That Just Happened!!!

So the first Apple streaming event in a long time had some ups, downs, and surprises.

– The Good and the Expected

1. iPod Nano – Apple has carved out a focused mission for the device. Portability, storage space, the ultimate I’m going to the gym or exercising iPod. It’s removed seldom used features like video recording and video playback to save space and weight. It looks just like Appleinsider’s render of several days ago. It’s been streamlined or refined for the most important features. There’s going to be a strong after market battle to create the perfect watch like strap for this device.

2. iPod Touch – the iPhone without a phone (and an excellent regular camera). It’s the perfect travel device for vacation. Watch a movie or play a game on the plane. Check email, look up travel information (Yelp, Urban Spoon, Lonely Planet guides, Maps) using hotel wifi. Record and edit a movie of your vacation adventures, all in one device. Why not a 5 megapixel camera with flash? Well, Apple wants to maintain the thin nature of the device, and you have to leave some features to get folks to get an iPhone instead. Apple has again moved the target on this standalone Godzilla of a device with no real competitors. It would be interesting to see if Apple could sell a thicker iPod Touch with unlocked 3G micro-sim capability (like the iPad) and a 5 megapixel camera, 32 GBs of storage for $399.

– The Unexpected

1. New iPod shuffle. Apple did a nice job of combining best features of the new with best features of the old. There was not many places for this device to go, in fact MoD would not have been surprised if Apple continued selling the older device (like the iPod Classic). It’s got a great price, nice storage, and the best form factor of any of the iterations of the device. There’s not much room for creativity here, so again Apple focused on combining the best features.

–  The Blah

1. iTunes 10 and Ping.  Ping seems to be a well implemented and designed feature, but it seems like it’s about 3 years too late. Now if Ping has a web based version coming along with Web iTunes with music streaming, then perhaps there’s more buzz to this. If not “Facebook for music” stuck inside the iTunes application, is seeming a lot like Apple’s failed AOL competitor eWorld. An attempted huge community experience where no one actually lives. Even if there was Ping integration into Pandora, MoD would be less cynical.

-The Good and Surprising

1. Wireless Printing for the iPad. MoD has only been screaming for this feature. It’s a shame that we will have to wait 2 more months for this capability in iOS 4.2 (which will unify the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch versions of iOS. After 4.2 is released, MoD expects iOS 5 next summer to be released for all devices with some features being iPad only, and others being iPhone only.) The iPad is invading the business world and system wide printing is a big piece missing from the iPad’s feature set.

2. iOS 4.1 being released soon. Apple needs to get this OS out the door to resolve some nagging issues including iOS 4 on iPhone 3g performance.

– Not quite a Thud, but definitely not a home run.

So let’s move to the real buzz of the day. AppleTV.

So it wasn’t a total Thud due to the inclusion of wireless streaming from any Mac, iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone. Syncing the current AppleTV is a pain in the ass. NetFlix streaming for the device is a huge feature. A NetFlix account now gives users full mobile access on iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch as well as access on their flat panel TV with the new AppleTV. Just like the iPods launched today Apple has refined the device. No composite video ports. No RCA audio ports. The focus on streaming and/or rentals seems directionally correct. If customers want to own media, they are still buying actual DVDs or Blu-Rays discs. And everyone at this point has figured out to rip DVDs for use on their mobile devices.

The other issue stopping a total Thud is the price. It’s priced at a very appealing point. It’s at an impulse buying point. No real barrier to ownership. At $99, it could end up under a lot of Christmas trees this December.

But what’s stopping the home run?

First off no Hulu Plus. Hulu Plus and NetFlix would have given this device a great duo of streaming services (again available on the iOS mobile family as well, making a membership far more valuable). Perhaps Hulu Plus is coming, and it’s all tied up in development and licensing fees?

$.99 TV rentals are pretty meaningless. Now, $1.99 standard movie rentals might have some juice to it. But movies for $4.99 and $2.99 are not going to put a dent in the super cheap RedBox juggernaut.

GUI is relatively changed. The new device is said to be responsive OS wise, but Apple didn’t really raise the bar here at all.

Remote control. Unchanged.

– The Unknowns

1. AppleTV SDK. All along MoD has thought that there was no way Apple was ready to have built another SDK this quickly. Apple’s OS design team has to be maxed out putting out the iPad and the new iOS 4. The AppleTV OS appears to be now based on the iOS core using the same processor family as the iPad/iPhone. It’s no longer based off an Intel design (the original AppleTV seemed to be based off the Mac OS Front Row application). Now with the price drop, can AppleTV create a major sales bump to justify creating an SDK for the “hobby”?

2. Additional Apple created applications for AppleTV? One of the biggest problems with the original AppleTV was that it was infrequently updated. Will Apple add compelling software add ons for this streaming device?

3. iTunes got a modest update, but still no sign of the streaming service/cloud based iTunes that seems to be the next killer feature. The social networking hook with Ping is now there, but no sign of “WebTunes ” where you can access your music anywhere.

4. Usually this event is Apple’s last one of the year, setting up the line up for the holiday/4th quarter. It was the wrong forum/wrong timeframe, but still no signs of the other two main rumors floating around; 7 inch iPad, the Verizon iPhone. Will Apple try and release one or two surprises to push their Q4 into overdrive now that they are starting to meet iPhone 4 and iPad demand.

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