The Futurist: Analyzing Apple's Announcements

Another day, another Apple announcement. Fortunately, this was no “Lets take another look at Leopard” letdown. As far as product unveilings go, this one was absolutely a doozy. We saw them (almost) completely revamp the entire iPod line, add a new (but still familiar) face to the mix, and bring frowns to the faces of Sony and HP, who had the misfortune of announcing products on the same day.

So lets take a look at what some of what they’ve done, and what it all means:


Note to Steve Jobs/Apple, Inc.: Your press conference attendees are a pretty friendly bunch. At most press conferences, if journalists broke out in applause every time a new slide came on the screen, media watchdogs would go “Oh no they didn’t!” But with you, it’s okay. You see: The journalists who cover you are just, as if not more, passionate about this whole technology thing than anybody out there. So when a legitimately great piece of technology comes out of Cupertino or anywhere else , it may be somewhat understandable if they can’t help themselves but applaud like Yoda just came on-screen for the first time during an Empire screening.

But we also recognize the smell of corporate hubris and grossness when it starts to waft through the hall. Just a few months ago, you said that the digital music industry should abandon DRM completely. To now engage in the very worst of all DRM crimes: double charging (that is, forcing consumers to buy the same thing twice in order to work on multiple devices), you are embracing everything that we hate about DRM. Shame.


Ah, what’s there to say? I’m sure the Apple engineers were busy enough with the thousands of other goings-on that they figured they could get away with slapping a coat of red paint on a Shuffle and calling it a day. And really, what’s wrong with that? A good Shuffle in white should be a good Shuffle in red.


The words of the immortal “Weird” Al Yankovic come to mind:

“My zippers bust, my buckles break
I’m too much man for you to take
The pavement cracks when I fall down
I’ve got more chins than Chinatown…

Because I’m fat, I’m fat, come on
You know I’m fat, I’m fat, you know it
You know I’m fat, I’m fat, come on you know
Don’t call me pudgy, portly, or stout
Just now tell me once again who’s fat.”

The lack of video on the Nano was merely a product of Apple’s design. Smaller, crappier, less-powerful MP3 players than the Nano have been playing video for years. Still, you have to give them credit for not stuffing the moving image on anything with a screen — video capabilities on tiny, poor-resolution screens are rarely used, and often cause more harm than good. They waited until they had a super bright screen, decent-sized screen, so good for them.


Are we already nostalgic for 2005, when the 5G iPod first tore up the cover of Time magazine and ushered in a new era of portable video? These days, tech product names tend to evoke futuristic feelings of sleekness and bleeding-edgness. When I hear the word “Classic”, I imagine a gas-guzzling Chevy that weighs three tons and can’t fit down the streets of downtown Boston. Seriously, it is almost like they don’t want this thing to succeed. Maybe there’s more profit in the flash players than this (I honestly don’t know), or maybe the presence of four players plus a phone is too muchiPod for Apple to handle, but you have to imagine that somebody in Cupertino was trying to sink this player before it got off the ground.

Still, there is definitely a market for people who desire ginormous hard drives to stick gargantuan amounts of music they’ll never listen to on. I, for one, hate shuffling songs on and off my player as it fills up. Glad to see this addressed.


Add Skype and the new Touch is the best iPhone out there. Seriously though: Very good. Very, very good. There is surely a gigantic swath of people out there who desire the browsing, video, and music of the iPhone, but don’t really feel like cutting their T-Mobile contract and signing their life away to AT&T. And because of the inability for non-hackers to get an unactivated iPhone to do anything but keep papers from blowing away, there was simply no getting around it.

A few things though…
The normal time periods for carrier exclusivity for hot new phones run in 6 month intervals. So it could be 6 months, or a year, or two years. You get the point. Well, the iPhone was announced pretty much exactly 6 months ago (even if it didn’t hit until much later.) I would bet money that Apple had this product ready to roll months ago, and AT&T likely pulled all their cards (and cash) in order to give them a few months of exclusivity with the iPhone before a strikingly-similar product such as this became available.

Adding ammo to this theory is the fact that the iPod Touch is rolling out WORLDWIDE in a few weeks, meaning it could likely come out in other countries where no such carrier shenanigans exist around the same time as the iPhone.

And I’d say it is pretty much a sure thing that a 16 gig version of the iPhone is just… around… the… corner… (although we’ll honestly probably have to wait until MacWorld, or at least until they unload all the clearance stock of the 4 gig version.)

Seth Porges writes on future technology and its role in personal electronics for his column, The Futurist. It appears every Thursday and an archive of past columns is available here.