I was happy to see Steve return on the Apple keynote of 9 September, because boy does Apple need somebody with clear vision. The introductions on the new iPod line are all over the place. Let me tell you why I think Steve has not been running the operation for the past few months:
- Ringtones. The price of a ringtone in the iTunes store is (still) higher than that of a song. You can make a ring tone out of a song for free already, so why put the effort into selling ringtones at a way too high price? The phone companies must have influenced some “less sturdy” people at Apple for this.
- The Nano Camera. 2 mistakes on this one. First is the device. Why put a camera on the Nano of all iPods? Wouldn’t we expect that on the iPod touch? Or perhaps both? Second is the location. Anybody holding a nano must notice that the camera is in a place where your hand is when holding the nano. Maybe it makes a bit more sense in landscape mode, right after you smudged it with your hand. Maybe I’d have to hold one for good testing. I heard that the camera is not nearly as good as the one on the iPhone 3Gs.
- iTunes 9’s Column Browser. When I installed iTunes 9, my trusty 3-pane music browser was gone. I had a list of artists on the left, and next to that all my music as a long list of unsorted tracks. Gee thanks. After some fiddling I got the 3-paned browser back (see my earlier blogpost) but the fiddling in the menus got me that “Windows” feeling of tweaking a crappy UI into something I can sort of use.
- Genius Mixes. After seeing the keynote, I was eager to try out the “Genius Mixes” feature. In the keynote, these mixes are available under the Genius item on the left. When I looked, there was nothing there. I searched preferences and menus to turn them on, but found nothing. It turns out that you need to upload Genius data to Apple before the Genius Mixes appear. The mixes themselves are working fine, but when a Genius Mix is playing, you can do nothing. No coverflow. No Track details. I can not even rate the currently playing song. This cripples it’s potential of finding and rating great songs in a large library.
- Syncing knobs and levers. Where syncing used to be simple, it is now 9 tabs with a slew of boxes and sliders you can drag suff between. I know a lot of customers asked for it, but that has never stopped Apple coming up with a totally brilliant solution to a problem, instead of just implementing the user’s crappy first thought. I will get used to it, and it will probably work fine, but it just adds to a scary feeling I had of an Apple without Steve.
- Twitter integration. Come on Apple, you are not serious now, are you? There are hundreds of Twitter and IM integration apps that will do something like this. Apple did not even add that “innovative cool juice” to it. They just messed up iTunes codebase with this quick hack, making it even harder to port iTunes to 64 bit Cocoa.
- “Richer” LP content. I hate the iTunes appstore pages where developers are using way more CSS and markup than you would like to. It’s like the walls of the grocery store change each time you look at a different product. It’s confusing and ugly. Now, with the LP stuff added, Apple now is going one step further, and starts selling this for a price. Just like the ringtones.
- Incoherent iPod touch line. The 8GB iPod touch is sold at $199, which is great, but it was not “revved”, meaning that the 16+GB iPod touches have a different chipset. How do you explain the customer that a game is running slower on one touch, and faster on the other? Sure it’s done to get to the $199 price point, but Apple didn’t work like this in the old days. They used to introduce a new (revved) model at the same pricepoint.
The whole talk feels a bit “all over the place”, and a way of charging customers for something they do not really need. I know, usually keynotes get the “woos” from the cround every 15 seconds and it’s hard to do that time and time again. And Steve just returned, having to sell the stuff he may not have wanted to put out there in the first place. So I’ll forgive them this time. But this fan boy will be watching Apple and hope it will be a bit more consistent next time.
So Steve, get those guys back on track will you? And you might want to do an extra surprise round in the office, because I smell “feature creep”. And is it me, or does Jeff Robin’s profile look like a younger Bill Gates?
Hmmm. I hope he doesn’t try that silly tablet-thing again…