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October 26th, 2001


Last week, Apple announced that it would hold a press conference this past Tuesday to release a “breakthrough” digital device. Speculation immediately ran wild. “It’ll be a stereo component that plays MP3s on your Mac through AirPort!” “It’ll be a PDA the size of a tablet that uses Newton technology and AirPort to get info from your machine!” …er, not that I’d mind either one of those things. But a few people were suggesting that the MP3 track was the right one.

It was. Apple’s iPod is… get ready… a portable MP3 player.

The response was mixed. Is it underwhelming? Well, yes and no. I was expecting a bit more – as lots do from Apple. Throwing that aside, the iPod is a rather nice MP3 player. It’s got a 5GB MicroDrive inside of it. It’s connected to a Mac via FireWire, so popping an entire CD onto the iPod takes about 10 seconds. And 10 hours of battery life is quite good. The drive inside the iPod can function as a regular hard drive.

But the price, oh the price. $399. If this is to be a consumer electronics product – and make no mistake, it is – four hundred bucks for this little guy is simply too expensive. Consumers can get an El Cheapo MP3 player for much less, albeit with less storage capacity and (allegedly) an inferior user interface.

Would I still want one? Yeah, I probably would. It’d be handy on the train or the bus, and obviously, I’d listen to headphones while in the car. But I think that the high price is going to be a problem – keeping it out of reach of the core consumers Apple needs and wants.

That said, one person at MacNN suggested that the marketing simply needed to change. Sell the iPod as a miniature 5GB FireWire drive, superfast, for “under $400”. Then mention that the very best MP3 player Apple could design is included – free. I really think folks would enjoy that, more.

(Oh, and the name is odd.) -pm

Posted in Technology

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