October 28, 2004

iFlop (con't)

I don't disagree with any of the statistics Giles listed below in his post and yes... it's been a phenomenal ride. I still think the iPod Photo is where the train doesn't get out of the station though. Let's go point by point:

people don't get iPods to store files; they get them to use files.
I agree with that - but they use music files on them.

The stunning success of the iPod boils down to features vs benefits. Customers don't care about the features of a product; they care about what that product will do for them. That may seem like a trivial distinction, but it's huge. A feature is just a specification, whereas a benefit is how that specification matches up to a customer's particular needs, real or perceived. People buy products for what they think those products will do for them.
I think this dovetails very nicely with my main point - that the new benefits of the iPod Photo aren't anything the consumer wants their iPod to do for them. Apple has taken a product that does one thing extremely well, and bloated its functionality.

• The color screen is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and is also not the only change to the system. The photo functionality is the bigger deal. It's still a really pretty screen, too!
I agree that the color screen is evolutionary, and yes, the photo functionality is the main "feature." But is it worth $100-$200?

• The screen is intended to be a preview screen, and as such, is a perfect size. The iPod Photo outputs both NTSC and PAL for connecting to nice big TV screens so everyone doesn't have to huddle around (typically smaller) computer screens to see your digital pix.
There are tons of solutions out there to get pictures onto a TV screen - the Apple Video Adapter, an A/V cable for your camera, using WebTV and a web page, even Tivo. And... most people will want to do some editing - iPhotoing... even iMovie-ing them into more complex presentations than the iPod Photo could handle.

• What's the best price you've seen on 20GB, 40GB, or 60GB compact flash cards?...
My intent was not to argue the viability of flash as a replacement for massive amounts of storage, but as a media for transporting files from one place to another. And as you argued before - it's the functionality that counts.
(you could buy a PowerBook or two iBooks for that)
This probably summarizes my point the best: why will someone pay $100 more for what essentially boils down to two features: a color screen and a photo player?

• It's an easy mistake to assume that most people's needs are identical to your own. Many current and future iPod owners have been waiting for higher capacity iPods to accommodate large music libraries alone. Now that photos are an option, the additional space is even more important than before.
Many have? I think the arguement for a higher capacity is mainly from those who want bragging rights. In addition, transfer time is a pretty fixed (albeit high rate) function.

• I think a video-capable iPod would be cool, but the reason Steve Jobs says there won't be one is that the screen is too small for effective video viewing (ironically similar to your complaint about the effectiveness of the screen for photo viewing). I personally think the video-out capability of the iPod Photo would address that concern for video just as it already does for still photos, but I don't get to make such product decisions. ;)
If I were Steve-o, I'd have rolled out a video iPod long before (okay, well, probably concurrently with) the photo one. Why? It's all about consumption habits. People consume music differently than photos, and both of those different than video. Here's the comparison:
How ObtainedPurchased (in some cases rented)Self-CreatedAd-Supported, Rented, sometimes Purchased, Self-Created
How ConsumedPassively, ActivelyActivelyActively, Passively
Group ConsumptionSometimesOftenSometimes
Perceived OwnershipMediumHighLow
Pictures are not usually material for individual consumption, but music is. The iPod's "prime directive" is individual use. Pictures are not usually experienced passively, but music is.

To sum up, I think the iPod is a great device and will continue to be the monster MP3 /AAC/iTMS player that it is. It'll make tons of money and continue to sell like crazy. The iPod is a great tool for experiencing music. It's just the wrong tool for pictures.

Besides, I'm waiting for these to start shipping before I order. :-)


Anonymous said...

As much as I wanted to stay out of this fray, I can't! I'm a frayed (ha!) that I must add my humble two cents on this matter.

I personally know 11 people (myself included) who have been dying for this new functionality in the iPod and have tabled a potential iPod purchase in hopes of this rumoured product coming to fruition.

Point 1:
People use music files on iPods because until now they weren't functional for transporting photos. My entire photo library is in iPhoto. I've dreamed of the day I could shuttle all those Disneyworld photos between home and the office with ease. That day has come, Callou, Callay!!!

Point 2:
The new benefits are EXACTLY what I want the iPod to do. I can say, "oh, there's that picture of Tim that I took covertly which I want to make my desktop at home!" I can either burn it to a CD or yay! upload from the iPod.

Point 3:
We paid an extra $150.00 for Tim's camera phone. And it doesn't have USB, so you have to email the low-quality pictures to yourself. Would I pay an extra $100-$200 for image portability?! durn skippy, I would, and will.

Point 4:
It's just easier to use your iPod to get it to the TV. Especially from iPhoto, especially through tivo. In my situation (porting from work to home....mac to PC)

Point 5:
Count me and my clan of high-design oriented folks among those who have been dying for the extra storage capacity and image previewing.

Point 6:
See point above about the camera. It's a lifestyle thing. Allow me to humbly state that I personally don't understand wanting to read your Bible from a PDA, but I do know many people who do. (It's not a bad thing, just not a personal style choice I would make.) My life is very fragmented between office and home; image portability that steps away from CDs is a dream come true for me. Powerpoints and catalogs that are 2 and 3 GB are now feasably ported between the office and the home office.

Point 7:
You've said before that the Mac is your Play machine and the PC is your Get it Done machine. I'm actually the reverse of that. The Mac is my Everything machine, with the PC to allow me to play games on their actual release date without using Dave or whatever emulator is currently the rage. Therefore, I see the image portability as a prime driver...it's not just for cranking up the tunes when I'm jogging. Passive and Active use are not definers for me with the iPod.

In Summation, I've watched Apple subtly and not-so-subtly redefine the way people integrate computers into their lives. I think that this is one more gentle nudge in that direction. The Jobsian philosophy seems to be that if they put out a well-designed product then people will find new uses for it. This is, in my opinion, that case.


Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Katherine (but you knew that, didn't you?). At first, I wasn't sure how something like that would sell, so I ran it by Erin.

"If you had the choice betwee iPod #1 and iPod #2, and #2 could show pictures on a small color screen BUT cost $100 more, which would you get?"

A: "No question, I'd get the one with the pictures".

"Even if it costs $100 more?"

A: "I'm already paying the $399 for an iPod, the picture features are worth the extra $100 to me.

So there you have it. She Who Knows All Trends hath spoken.