By Richard Menta 7/18/04
Not content to rest on their laurels, Apple has been diligent in keeping its market leading iPod fresh. On Monday Newsweek will publish details on the next generation iPod, the third incarnation of its original player and fourth model counting the iPod Mini.
The biggest news is that the new units will offer higher capacity at lower cost. The starter iPod will now hold 20GB of music and retail for $299, replacing the previous 15GB version at that price. A 40GB unit will be the top of the line and sell for $399. The previous top end player was also 40GB, but sold for $499, hinting Apple may release another player with more features or capacity in the future at that price mark. Could that player be the long speculated iPod Video?
The other noticable difference about the new iPod, which slightly smaller than the prior version, is that Apple removed the iPod's row of 4 control buttons, incorporating those controls into the wheel.
Other improvements on the new iPod include upping battery life from eight to twelve hours, the ability to create multiple playlists, and the ability to listen to voice recording at accelerated speed without causing the vocals to sound like the chipmunks.
There is one terrific feature that I thought would appear in upcoming iPods, but is absent. That is a built-in FM transmitter, which would allow the iPod to broadcast to any frequency on the FM dial. I used this feature on Digital Innovation's Neuros, an iPod wannabe that worked best in my car where previously I had to fumble with a cassette adapter to play MP3 tunes while on the road. With the Neuros I just have to turn it on and then turn to the appropriate station selected by me. No wires, no fuss. It is a feature appearing on more "iPod killers" and one I thought Apple would adopt to to remain ahead of the pack.
Of course, we are still waiting for an equivalent player to appear, one that can come close to the iPod in terms of size and usability. The closest is arguably the Rio Karma, though one can argue that the digital video/audio players like those offered by Archos, RCA, and soon Sony already jump into another league.
This new iPod is more of a refresh than anything groundbreaking. That said, Apple had made some good revenue at the $499 price point that is now vacant. There may be another iPod varient in the works and coming very soon. Just call it a hunch.
The 256MB Rio Cali is available on Amazon
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The Record Industry - The New AMTRAK
Beastie Boys DRM Flak
Apple and Real - A Few Thoughts