can show them a picture on their picture frame (at the moment only possible on a TV) . Or if you're on a photoshoot, you don't need a laptop to store all the images.

The best strategy is the one they've taken - introduce it on a top model, work out the bugs and when the manufacturing costs come down (for a colour screen and bigger hard disks) put the feature into the smaller models.

Notice how they've made the interface start to look like OS X now that it's colour?