Archive for March, 2006

It

For a couple of months now, I’ve been seeing the eBay “It” commercials- where people are using various “It” shaped items while The Monkeys’ Sleepy Jean plays. That song is one of those that gets in my head and stays there for days. It’s a good catchy tune, although I couldn’t figure out why they chose that song.

Recently, I was having drinks with some co-workers in a bar that had closed-captioning enabled on the televisions. When the eBay commercial came on, I was surprised to see a caption that read “(The Monkeys’ Sleepy Jean plays)”. Why would you close-caption the name of a song? Seems like useless information for people who cannot hear music. For whatever reason, I continued watching long enough to see the lyrics start to appear, and I suddenly understood why all of those commercials use that that song. The second line of the chorus:

“Oh what can it mean?”

Just a little nugget for your Friday afternoon.

Update: I just love the internets. Within 2 hours, I received a comment from accesibility consultant Joe Clark (no relation), addressing my question above. Read Joe’s comment, and then have a look at his site. I especially enjoyed reading why Joe is interested in captioning.

(i)Trippin’ no more

I finally gave up on my iTrip, and dug up my old cassette adapter for the daily commute. Don’t get me wrong- the iTrip is a great device; I just can’t use it anymore. Much as I hate dealing with the wire trailing from my dash, it beats not hearing my iPod at all.

The main problem is location. I live in Northern Delaware, which puts me about an hour from Baltimore, 45 minutes from Philly, and 15 minutes from Wilmington. I get radio stations from all three. The Baltimore stations aren’t really listenable, but there’s enough signal to make using the iTrip not possible on those frequencies.

In fact, I’ve only found one frequency that works reliably with the iTrip. Of course, everyone else is using the same frequency, either with iPod-connected FM transmitters, or (more and more) with satellite radios. I don’t know what kind of numbers Howard Stern is pulling on Sirius, but I hear him several times a week as someone’s Sirius transmitter bleeds over to my radio.

The evening commute is the worst, since the traffic is generally much heavier, and of course slower. I also see lots of semis during evening rush, and they all seem to have some kind of transmitter these days- and usually much more powerful than my poor little iTrip. It was up to the task a year ago when I got my first iTrip (I traded up at Christmas for the one with the knob), but not with today’s crowded airwaves.

“Fun New Products”

That was hook on the invitation to today’s event at Apple (Engadget’s Coverage). In total, three new products were introduced. Herewith a few thoughts on the products and the event.

First up was the anticipated Intel Mac Mini, now with Front Row and a remote. Available in Core Solo and Core Duo flavors, the Mini is now an even more attractive option for a spot in the family room, attached to the TV. Bill Bumgarner found the specs for the Mini’s video card, and notes that it’s heavily optimized for regular and HD video playback. In fact, it can simultaneously handle dual streams. Also, Front Row has been updated to allow access to shared media, just like the iApps.

Given all the reasons to make this a Media PC, I really wonder where the video capture for Tivo-like functionality is. Everyone asked this a year ago when the Mini debuted, and I think the question is even more apropos now. I also think that if a tuner were slated as an upcoming addon (via, say, the Firewire port), then the box should really have a bigger HD. My other complaint is the price- the lower-end option is now $599, not $499. Don’t get me wrong- it’s still a lot of functionality for $600. But there was a lot of magic in that $500 price point. It just has a different feel than $600, and I’m sure that $500 price point got alot of people looking at Macs who hadn’t before.

The next item was a leather iPod case for $99. This is iSock 2.0, now with extra price gouging. It sounds like Steve only spent a couple of minutes on this, and he seems to like these kinds of things. Whatever.

The final product really blew me away – and not in a good way. The iPod HiFi has got to be the worst product offering I’ve seen from Apple in the three years I’ve been a Mac owner. Essentially, it’s a $350 speaker system for the iPod. I’m not even sure where to begin with all the things I don’t like about this product, so I’ll just fire ’em off at random.

  • Why is it called the iPod HiFi? The name really sounds like a new iPod, not an accessory. It’s even listed on the iPod page at Apple along side the iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, and iPod. But it’s not an iPod.

  • The Dock. Is On. The Top. Pictures of the HiFi sans iPod show a sharp looking product, with typical Apple sexiness. But once you stick an upright iPod on top, it’s just ugly and unbalanced. Steve claims you can get rid of your stereo now. If I slide the HiFi into the shelf where a stereo once stood, I probably won’t have room to dock an iPod.

  • With Bose already offering the SoundDock for $300, is there really a market for a $350 iPod speaker? And look at where the dock is on the SoundDock. Duh.

  • Some will argue that the SoundDock doesn’t really compete with the HiFi – the HiFi is portable, and can operate on batteries. Ok. And in fairness, I think the integrated handles are very stylish. However, with the IPod docked precariously on top, you won’t be carrying this around like a boom box.

  • There’s an audio input (analog and digital) on the back, and Apple.com points out that the digital audio out on the Airport Express is the perfect input, allowing you to stream music from your Mac the HiFi. This brings up my biggest gripe. Why not build in WiFi and give it an iPod interface, and let you browse music from all over your network, just like FrontRow? At that point, you could just lose the iPod dock, or suppy a retractable cable with a dock connector, for when you do need to use it outside Wifi range.

After reading all of the anouncements, John (with whom I share an office) wondered why this even warranted a Stevenote. Upon reflection, I think there are two reasons. First, I expect Steve will personally intro each new Intel Mac, and doesn’t want to wait any longer than needed to do so. It’s important for Apple to ensure that the switch to Intel doesn’t result in a sales slump, and having Steve wow us every couple of months with a new Intel Mac and good news about the transition has to be part of the plan. Also, I think Apple wants to move towards have more of these smaller Steve events more often, instead of two Stevenotes a year (Macworld and WWDC). This trend started last fall and had continued. This will help keep momentum going year-round for Apple. I just hope the next one is better.