27 September 2005

Screw the iPod Nano

Posted by Jameson Penn
I'm with this guy 110%. Sure, the flash memory is cool. But at what cost? The smaller nano is more fragile, has a shorter battery, fewer options/abilities, and none of the user suggestions apple has compiled.

I've been assuming apple was smart and was merely delaying the flash mini for a later date, but only recently realized that was me thinking they had a better business model. Stupid, stupid, stupid company! Rather, they kill the mini as it's fastest selling iPod, and instead opt to redirect consumer demands they way they have unsuccesfully done in the past.
The most requested features I heard among the Mac web and the AppleXnet audience concerning the iPod mini included higher storage capacities, a color screen, a removable battery, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and more battery life. No one was suggesting they wanted a flash-based player over a hard drive one, and no one was complaining about the iPod mini being too wide or too heavy.

In comparison to the iPod mini, the iPod nano made the battery even harder to get at, lowered its battery life, removed the "remote connector," ditched FireWire support, weakened the device making it much more fragile, and features a scrollwheel inconsistent with that rest of the iPod lineup. I've spent the past several weeks scratching my head trying to figure out why Apple did all this, and after pondering long and hard I still can't think of a reasonable answer. The iPod nano is beyond reason from a user standpoint. Apple seems to be riding purely on hype, cool, and the "iPod" brand, because the iPod nano does not offer a single user-requested feature, in fact Apple removed features and lowered capacities.

Would a black iPod mini with an 8GB or 10GB 1-inch hard drive, 20+ hours of battery life, 3rd party device capability, a user-removable battery (similar to what's found on every mobile phone ever made), and a color screen really have been too much to ask for?
My prediction: a smart company takes advantage of this foolishness, copies the mini and improves it in all the ways described above, and unseats apple as the mp3 player king. Once again, Apple proves it may know how to design and present a pretty toy to the public, but it sure as hell doesn't know what to do beyond that.

18 September 2005

Great Customer Service Supporting a Great Product

Posted by Jameson Penn
Working in the consulting field of Customer Relationship Management, I can't help but notice when a company does something better than I expect, and applaude their service. Recently, my beloved iPod mini has been acting up and three days ago, the screen just stopped working. I was very concerned having had plenty of fancy electronic toys crap out on me in the past. In fact, my past experiences braced me for the worst. To Apple's credit, the worst as I expected never happened.

This morning I logged onto the website for my local apple store at Tysons Corner and placed myself in their intuitive queue for support from their supposed genius bar. It just seemed to easy. My appointment would be for 3:05. I drove over to the store, and walked in the store right at 2:45. This gave me enough time to wander the aisles of their foreign hardware and fiddle with the new iPod Nano.

Nice design, and I love the flash memory, but I wouldn't be able to justify the extra expense for a 2 gig mp3 player. When it's time to upgrade Christina's lifestyle, I am still leaning towards a twin iPod mini for her, however I hope for the new flash drive, which will go for the same price as the Nano.

Just as I was fiddling with the JBL subwoofer and tweeters that resemble a school of jellyfish, I heard a genius call my name: Jameson? Jameson Penn? I checked the clock to my left: 2:55 -- 10 minutes before my assigned appointment time. I was quite impressed with their ability to get ahead of schedule. Well done.

I sidle up to the Genius Bar and take out my injured iPod mini. My personal genius looks too hip for his own good, with his mod-style hair, black pants and black shirt, and wide-ruled rhinestone belt. How very Apple. He reads off my summary I entered on the website and I explain I have tried the soft and hard resets, full battery charge, and still no luck. He asks if my iPod software has been updated. I say the most recent version I had was from February of this year, which leads him to grin as though he has quickly solved my problem. His optimism leads to my smile, as I say, that easy?

He plugs in my iPod, updates the software and... nothing. He sighs. Never good when the genius sighs. He quickly punches the keys on his keyboard, turns to me and says: "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that your iPod is faulty. I see no reason for the failure. I mean, it doesn't look as though it has been dropped (it hadn't). That leads me to the good news. You'll be getting a new iPod. Let me go check our stock."

He jets off, leaving me stunned. In a matter of five minutes, they have admitted that the product may be faulty, resolved the issue, and are about to set me off on my way. At this point, the only thing for me to do is sign a form acknowledging the faulty product, and head on home. Not bad.

Don't get me wrong: I will never be one of the switch stories. But as an avid free marketeer and active consumer, I look to highlight great experiences I have with businesses. There's no way that I will ever join the odd cult of Apple but I will certainly take advantage of their innovatively intuitive products and, now, their seamless customer service. Well done, Apple. Well done.

06 September 2005

Why Are Music Services So Stupid?

Posted by Jameson Penn
The Long Tail is hitting on something very near and dear to my heart: music. The particular question he is asking is:
Why are the current generation of music services so dumb?

Recommendations, playlists and even detailed genre-level organization (which Rhapsody does best) are great, but they're not enough. I want to reorder the world of music my own way, and my way is different from the next guy's way. In the movie world this is easy, because we've got IMDB, which demonstrates what extensive cross-linking of every pertinent fact, from each cast and crew member to all the companies involved, can offer. So why don't we have the same for music?
I completely agree. I've been dabbling with a very basic user-created fields within itunes, which compliment the smart playlists I have setup. In a very limited way, I have links between songs, albums, artists, using groupings and the comments field (as keywords). These aid the ease of use for my complex network of smart playlists, but oh, the places we could go!

The Long Tail mentions Discogs and Upto11, which I have not played with but will definitely check out.

(One of these days I'll go into detail about how I have exploited smart playlists from within itunes, as influenced by smartplaylists.com. But that is a story for another day.)