The Low End Mac Mailbag

iPod touch and AirPort Express, iPod touch a Real PDA?, Apple's Marketing Formula, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.09.12

iPod touch with AirPort Express?

From Ernesto Tohme:

Hi Dan,

Have you wondered if the iPod touch can stream audio to AirPort Express? I think this would be great for Apple, it would be a "cheaper" option to Sonos systems. I could stream to AE, connected to my Bose Soundwave, and control the music I want to hear while playing poker with my friends, instead of using my trusty G4 12" PB. And, of course, it would be much cooler.

Greetings from Mexico,
Ernesto Tohme

Ernesto,

I imagine this could work - and with the iPhone as well. Likewise, will they work with Apple TV? The big question is whether Apple will enable it.

Dan

Is the iPod touch a Real PDA?

From: Bill Doty:

Hi Dan

I hate cell phones. I don't have an iPod. The music I play is from CDs that I own.

I use a Palm Tungsten E every day of the week. I have an e-Bible program, music (REAL audio), and photos on an SD card. I can play music in the car with a cassette adapter (from a Sony Walkman CD player). I can also power it from a cigarette lighter bung. I also have an SD card with games.

I could not live without the memo, calculator, and calendar program. When I'm on holiday, I even use the alarm clock.

The Acrobat Reader and DataViz are a bit poopie.

It is now 3 years old.

If I had to replace it, I would not have much choice.

Palm is headed to the dumpster. They still make the Tungsten E and the Tx, but they both have a bad on/off switch. (I had mine repaired by a guy in Minnesota.) Windows CE handhelds suck just as bad as Windows computers.

If Apple would come up with a software package, similar to the Palm, for the iPod touch, it would be perfect for me.

Bye
Bill Doty

Bill,

I hear you. I liked my Newton, but it was too big to haul around. I like my Palm Zire 31, especially with an added 512 MB SD card for storage. I like my iPods (a 1G with a 20 GB upgrade and a 60 GB iPod photo) for storing files and listening to music. I like my cell phone, and I don't really want to have my iPod and cell phone in the same device.

At first blush, the iPod touch looked like the perfect solution. Take the iPhone, strip out the cell phone, and sell it for less. Oh, and drop the camera. And the Bluetooth. And the ability to edit you calendar. And who knows what other compromises so it won't be a real PDA that could replace Palms and Newtons and WinCE handhelds while competing with the cash cow iPhone.

Don't make the mistake of being an early adopter with the iPod touch. Every day we seem to learn about one more design compromise that makes the iPhone the better choice - except that I don't want to switch to AT&T wireless, pay a termination fee with Alltel, and pay $60 a month to AT&T for at least two years.

The iPod touch has the potential to be the perfect PDA, but Apple seems hell bent on crippling it compared with the iPhone.

Dan

Apple's Marketing Formula

From Matthew Wright:

Hey Dan,

Just wanted to make mention of the big iPhone dust up regarding price and features. The only thing surprising to me about the drop in price and increase in basic storage for the iPhone is that anyone is surprised anymore by this behavior from Apple.

Apple, especially since Jobs return a decade ago, releases new products with less features than they could at an inflated price (and usually with software and hardware bugs for a first generation release). Exhibit A is the original iPod. 400 bucks for 5 GB upon initial release. A short while later 400 bucks got you four times more storage.

Then there's Exhibit B - the original MacBook Pro. It lacked FireWire 800 for no comprehensible reason, after FireWire 800 had been a standard feature on the PowerBooks for a while. It had a slower SuperDrive than the PowerBook it replaced, without support for dual layers. Both of these things were "miraculously" amended a short time later. Did Apple respond to a customer demand, or was this all planned from the beginning?

And remember the original iPod nano? How long did those stay black and white? The nano was supposed to replace the wildly popular colors of the iPod mini, and then "surprise" we're making them with colors now a few months later! Or how about the original shuffle? Those were around, what, a couple months?

All I'm saying is that this whole sky is falling routine from the Mac community is getting theatrical. Farcical even. Of course the iPhone went down in price. Of course the low-end model was discontinued. A horse is a horse. It's called marketing.

I'm going to get really geeky now and recall a Star Trek: TNG episode where the original series' Scotty was written into a story line. The old engineer spent all his time with the new engineer Geordi. When Picard asks Geordi how long it will take to fix something, Geordi says something like, "8 hours." Scotty then asks him how long it would really take to fix it. Geordi seems confused and replies, "8 hours." Scotty then tells him that he should have told Picard it would take "16 hours" so that when it's ready "early" he'll be viewed as a miracle worker.

The above is exactly the marketing model Apple uses for every new product launch. Every product will be intentionally ham stringed so that the addition of what are essentially features that could have been in the original launch of the product can be added to the second iteration, increasing the "wow" factor. I can't be the only person that believes Apple had no intention of launching the MacBook Pro with processors running at 1.6 and 1.8 GHz. When they announced "upgrades" before shipping to 1.8 and 2.0 (at the same price!), it made everyone say, "wow!" but to me it seemed like one more carefully planned attack on the senses.

One last thing, as far as looking ahead with this sort of thing: every piece of hardware coming out of Apple has switched over to being predominantly metal except the MacBooks. And people are still saying how much they miss the 12 inch PowerBook. Used 12 inch PowerBooks are actually retaining their value better than the 15 inch PowerBooks, mostly because the 15 inch form factor has a near-identical Intel based replacement). Hmmmmm . . . I wonder what Apple has planned? I'm going to go out on a limb and guess when the 12 inch MacBook Pro comes out it will have more features than the Black MacBook (but still less than its second generation release) and be roughly the same price. The price for it will drop less than 6 months later, and its features will increase. Upon its release everyone who bought a MacBook for roughly the same price will be really steamed.

as always, the site kicks butt.

best,
-matthew

Matthew,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sure, everyone expected the iPhone to drop in price eventually - but not by one-third ($200) just nine weeks after release. That's unprecedented for Apple. Not that I'm saying those early adopters aren't getting their $500-600 worth. They knew what they were buying, decided it was worth the price, and Apple is being very generous by offering all of them $100 in Apple Store credit.

By slashing the price, Apple may have doubled the iPhone's potential market. A lot of people who would have balked at $499 will be more tempted at $399. Apple needs to accelerate the iPhone's sales pace to reach its goal of 10 million units by the end of 2008, and this could be the move that does it.

And the latest rumor is that we'll see 16 GB iPhones in November.

Was the original iPod overpriced? Probably, and it wasn't the wildly successful device we know today back then. It was expensive, and it only worked with Macs. Divide R&D and marketing plus production cost by the number of units you expect to sell. With each new version, parts costs decrease and other costs are spread over a lot more units. Maybe the only surprise was that the shuffle hadn't dropped in price.

Yeah, it was just 9 months between the 5 GB iPod and the first 20 GB model. A big part of that was due to the huge market Apple helped create for those 1.8" hard drives, which helped drive down costs. Another factor was releasing a Windows version of the iPod.

As for the initial 15" MacBook Pro, there were some design compromises as Apple had Intel design the motherboard. At least that's the excuse I hear for the lack of FireWire 800. Likewise, the Core Duo was a brand new chip architecture and the MacBook Pro among the first notebooks to use the mobile version. I don't think Steve Jobs wanted another G4 fiasco (announcing a 500 MHz G4 that didn't ship for 4-5 months because Motorola overpromised) or G5 disaster (promising 3 GHz within a year only to discover that IBM couldn't hit the mark). Better to announce slower processors that you know you can ship than faster ones that may miss the deadline.

Then there's the MacBook mini - at least that's what I'd call a pro MacBook smaller than the 13.3" widescreen plastic MacBook. If I had to guess, I'd say an 11-12" widescreen display (1280 x 800), the same keyboard found in the MacBook and aluminum keyboards, a 1" thin design including a SuperDrive, about a 7.5" x 10.5" footprint, an aluminum enclosure, and a weight below 4 lb. Time will tell.

Dan

Dan,

Some interesting points, as always. I just love reading both LEM and Apple-History and seeing what look like patterns to me. When you break it down into a timeline of when things came out and see the prices that were there, it sometimes feels like a marketing scam. Like with the "Black Tax" on the high-end Macbook. I guess I feel like Apple thinks they can get away with a little more all the time. Wasn't the U2 special edition iPod also more money for no additional features (other than Bono's faux-signature)?

I work for a national corporate chain (to remain nameless), and we have overpriced merchandise that always has set dates when it goes down in price. The mentality seems to be see how many people we can get to overpay before items are reduced to a more reasonable price. The effect is our regular customers are used to the regular "clearance sales" and buy up merchandise like crazy then. We're still making a profit though, even after it's marked down. And I think our sales overall are so high because of the illusion of a "deal" created by the initially inflated prices. I sorta see the iPhone in that light too.

Also, regarding Tiger on a B&W. I had a fantastically upgraded B&W that ran Tiger as well as my G5 on the basic stuff (word processing, some simpler Photoshop work, surfing, iTunes importing). It had a Daystar G4 (550 MHz) and a GB of RAM, and a Radeon video card with 32 MB of VRAM. It was a great machine and stable as a rock. I gave it to a friend of mine, and it's still in regular service. I think the Velocity engine on that G4 makes all the difference in the world.

best,
matthew

Matthew,

Thanks for sharing your additional thoughts. The original Macintosh was deliberately overpriced, and one of Steve Jobs' marketing mantras is that you stay in business by turning a profit, not necessarily by selling a lot of stuff cheaply.

The U2 iPod was a bit more expensive, but for the true U2 fan, the ability to download the entire U2 library (or was it preinstalled?) made it worth the price.

I've heard very mixed reports on Tiger with B&W G3s. Yours helps confirm the fact that the G3 is pretty much a dead end - but a G4 upgrade can give it a new lease on life.

Dan

Cooling a MacBook

From Jeff Wiseman:

Dan,

I'm using a MacBook Core Duo 1.83 GHz as my primary computer and found the best way to keep it cool (on the desk) was to use smcFanControl and a passive cooling stand. I set the fan to run at a minimum of 3000 RPM and find that works for most situations. The slight increase in noise is covered by the normal noise of the environment. I really like this fan control software, as I can set up several default settings and quickly switch back and forth as needed.

BTW, I had tried the Targus Chill Mat when I was using an iBook G4/800 and found it ran hotter (about 5° C) than when just sitting on the CoolPad. YMMV.

Jeff Wiseman

Jeff,

Thanks for writing. How weird, that a cooling pad would increase your iBook's temperature!

I'll forward your email to John Carlson.

Dan

IBM Used AAUI

From William Walsh:

Hi!

Thanks for taking the time to read my message. I'm glad you wrote me back. Hopefully Mr. Williams will be able to fix his Mac and get it back up to top performance once again. Even today, those G3 CRT based iMacs make great computers for a lot of regular work.

I've also been reading the recent conversations around AAUI connectors and who used them. Even IBM found a place to put them, on an option card that they marketed back in the days of the Personal System/2, known as the IBM LAN Adapter/A. I have such a card and did an outline of the circuit board here: <http://greyghost.dyndns.org/mcastuff/lan/a/> (may take a while to load, so wait a bit or check the attachment on this message)

Look at P2 on the board drawing. (Yes, I'm quite the low end PC fan. Whatever happened to that site, anyway?)

So there's another entry for the list of manufacturers who used AAUI connectors. Again, you're more than welcome to publish the text of this message or even include the image if you so desire. All I'd ask if you want to use the image is credit for the illustration.

William

William,

Thanks for the info.

Low End PC seemed like it had a lot of potential. After all, there is probably 20x as much old PC hardware out there as Mac hardware, much of which could be repurposed with FreeDOS, Linux, or an older version of (shudder) Windows. I guess people just don't get as attached to their old IBMs, Compaqs, Packard Bells, etc. as we do to our Macs.

Needless to say, we never made a penny from the project and eventually let it die a natural death. I've archived the content from Low End PC here on Low End Mac at <http://lowendmac.com/lowendpc/> and let the lowendpc.com domain lapse.

Dan

Partitioning Tray-loading iMacs for OS X

Hi Dan,

Read with interest your coverage of the good old tray-loading iMacs, one of which I am working with at the moment.

My question: Do OS X and all OS X applications (say, Firefox, Toast, etc.) have to be installed in the first 8 gigs of hard drive space on a drive greater than 8 gigs? That would be pretty restrictive. (I know nothing about partitioning, never having done it.)

Thank You,
Tom Gabriel

Tom,

No, only the operating system itself has to be within the first 8 GB. A lot of programs will install themselves on the boot partition by default, and they may look there for software updates, but almost everything can run from another partition, a different hard drive, or a flash drive.

Dan

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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