Pushing the Envelope is Risky Business

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Date: Tuesday, October 30th, 2001, 09:01
Category: Archive

Apple has always pushed the boundaries of personal computing and the new iPod is a prime example of this strategy. It takes a lot of exciting technologies and puts them into an elegant package that has been seamlessly integrated with iTunes 2 and Apple FireWire hardware.

The decision to go with a sub 2.5-inch 5 GB drives seems to have helped with size and battery life at the expense of storage capacity and cost. FireWire is so fast and the fact that it is used to charge the battery is brilliant! There has got to be camera software and an iMovie revision in the works for this pod.


Apple has always pushed the boundaries of personal computing and the new iPod is a prime example of this strategy. It takes a lot of exciting technologies and puts them into an elegant package that has been seamlessly integrated with iTunes 2 and Apple FireWire hardware.

The decision to go with a sub 2.5-inch 5 GB drives seems to have helped with size and battery life at the expense of storage capacity and cost. FireWire is so fast and the fact that it is used to charge the battery is brilliant! There has got to be camera software and an iMovie revision in the works for this pod.

I purchased a 2.5″ 20 GB FireWire/USB drive about six months ago and love it. It powers up via the FireWire or USB cable and just shows up on my desktop. Apple has created a smaller, lower capacity pod that primarily functions as a self powered MP3 player but lacks the slower USB connection of my drive at about double the price.

I think the beauty of the iPod is it’s elegance and versatility. The limitations are storage capacity, high price and lack of compatibility. Much of the installed base of Macintosh computers lack FireWire. Apple is so stretched, they cannot bring iTunes to the Wintel platform, which for the most part lacks FireWire in all but the newest high-end boxes anyway.

The price/storage capacity problem is a limitation imposed by selecting a sub 2.5-inch drive mechanism. Although brilliant, the iPod has such a small potential customer base – owners of FireWire Macs willing to spend US$400 — it will probably not be much of an initial success, this in spite of being such a wonderful product. In the current market, a 10 GB 2.5-inch drive and USB capability combined with a lower price would probably have made a more saleable product.

Apple has a history of creating such designs. The original Macintosh required so much of it’s great new processor, 128k memory and superior 3.5-inch floppy drive that it had little room left for running it’s ground breaking software. Fortunately, memory and data storage quickly increased to allow the OS to reach it’s full potential.

The Apple Newton was way ahead in the PDA game, but it was just too big and expensive. The smaller, cheaper, less capable Palms that followed were much more in line with what people were looking for. The iMac is probably the most obvious success for Apple’s approach to design. It abandoned legacy technologies like ADB, the serial port and floppy drive, all in a stylish enclosure that included the monitor. Initial pricing was great and this is really the key to whether a product succeeds or fails. Just look at the Cube with it’s built in DVD drive. Stunning design could not overcome high initial pricing and customer’s overwhelming prefernece for CD-RW in a desktop computer.

The next iMac is a “do or die” product for Apple. It needs an LCD screen AND an attractive price to succeed. The existing iMac is in a downward spiral in this difficult economy in part because it’s design hasn’t really changed. It needs to become a “near notebook” and soon.

Notebooks have been taking a larger slice of the computer pie every year, and Apple’s notebook computers offer so much. Beautiful, compact and well priced, they are keeping Apple in the black.

Apple’s Pro computers need some refinement. Making them smaller and styled like the PowerBooks would help. Hopefully the G5 will meet performance predictions. The Apple Display Connector was a BIG mistake, so they should really avoid such proprietary moves in future desktops.

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