Video iPod

I know, Steve doesn’t want us to call it that, and there will undoubtedly be a “real” video iPod by summer 2006, but in the meantime let’s just call it what it is, OK?

My last iPod 2nd generation, the kind with the row of buttons just underneath the black and white screen. It holds 20 gigs of music and cost $400 new.

This shiny new video iPod has a big, bright, screen, is noticeably thinner than the old one, holds 30 gigs, and it can display color photos and play videos. It cost $100 less than the old one. It’s beautiful. It looks like something out of the movie _2001 A Space Odyssey_.

So where does one get videos to put on it? I already have a few music videos, commercials, and comedy bits downloaded off the internets over the past few years. And I just bought a handful of music videos off the iTunes Music Store while waiting for the iPod to arrive. But I quickly discovered that not all videos would play on (or even transfer to) the iPod. A few different video converter programs have surfaced lately, and I’ve been having good luck with one called MoviesForMyPod which has converted just about every QuickTime movie I’ve given it. Some things have been tougher (Windows Media file, Flash movies), but I’ll figure a way to convert those too.

Today I discovered that videos converted for the PSP seem to work fine on the iPod! So I dragged over a few items I’d converted for the PSP, including the first episode of _Invader Zim_, ripped from the DVD last spring. A couple days ago I used the free HandBrake program to rip _The Matrix_ to iPod format; it took a few tries to get results I was happy with, but it did a fine job (taking about 2 hours to convert a 2 hour movie).

With all the reports that screen scratches easily, I’ve handled this like an egg. I’ve used the (included) pouch the few times I’ve been with it. I tried the tip of stretching plastic wrap over it to protect it, but removed it shortly afterwards (it looked pretty stupid). Because I’ve been so careful the front is still pristine and scratch-free. I’m thinking the new iPods are no more fragile than the old ones, but with so many more people buying them these days there’s an expectation that something you pay so much money for shouldn’t scratch so easily, and I can certainly agree with that. Hopefully the industrial design wizards at Apple will find a material that’s tough and scratch resistant. The screen of my cell phone hasn’t scratched yet, and I’m not particularly careful with it.

As a first-generation video product, I think the iPod with video is a winner. The screen isn’t nearly as big as the one on the PSP, but the iPod can hold far more video. The form factor is comfortable in the hand and not a strain on the eye, at least for viewing an hour or less at a time. A true video iPod would have a bigger screen (why not the entire front?), and a bigger battery, and an easy way to get video content onto it, but this iPod is a huge first step towards that goal.

The iPod Economy

Yesterday I realized that buying an iPod is just the start of a long chain of purchases. I got a first generation iPod as a birthday present shortly after it was released (thanks, Wooly & Jared!). In order to listen to it in the car I bought an FM transmitter, then because the battery wouldn’t last long enough for long trips, I bought a power adapter that plugged into the cigarette lighter. Eventually that iPod’s hard disk died, probaby as a result of being banged one too many times.

After a few months without an iPod I bought another one, a third generation model with the row of four backlit buttons and a 20gig hard drive. I vowed to protect this one against bumps and scratches, and bought a silicon case that kept it shiny, and it’s still working fine a year and a half later. In the meantime I replaced the funky FM transmitter with a cassette adapter, tho my car often likes to eject the cassette for no apparent reason, making for a jarring listening experience. The right way to go would be to replace the stock radio with one that has a little AUX plug on the front that I could plug the iPod right into, but that purchase is still in the future (tho I can see it coming). And of course a new car stereo probably means new speakers, yada yada. I hear that 1/3 of new cars come with iPod support, but that ultimate iPod accessory isn’t something I’m even considering.

Last spring I got these little portable speakers that the iPod plugs right into, turning it into a portable jukebox. It’s loud enough to listen to outside, and it even runs on batteries.

These days the iPod is often out of its case, as it’s usually plugged into the speakers and next to the bed, and I still take it with me on drives. Altho I’ve been careful, the screen has gotten scuffed enough to make it hard to see sometimes. I’m thinking of getting some screen polish to remove those scuffs and scratches.

I’ve also been thinking of getting one of those new iPods that play video. A color screen would be nice (and it has a nice large screen), and I’d be able to play videos and movies on it. It looks like all my accessories will work with it (yay, Apple!), except for the case, so I’d need to get a new one of those. The new iPods are USB only (no more speedy Firewire, boo Apple!), and my Powerbook only has old-style (read slow) USB ports, so I’d have to get a USB2 notebook card for high-speed transfers.

And that’s just the iPod accessories. Because I now listen to more music, I’ve had to buy CDs and iTunes music over the years. I just checked my iTunes Music Store account, and it says that I’ve bought over 30 albums and 70+ singles since it opened in April 2003.

Is the iPod a gateway drug, or a boost to the US economy? I really don’t know, but I do know I really enjoy listening to music on it. It puts me to sleep at night, it makes driving that much more enjoyable, it helps pass the time while I’m sitting in waiting rooms. And it gives my life a soundtrack, making it even more interesting.

Sweet spots and tipping points

The big news in the Apple world this week is the new iPod shuffle and the iMac mini. This is big news because Apple has always been perceived as having innovative but expensive products, and these two new products are positioned in the mass-market sweet spot. There’s a great illustration of that here.

Lots of people lust after an iPod, but $250 can be tough to justify. The $99 “iPod shuffle” is nearly an impulse buy. After it was announced, one Apple Store sold out of 2,000 Shuffles in just four hours — a lot of people bought one for themselves plus one (or more!) for friends. I think Apple has a hit here.

The iMac mini is going to be hot also (it doesn’t ship until Jan 22). So many people are sick of dealing with Windows issues, viruses, spyware, etc, that they’re looking for reasons to use something else. And I think more than a few of them will be thinking seriously about getting a $500 Mac, since they already have a monitor, keyboard and mouse. It comes with a lot of software, and they can always buy Microsoft Office for the Mac if they need it.

I’m happy with my iPod and PowerBook, so these announcements won’t affect me, but I have preordered iLife 05 for the new and improved GarageBand so I can make more music!