Tuesday, July 20, 2004

iPod 4G ... Broader picture and possibilities

With interest, I've been following the saga of the supposed leak from Newsweek to the unveiling on Monday of Apple's new iPod 4G.

A nice piece of gadgetry, for sure. Some day, when I've got a spare $400, I'll buy one. I do want one, but it is a luxury only, not a necessity.

Steve Jobs is something of a genius-visionary. I've been quite impressed with his saavy since he came back to Apple in the mid-90's and took it, a la Lee Iacocca, from one foot in the grave to a powerhouse. He's to be commended, but he does get a plethora of accolades from the press, so I'll be more reserved here.

Where does the iPod go from here? And for that matter, how about Steve? Apple?

First the iPod.

A bit of a "gotta-have-it" device which, in part due to Apple's marketing acumen, is the defacto device for digital music playback. Apple's legendary ease of use, great looks, fantastic commercials, posters, joint ventures (BMW) are nearly unrivaled.

Microsoft is close behind with their own attempt at moving their PC juggernaut (or creating a new one) over to the music side, then to the video side, then to the ... side where you can fill in the blanks. I do not wish Microsoft well in the sense that I wish Apple well. Microsoft can throw all the money at it they want, and they'll get some greedy record/video execs to buy in, but they'll never rival Apple's "in-ness" with Hollywood, Mo-town, et al.

The iPod is the essence of what people want. It is the anti-everybodyhasit-everybodyhasit device. Kind of canceling each other out, but you get the point.

In terms of future-thought, I think Apple would be wise to build in video to the iPod. My hunch is that they're doing that, but they're sitting on the surfboard waiting to see if this wave is gonna break or not. The other thing is maybe it isn't in the iPod at all. Perhaps its in the iWatch ... no, better name needed.

I think Apple is looking way down the road, but responding to the wants of the consumer in the here and now. Maybe that's a "master of the obvious" statement, but Apple has shown enough foresight, barring production problems, to address the business of today and tomorrow.

Businesses want to make a buck today. If people don't want video in the iPod, then they won't get it. But next year they might. Next year Apple might add it when the business opportunity is right and the value equation shows profit. Well, okay, one product that they've been stubborn on is the one-button mouse. So they haven't seen the light on that, but humor me.

So the iPod will continue to evolve until Apple reveals the next thing that'll push the "I want it whether I need it or not" button. Video, WiFi TV, whatever, if it's to be, we should see it. Apple will get it right, hopefully, like they've done with the music business.

Steve Jobs.

That Steve is the vision behind Apple is pretty much widely agreed upon. That there is incredible talent behind the doors of 1 Infinite Loop that is not Steve Jobs is also widely agreed upon. My question is, can Apple flourish without Steve Jobs. I didn't say "survive" or "make it" - I said "flourish."

What happens if Steve gets hit by a bus? John Rubenstein steps in? Uhh, smart guy, but lacking in RDF (reality distortion field) and charisma. Will the next CEO move to an Intel platform? Heck, will Steve in the next 10 years do the same?

All speculation that profits nothing unless my lack of confidence as a stock investor in their future possibility w/o Jobs causes me to pull out of the stock. So investors will be the word ... and the press which loves to ring the "Ding Dong the Apple's Dead" bell.

Microsoft and Dell have moved on, though time will tell if they continue to flourish as currently. Yes, their leadership is still involved to an extent, point given.

I do hope that Steve continues to build vision in the team so that the team will continue the vision with or without him.


Apple is a smart company when you look at it as a whole. Smarter than in the late 80's and 90's.

My hope is for Apple to continue to push the envelope of creativity, ingenuity, ease of use and overall intelligent design that they've shown us in the last almost-decade. I see no signs of it slowing down, what with things like AirPort Express hitting the shelves, the new iPod, etc.

I want to see more software. Innovative stuff. I want to see an Office competitor, not a killer. I want to see a word processor that has the saavy of Keynote, but the power of Microsoft Word all together. I want to see .Mac become cheaper and yet offer more. Economics of the structure shows it is possible and should be the case now or soon.

I'm not a business expert by any stretch of the imagination. I know I've touched on different things here and left them un-fleshed-out. But my general outlook on Apple Computer, Inc., is favorable though questions remain.

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