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Some Mac Bloggers Rock Out to New iPods, Others Just Sway a Little

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 12, 2008 4:00 AM PT

Not surprisingly, the special "Let's Rock" iPod and iTunes 8 announcement that Apple hosted for the media dominated the Apple-focused blogging world this week. Apple bragged about its music market dominance, introduced new iPods, iTunes 8 -- including a hot new musical Genius feature -- and even hinted at what to expect from the new iPhone 2.1 software update.

Some Mac Bloggers Rock Out to New iPods, Others Just Sway a Little

But Mac bloggers didn't stop there -- rumors are now looking to October for a much-anticipated new line of MacBooks.

Rocking With Apple

On Tuesday, Apple introduced the latest generation of the iPod nano, which returned to its oblong roots. It's thin, comes in nine flashy colors, and features an accelerometer that switches the screen orientation when the device is turned to watch videos or use Apple's Cover Flow navigation feature. Plus, a little shake will send it to shuffle mode. Apple beefed up the storage, too: The US$149 entry point will get 8 GB of storage, while 16 GB goes for $199.

The user interface is more intuitive than before, but it doesn't have WiFi, which some bloggers had been hoping for.

As for the next generation of iPod touch, it still looks similar to the iPhone, but it's thinner than before and now has integrated volume controls. It comes with integrated WiFi, and Apple is positioning it as "the funnest iPod," likely in an effort to push it as a gaming device. An 8 GB model goes for $229, the 16 GB for $299, and the 32 GB for $399.

But wait, there's more iPod goodness: While Apple only gave the diminutive shuffles a new colorful paint job, it consolidated its iPod classic around a 120 GB model that sells for $249.

Overall reaction to the new iPods has been all over the board. Some had hoped for more than refinements -- they wanted some kick-butt new features like GPS in the iPod touch.

"What happened to GPS? [A] $5 GPS module would have added so much value to the iPod Touch. This $5 module would have made them the must have car accessory," commented jacobvarghese on the Cult of Mac post on the Apple announcement event.

Some also thought the entire event could have been better or at least featured more products.

"My guess is that they had originally planned to have a combined iPod/Mac update but the Mac part got delayed due to Intel pushing back it's schedule and they didn't want to wait around to unveil the new iPods," noted commenter Church of Apple on the Cult of Mac post on the subject, before adding, "I see new Macs within the month. It'll be weird bringing people back to another event so soon after this yawner, though."

Others, though, were happy to cover the new "nanochromatic" iPod nano colors. The Unofficial Apple Weblog even posted a quick poll to find out which colors were most popular. Black picked up 17.8 percent of the votes as of press time, with Orange snagging 16.3 percent.

"Orange is awesome. My shuffle is orange and I'd paint my bike to match it if I had the time, money or inclination to bother," commenter kev orng wrote on The Unofficial Apple Weblog, then added, "I wish my Touch was orange, but I haven't got the time, money or inclination to paint that either."

Pink picked up a mere .9 percent of the vote, but tech-focused blogs have a tendency to attract guys, so who's to say pink won't sell well during the holiday season?

So, despite the relative incremental improvements of the new iPod lineup, how does Apple and its iconic music players stand up to the market these days?

"The new iPod line is sweet," Sven Rafferty, technology blogger and director of Internet technology for hyperSven, told MacNewsWorld. The new nanos are very cool, he said, "though I'll miss the fat boy,"

"As for competitors, that's tough. It's not that SanDisk and Creative are making poor music players, it's just that they didn't make one as good as the iPod when it was first released. Apple solidified an incredible market share with its iPod, and like Microsoft with Windows and Internet Explorer, it's going to take something monumentally better than the iPod to put a substantial dent into Apple's dominance of the music player market," Rafferty added.

Zune on the Rise?

There was a glimmer of glee in the way Jobs noted that the second most dominant portable media player in the market was "other" -- a category that collectively represents the dozens of small-name devices that make up 15.4 percent of the MP3 player market. Sandisk has 8.6 percent, Jobs noted, with Microsoft's Zune coming in with just 2.6 percent of the market.

"Apple's nearest competitors, in terms of devices, Sandisk, 'other', and Microsoft Zune are still behind," Mike McGuire, a research vice president of media for Gartner, told MacNewsWorld.

"Zune certainly made some interesting steps, such as the FM-radio-buy capability. So I think Apple's pretty well positioned for the holiday quarter. If Microsoft invests in some significant advertising, that really emphasizes the discovery capabilities of the Zune and the Zune service, we could see an interesting battle shaping up," he added.

The Genius in iTunes 8

Apple also tweaked the user interface for iTunes 8, providing new graphical ways to view content. Most importantly, however, Apple introduced a new feature called "Genius" that automatically builds playlists of complementary songs based on the selection of songs that users choose. Genius also connects to the Apple store with recommendations of complimentary songs that users don't yet own in their libraries. Of course, there are buttons that make it easy to buy the new songs from Apple with the click of a mouse.

Genius received a mixed reception among blogs and forums -- some talk was positive, some was negative, and some recognized that, as Steve Jobs noted in his announcement, Genius will get smarter with time.

"I know it'll probably improve over time when more people have uploaded their music, but Genius doesn't really like classical music, although it's having more success today than last night. Even my Doctor Who soundtracks which are available from iTunes are not recognized -- surely not all my stuff is that obscure," commented Sheila Nolan on the Ars Technica post on iTunes 8.

Either way, is Genius more of a handy toy or a feature that'll help Apple maintain its music-selling dominance?

"A solid Genius function will keep Amazon's MP3 store at bay for a while," James McQuivey, a media analyst and vice president of research for Forrester, told MacNewsWorld. "What it won't do is push away the future of mobile phone based music, which is not iTunes-dependent. Luckily for Apple, the mobile operators don't have better experiences to offer yet so they're not a threat."

But Wait, There's More!

OK, so there wasn't any special "one more thing" announcement out of Jobs at the iPod/iTunes event ... but that hasn't stopped the Apple-focused blogosphere from tracking down rumors, speculating, and simply hoping.

Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber claimed that sources have informed him that new MacBooks would appear on Tuesday, Oct. 14.

"Finally, some decent computer news. ... you all know Apple started as a computer company? Right?" commented DimMok on the AppleInsider.com post on the subject.

Meanwhile on MacRumors, interest was mixed. Some posters were clearly looking forward to the news, while others were hoping for better pricing and much beefier features.

"I have been waiting for a notebook refresh for a while. I am still using a Dell XPS m1330 I bought last year. I didnt want to upgrade until I saw the new apple line up. Don't dissapoint me. I've held off too long to wait until next year to see the new gear," commented matt archbold.

Well, perhaps the wait will be just be a few more weeks now ...

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