What do today's iPod upgrades mean for Apple's music player? First off, while we didn't get the color screen iPod minis as we had hoped for, we did see the iPod photo move to take over the full-sized iPod product segment. Along with the 30 and 60GB iPod photos, Apple also removed all but the 20GB monochrome iPod from the full-sized line-up, meaning it's nearly certain that the next iPod revision will remove monochrome iPods from the top-end altogether.
The rearranging of the pricing scheme means that there is now an iPod product available for every 50 dollar increment between $100 and $449, with the exception of the $400 place. That final, 60GB iPod photo price leaves you right at the steps of the Mac mini, which has a certain retail poetry. Unfortunately, the lower prices come via the exclusion of many traditional high-end iPod bundled accessories, including the Dock and FireWire cable (even in the 60GB iPod photo, which is also lacking the bundled A/V cable, as well). Considering the punitive price of Apple-branded accessories, the overall value is about the same.
But there's some good news from Apple for owners of previous iPods, including the first run of iPod photos as well as older, previous-generation models. More about that after the jump.
Along with the new iPods came news that an iPod Camera connector will become available in March for $30, a much-needed dongle that will allow users of all iPod photos, new and old, to copy pictures directly from their cameras to their iPods. That was a major oversight from Apple when they launched the iPod photo, and it's good to know they'll fix it.
Interestingly, though, when I updated my 3G 15GB iPod this afternoon to add the top-menu 'Shuffle Songs' functionality (something we didn't expect at all), I noticed a 'Photo Import' option available that hadn't been there before. Will Apple's new iPod Camera Connector turn all iPods into mass photo storing devices? I can only hope that's the case. While being able to instantly see your snapshots indexed on an iPod photo will be very handy, the simple multi-generation upgrade could make millions of older iPods much more useful.
For the first time in over a year, I feel like my 3G iPod still has some new tricks left in her. Users of Apple's computers are used to software upgrades that squeeze even more power out of old hardware, but it has seemed up to now that they viewed iPods as fire-and-forget. Minor updates, sure, but if you want the new features, you've got to upgrade.
So all in one day, Apple has managed to both move the iPod another step towards a disposable, commodity product, and at the same time made the entire product line even more useful (with the Shuffle Songs upgrade, and hopefully with Photo Storage) for existing customers.
iPod Firmware Download [Apple]
Apple Updates iPod photo Lineup [Yahoo] Mentions the Camera Connector
Apple Updates iPod [Slashdot] Thanks to the commentors in this thread, many of whose ideas I took whole-cloth.
Update: iPodlounge's Jeremy Horwitz sets me straight:
Just as a quick FYI on your iPod Photo Import story -
The feature's been in the 3G iPod since around October 2003, when Belkin released its first photo download product, the Media Reader for iPod. The Photo Import feature remained hidden in the iPod's menu system unless you plugged a Media Reader in, or used settings to activate it as a menu choice.
So the good news is: yes, your 3G iPod can store digital photos. The bad news is, it's been able to do that for a while. :-)
We're hearing that Apple's new cable is going to be hugely faster than the digital camera accessories already available for the iPod, which should hopefully remedy serious photographers' concerns.
Of course, being able to use the new iPod Camera Connector on old iPods would still be good news.