Farewell to classic design as Jobs unveils iPod touch
With its eye-catching white plastic design, the iPod has become a landmark of 21st century living in just a few years. But the music player marked the end of an era yesterday, as Apple’s chief executive, Steve Jobs, finally ditched its emblematic look.
Launching a new range of iPods, Jobs announced the arrival of the new touch-sensitive, wireless-enabled “iPod touch” and binned the polished white design that has helped it become one of the most influential brands in the world.
The new widescreen iPod touch, which costs $400 (R2Â 913) or $543 (R3Â 940), has room for up to 4Â 000 songs and can show films and TV programmes as well as play music.
It is based on the company’s iPhone, which went on sale this summer in the United States.
As well as the touch-sensitive display, the new model comes with wireless internet capability which will allow owners to surf the web through their iPod. Users will also be able to buy tracks from the iTunes store without having to synchronise their gadgets to a computer.
“Other people have tried wireless and it’s failed, but we think we know what it takes to make it successful,” said Jobs, speaking to a crowd in San Francisco. “We’re very excited about this ... we think it’s one of the seven wonders of the world.”
The iPod touch gives equal prominence to watching videos as to listening to music, and takes many cues from the iPhone, swapping the clean, white style for a mixture of aluminium and black, and replacing the pioneering scroll wheel with a touch-sensitive screen.
In a curious marketing twist, Apple will take advantage of the machine’s wireless capability by linking up with the Starbucks coffee chain. Customers who hear a song they like playing in the cafe will be able to download it immediately at the touch of a button.
The new-look machine is the work of Apple’s lead designer, award-winning Briton Jonathan Ive. Ive, a former industrial design student from Newcastle, joined Apple in 1992 and rose to prominence with his first major success, the colourful all-in-one iMac computer. He took on legendary status with his sleek design for the iPod.
Gadget fans will shed a tear as Wednesday’s launch marked the end of the iPod’s classic white design, the landmark style that became almost impossible to miss on the streets as it became more successful. As well as the iPod touch, the traditional white iPod has been replaced by the “classic” model, which comes in silver or black and has doubled in capacity to hold as many as 40Â 000 songs. The company also announced a new version of the iPod nano. It now comes with a larger screen which is able to play video.
None of the developments are a radical departure from the company’s recent plans. Apple has already trialled the features of the new iPods with the iPhone. The old iPod, meanwhile, has been able to play video since 2005. The carefully orchestrated launch, which involved a live satellite link between California and BBC Television Centre in London, followed weeks of intense speculation over the fate of the iPod.
Reports on Wednesday suggested the possibility of a built-in digital radio, a tie-in with the BBC, or the announcement of a European launch date for the iPhone.
The launches come as the company prepares for what it hopes will be its biggest year to date. Sales of the iPod have already exceeded 110-million since it launched in 2001, and the months leading up to Christmas have traditionally provided Apple’s busiest period—more than 21-million were sold at the end of 2006 alone.
Online TV shows
It remains unclear whether the public shares Apple’s appetite for even larger video-playing devices. Sales of TV shows online remain modest, dwarfed by the popularity of downloadable music, and mobile television has proved unpopular with many viewers.
But Apple is hoping that it can convince people to pay to watch TV on their iPods. Last week the company announced that it was going to let United Kingdom users of the iTunes Store download TV shows for the first time. The initial lineup included a small number of US programmes including Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives, all priced at Â£1,89 an episode. News of that announcement was quickly dampened, however, after NBC—the American television network which produces hit shows including Heroes and Scrubs—announced that it was not going to renew its contract to sell programmes through iTunes.
On Wednesday night, Apple’s share price in the US dropped by 2% to trade at $141,26, although it had shot up by more than 4% the day before in anticipation of the event and on reports about favourable iPod sales.
The iPod is by far the most popular digital player in the market, but other manufacturers are cashing in
Many experts see Nokia as Apple’s major rival, and last week the world’s biggest phone manufacturer announced its new N81 music-playing phone. The N81 can hold up to 2Â 000 songs and sports an iPod-like wheel, FM radio and a 7,1cm screen.
Sony’s latest attempt is the button-free “Rolly”, which will be in shops later this year. But the Japanese giant has so far failed to revive the successful Walkman brand, and last week announced that it was closing its online music store, Connect.
Heavy-duty player pitched at those thinking of switching from the iPod. It has a 10,8cm screen and can hold 7Â 500 songs or 40 hours of video.
A brand popular among the technologically savvy, iRiver’s flagship product is the Clix. It is not the cheapest option, but has plenty of fans.
T54 hopes to cash in on the popularity of LG’s cellphones. Has a touch-screen display and video capability, with room for up to 2Â 000 music tracks or 11 hours of video. Expected to arrive later this year. - Guardian Unlimited Â