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iPod and iTunes news

Ars technica offers a tutorial on getting videos into your iPod.

Time magazine has a funny look on how the video-enabled iPod will help the obese children of America.

A PC magazine article reviews the top digital music players in the market. It’s no surprise that Apple keeps coming out on top. So the article goes into the exciting race for second place. The review covers the best in the flash-based and harddrive-based players, who gives the best sound, and even the ones least likely to be recommended. Apple’s Achilles heel, according to the article, is that about 9% of iPod owners had to return their units within 12 months of purchasing the unit.

Stephen Wildstrom says that it was love at first sight for the 5G iPod, and asks what makes Apple stay competitive in the digital media market. His answer: Apple’s single overarching concern for delivering a great user experience. There has been other media devices that offered video playback but it’s the pain of getting content into the device that prevented these devices from becoming widely accepted. Unlike when the first iPods came out, users of the 5G iPod didn’t have to wait for quite some time before content became available. The 5G iPod came out together with offerings from Disney and ABC on iTMS, as well as the video podcasts that were already available even before the video-enabled iPod came out. User-friendliness and the focus on consumers makes Apple stay on top of its competitors.

TV Critic says that the latest iPod have the broadcast industry panicking over the thought that people will stop watching television. The TV Critic feels that convenience and portability aare enough to lure people away from their 30 plus inch TV screen and to the 2.5 inch screen of the 5G iPod. I don’t think these broadcast bigwigs are even thinking of panicking. There are not that many who are interested in getting an iPod so just they can watch their favorite TV programs on-the-go.

So there’s no need to panic, especially since Paul Thurrott likes the 5G iPod! It’s true, he really likes it. He is impressed with two things: how good the video formats are the iPod uses and the show “Lost”. In his on words:

I’m suddenly hooked on the TV show “Lost.” I purchased the show’s premiere episode via iTunes to test the iPod, and now my wife and I are several episodes in and there’s no turning back.

Scratches and scandals

Consumer Reports, after claiming 20% of Mac users have had virus in their systems, now says that the new iPods are indeed scratch-prone, and further claims that the screens are softer.

Here’s one writer who feels the pain that these plaintiffs are undergoing. He plans to sue Saab and Rayban for the scratches after he used it several times.

Seriously, Macsimumnews asks the question of whether the scratchable iPod nano screen is worth the trouble of a lawsuit. The core of the lawsuit I think is that the lawyers are claiming Apple deliberately ignore the design flaw in the nano that make it scratch-prone. But the writer, who is a nano owner, says the after weeks of owning it, he has not seen any evidence that the nano is ended a scratch magnet.

APC Mag uncovers the scandal or scam that’s going on in iTunes. It has something to do with some albums that may seem to be priced the same as other albums but when you look at the tracks, almost a third are actually just intros or commentatiries about the ablum or a song. Another scandal they have uncovered is that in case a person’s PC with his iTunes songs in it are stolen, Apple will not allow people to re-download the songs they have downloaded before. It has something to do with right issues, an Apple executive says, and besides, music labels won’t replace your collection if you get your CDs stolen. Good point. Oh, by the way, APC Mag is published by NineMSN. It figures.

Other iPod News

Sony’s quarterly profit drops by almost a half. This is due to cheaper Asian rivals, getting on late in puttting out flat-panel TVs, and being really behind Apple when it comes to digital music player sales.

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Filed under: Uncategorized

Apple News: iMac on MacWorld, SteveJack on FrontRow; Lemming on predictions; Hannibal asks why

The new iMac G5 serves as a digital entertainment hub, according to MacWorld, and it covers what’s new under the hood of the slimmer, new iMac. The latest iMacs sport faster processors, new internal components, two new softwares, a built-in iSight, and an infrared remote control to use with one of the new software.

After the introduction, MacWorld then benchmarks this new PC and reveals that even though the newer iMacs have a slower processor than its predecessor, it does better in most benchmarking tests thanks to newer components like a faster memory and better performing graphics.

MacWorld will publish a review on the new iMacs soon.

SteveJack of MacDailyNews tested Apple’s latest media software, FrontRow, for over a week and finds it as a deceptively simple application, and that’s where FrontRow’s strength lies: it’s simplicity. What are Apple’s plans for the future of the digital hub?

The Great Lemming tries to predict the future of Apple. Among his predictions are: a PDA-like iPod device; 19-inch ‘books, multi-card readers and iPod docks on Macs, and 45-inch Appe displays. Ummmm… I don’t think so.

Hannibal of Ars Technica asks why, with the new PowerPC chips available, did Apple ever made the switch to Intel? Hannibal thinks that it was impossibe for Apple not to have known the jaw dropping PowerPC chips from P.A. Semi (the developer of the chip). Ultimately, he surmises that Apple has decided that the Mac computers are no longer the foundation of Apple will build its future on.

Not-Apple news
Microsoft threatens South Korea that they will withdraw Windows if South Korea’s fair trade commission forces them to remove Window’s built-in instant messaging system and media player. Will the world see a significant jump in productivity in South Korea?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Get to know Steve Jobs

The Writers Block Live by, Mike Evangelist, will publish a book about what it was like to work for Steve Jobs and tries to shake off the myth of Jobs’ reality distortion field and other things that is suppose to make Steve Jobs Steve Jobs.

Read an excerpt of the book entitled Jobs I’ve Known at Writers Block Live. Just a snippet:

He is extremely demanding of all those around him and has a very low tolerance for anything but excellence. Because he can be shockingly blunt in his dealings with others, he is often portrayed as abusive, but this is dead wrong. He simply demands/expects great things from everyone around him. I honestly believe he can’t understand why anyone would want to waste their time doing anything less than great.

The Independent onine edition talks to Steve Jobs and asks him what drives him, how he chooses a washing machine, and what that he bought recently has gotten him excited. Very interesting read. Heck, I’ll just post it here.

Steve Jobs: The guru behind Apple
He’s chief executive of two of the most powerful technology brands in the world: Apple and Pixar. But what motivates Steve Jobs? And how does he choose a new washing machine? Charles Arthur investigates
Published: 29 October 2005

Imagine the scenario: a billionaire walks into a mobile phone shop. The sales assistant says, “Can I help you?” but gets the reply “Just looking, thank you.” The man tries a few phones, lifting his glasses to look at the detail of the display. He presses a couple of buttons. He shakes his head. He could buy any phone in the shop; in fact he could buy the shop, or even buy the chain. But he doesn’t. He walks out, empty-handed.

It sounds like an urban myth but it could be a day in the life of Steve Jobs, who is chief executive of two technology companies that are admired both inside and outside their respective industries: Apple (which makes the iPod and a range of computers) and Pixar (which made the films Toy Story and The Incredibles). Apple made him a multi-millionaire, Pixar made him a billionaire, and the two mean that at the age of 50 he has cemented a unique position as a force in computing, consumer electronics (through the iPod), the music business (the iPod again) and Hollywood.

And despite all that, he still can’t choose a mobile phone. (How nice to find you have something in common with such people.) His problem, he says, is that he can’t find things that satisfy him. “I end up not buying a lot of things,” he says, carefully, when I ask how he chooses what to buy from the myriad of gadgets and technologies in the shops. “Because I find them ridiculous.”

I’m in an anonymous underground room in Paris with Jobs and a large group of journalists, in a floor below a conference centre where people are flocking to a showcase of Apple products and services, a cacophony of promotional videos and software demonstrations with amplified voice accompaniment by eager geeks. But here, it’s quiet. Jobs is dressed in his trademark black turtleneck sweater and blue jeans, and trainers. The only gadgetry here is an iPod nano, the credit card-sized player he has just launched.

Despite his rock-star approach to unveiling new gizmos, Jobs has no great love of the media, which has from time to time exposed details about his private life that he would rather keep to himself. Thus he is a prickly interviewee, disliking personal questions, always aiming to turn the conversation back to his companies and their output. Though outwardly friendly, with an easy smile, in time he betrays his impatience through his hands and shoulders.

Suggest something he disagrees with – such as that there might be demand for an FM tuner in the iPod – and he’ll respond with the unprovable “People don’t want that.” Questions he deems foolish are themselves rebuffed with a brusque question, such as “Oh yeah? Who?”

A friend who once worked at Apple suggested to me that “Steve basically thinks of the press as insects.” Certainly, he is hard to engage at a personal level. And journalists are always at a disadvantage to Jobs, which may be just how he likes it. He has the insider knowledge of which way the technological river is flowing. When I questioned him, Apple had not launched its video-enabled iPod, nor begun selling videos from its online music store. But to me it seemed obvious that would happen, and soon. Isn’t it a logical next step, I asked?

“Whether people will buy a device just to watch video – it’s not clear,” Jobs replied easily. “So far the answer’s been no, because there are several devices out which play video and none of them has been successful yet. So, um – so far, nobody’s figured out the right formula.”

What’s missing from the other devices already on sale, then?

“Well, uh, if we knew then I probably shouldn’t talk about it,” Jobs beamed. Three weeks later, he did talk about it, holding aloft the video iPod he had known then was ready: “Never before has it been done where you can buy hit, network, prime-time shows online the day after they air on TV and watch them on your computer and iPod.” Whether it’s the right formula remains to be seen, of course.

So, looking forward, what does he see? For example, will TVs and computers merge? “Our personal belief is that while there’s an opportunity to apply software to the living room, the merging of the computer and the TV isn’t going to happen. They’re really different things. So yes, you want to share some information [between the two], but people who are planning to put computers into the living room, like they are today, I’m not sure they’re going to have a big success.” That’s a no, then.

He is disparaging about approaching development backwards. Home networking wirelessly whizzing music and video around the house? “I think in the future you’ll see some of that, but you’ve got to be sure it’s not a technology in search of a problem.” Wireless headphones for your iPod? “It means you not only have to recharge the iPod, you have to recharge the headphones, and people don’t want to do that – so again, I think it’s like so much f you see: a technology in search of a problem.”

But when he’s got a problem that needs some technology to solve it, he can be as painstaking as he is about his computer company’s output. He once described how he and his family chose a new washing machine. Not for them a cursory study of the spin speed and price tag; instead they discussed European versus American design, relative water use, detergent demands, everything. When I remind him of this, he smiles slowly, and says, “Yeah, but you have to have a washing machine, right?” It’s all the other things that frustrate him. So how does he choose things? “Same as you,” he says slowly. “We’re both busy and we both don’t have a lot of time to learn how to use a washing machine or to use a phone – you get one of the phones now and you’re never going to learn more than 5 per cent of the features.” He’s talking much faster now, accelerating in frustration. “You’re never going to use more than 5 per cent, and, uh, it’s very complicated. So you end up using just 5 per cent. It’s insane: we all have busy lives, we have jobs and we have interests and some of us have children, everyone’s lives are just getting busier, not less busy, in this busy society. You just don’t have time to learn this stuff, and everything’s getting more complicated.”

That frustration is characteristic of the man. Jobs, 50 last February, is notoriously finicky about the tiniest details of the products that Apple produces. (He gets less involved in Pixar’s output.) The iPod’s success largely derives from its ease of use, which derives from his insistence, when shown prototypes, that one should be able to pick any piece of music within three button presses from turning it on.

It’s remarkable that Jobs is still about. By rights, he should have disappeared decades ago, after being kicked out of Apple in 1985 and starting up another computer company that couldn’t make a profit, and buying an animation company that almost bled him dry (and which he tried to sell several times).

Yet NeXT Computer was bought by Apple, throwing him a lifeline which let him take charge again of his creation. And Pixar Animation, which Jobs co-founded in 1986, came up trumps with the first totally computer-generated feature film, Toy Story, giving him leverage over the all-powerful Disney and making him a billionaire in its stock-market floatation.

Still, Apple was just chugging along before the iPod relaunched it in October 2001. The ubiquitous small white machines now generate just under half of its $14bn revenues, and are still growing.

It sounds easy enough. But Jobs has rarely been offered, and rarely taken, the simple path. The son of a college student and a political science professor, he was adopted by a family led by a machinist at a laser manufacturer. Although his birth mother had made it a condition of his adoption that his new parents get him to attend university, he dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, after just six months. But then he became a “drop-in” back at Reed, attending only the courses, such as calligraphy, that interested him, while scratching an existence earning a few cents recycling cans and eating for free each week at the local Hare Krishna temple.

He got a job with the games company Atari, then left to travel in India. On his return, he worked for Hewlett-Packard before setting up Apple Computer in 1976 in the Jobs family garage with former school friend and computer hacker Steve Wozniak.

Apple grew and prospered, and so did Jobs; the Macintosh introduced the idea of “windows” and “mice” to the wider world. Microsoft adopted the idea and made it famous, continuing a long rivalry between Jobs and Bill Gates that stretches forwards and back in computing history. While Jobs obsessed over details, Microsoft steamrollered its way into companies and took over the world.

What’s peculiar is that Gates has frequently been wrong about the overall direction of technology. His 1995 book The Road Ahead is full of clunkers about how life would develop; Microsoft barely realised that the internet was coming along.

By contrast, you’d be unwise to bet against Jobs. In 1996, when NeXT Computer had already failed in its attempts to sell hardware (and so was having to concentrate on software), he gave a long interview to Wired magazine. In it he forecast that Microsoft wouldn’t find out a way to own the Web, that nobody would make money from web browsers, that the Web would be a huge hit for commerce (at a time when Amazon was barely six months old), and that the internet would revolutionise the supply of manufactured goods, by letting consumers specify fine detail of their desired product which could be relayed back to factories. Dell Computer, for example, works on precisely that basis. And Dell is by far the most profitable of the computer manufacturers. Jobs tends to be right about the direction of technology.

He has been wrong a few times, though. At NeXT, he thought people would pay a huge premium for an overdesigned cube-shaped computer (it had a laser-cut magnesium case; most manufacturers just used injection-moulded plastic). Only 50,000 were sold over eight years. At Apple, he thought people would pay a premium for a cube-shaped computer, the Cube; they didn’t. In the same year, 2000, he thought people would prefer to watch DVDs on their computers, rather than making their own music compilations by “burning” CDs. They didn’t. But he learnt from the latter mistake: Apple immediately bought in a music-playing program called SoundJam and its developer, Jeff Robbin. SoundJam became iTunes, the program that feeds the iPod, and Robbin leads its software side.

What has helped Jobs back from his errors is his ability with people. From a point of minimal leverage he has bettered both the Disney corporation and the record labels, two of the toughest (legal) negotiators on earth. Disney gave Pixar a favourable deal; the record companies licensed the iTunes Music Store, which has more than 75 per cent of the entire legal music download market.

Alan Deutschmann, a journalist who researched Jobs’s middle years for a biography called The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, believes he displays two personalities in his dealings with people: Good Steve and Bad Steve. The Good side is charming, and can make people believe almost anything; that’s the side on public view at the rock-star product launches. He’s been said to have a “reality distortion field” – by a mixture of charm and exaggeration, he can make you believe pretty much anything. But once he’s walked away, you’re sometimes left thinking “Huh?” Or as Bud Tribble, another of the early Macintosh employees, described it: “In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything.” But, he added, “It wears off when he’s not around.” (Tribble, too, still works at Apple.)

When the Good Steve system hasn’t worked, or isn’t needed, there’s Bad Steve. He can get furiously angry, an emotion reserved for private moments with staff or those he thinks have been disloyal or useless. And his relationship with the media has its ups and downs, too. While he loves hobnobbing with celebrities, he hates being treated like one, and Apple’s relationship with the press reflects that.

“Apple manipulates several narratives to continue to make its products interesting fodder for journalists,” comments Jack Shafer, editor-at-large of the webzine Slate. “One is the never-ending story of mad genius Steve Jobs, who would be great copy even if he were only the night manager of a Domino’s pizza joint.”

He probably wouldn’t stay night manager for long, if he were. Jobs is a fiendishly good negotiator, a skill honed in the 1970s, when he charmed every supplier in Silicon Valley into providing parts for the first Apple computers. It’s this ability that makes him valuable to Pixar, where Jobs isn’t so involved in the production side (that is handled by John Lasseter). Jobs’s role was to write the cheques (which nearly bankrupted him, until the company was floated) and barter with film studios. Which he did with accomplishment: Disney gave in to Pixar, and is presently trying to woo it back to a new distribution deal – a deal that Jobs is making Disney give up all sorts of favours for, like providing content in the form of TV shows for his Apple iTunes store. The giant Disney, kowtowing to the tiny Apple? A bizarre reversal.

Viewing his life, one feels that Jobs, a Buddhist, came into some serious karma in his previous existences. Not only is he a billionaire but last year he fought off pancreatic cancer, usually a quick and efficient killer. He had a scan and was told it was a tumour that would almost certainly be fatal. He was told to go home and “get his affairs in order” – “which is doctors’ code for ‘prepare to die’. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means … to say your goodbyes.”

That evening he had a biopsy: it turned out to be a rare form of pancreatic cancer that makes up just 1 per cent of cases and, crucially, is curable with surgery. Talk about your karma payoff. And yet with all that karma accumulated and dissipated, Jobs doesn’t believe that technology is going to change the world. “This stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t … Technologies can make it easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in a radical new light – that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”

So then finally, what is the last piece of technology that he acquired – not made by Apple – that really delighted him? He pauses for long seconds, looks down, puts his hands on his knees, looks away. “I actually bought a bicycle recently. It’s just … wonderful.”

And how did he choose it? What sort of bike? What’s so great about it?

He holds a hand up. “That’s as far into my private life as I want to go,” he says. And with that, Steve Jobs moves on again.

The Apple story

1976 Apple Computer founded with Steve Wozniak in Jobs’s parents’ garage. Apple I computer introduced.

1977 Apple II computer launched, the first mass-market personal computer with colour graphics. (IBM’s monochrome PC was still four years away.)

1983 The Lisa computer, the forerunner to the Macintosh, launched. It uses “windows” and a “mouse”.

1984 The Apple Macintosh, the first general-purpose computer to use windows and mouse, launched.

1985 Jobs fired from Apple. He founds NeXT Computer.

1986 Jobs co-founds Pixar Animation around the remnants of George Lucas’s computer graphics division, which he buys for $10m.

1989 The NeXT Computer – an expensive black cube – introduced.

1993 NeXT ceases making computers, having sold just 50,000 in four years, and concentrates on selling its software.

1995 Pixar releases Toy Story, the first feature-length film that is completely computer-generated.

1996 Deep in financial trouble, Apple Computer, led by Gil Amelio, buys NeXT for $402m, bringing Jobs back into the fold. He insists he is not trying to take over the company.

1997 Jobs replaces Amelio as “interim chief executive”.

1997 Apple introduces its first iMac.

2001 Apple introduces the first iPod. It is a slow-burning hit. In the first year it sells about 400,000. To date more than 21 million have been sold.

2005 Jobs unveils the tiny iPod nano and a new iPod capable of playing video.

Imagine the scenario: a billionaire walks into a mobile phone shop. The sales assistant says, “Can I help you?” but gets the reply “Just looking, thank you.” The man tries a few phones, lifting his glasses to look at the detail of the display. He presses a couple of buttons. He shakes his head. He could buy any phone in the shop; in fact he could buy the shop, or even buy the chain. But he doesn’t. He walks out, empty-handed.

It sounds like an urban myth but it could be a day in the life of Steve Jobs, who is chief executive of two technology companies that are admired both inside and outside their respective industries: Apple (which makes the iPod and a range of computers) and Pixar (which made the films Toy Story and The Incredibles). Apple made him a multi-millionaire, Pixar made him a billionaire, and the two mean that at the age of 50 he has cemented a unique position as a force in computing, consumer electronics (through the iPod), the music business (the iPod again) and Hollywood.

And despite all that, he still can’t choose a mobile phone. (How nice to find you have something in common with such people.) His problem, he says, is that he can’t find things that satisfy him. “I end up not buying a lot of things,” he says, carefully, when I ask how he chooses what to buy from the myriad of gadgets and technologies in the shops. “Because I find them ridiculous.”

I’m in an anonymous underground room in Paris with Jobs and a large group of journalists, in a floor below a conference centre where people are flocking to a showcase of Apple products and services, a cacophony of promotional videos and software demonstrations with amplified voice accompaniment by eager geeks. But here, it’s quiet. Jobs is dressed in his trademark black turtleneck sweater and blue jeans, and trainers. The only gadgetry here is an iPod nano, the credit card-sized player he has just launched.

Despite his rock-star approach to unveiling new gizmos, Jobs has no great love of the media, which has from time to time exposed details about his private life that he would rather keep to himself. Thus he is a prickly interviewee, disliking personal questions, always aiming to turn the conversation back to his companies and their output. Though outwardly friendly, with an easy smile, in time he betrays his impatience through his hands and shoulders.

Suggest something he disagrees with – such as that there might be demand for an FM tuner in the iPod – and he’ll respond with the unprovable “People don’t want that.” Questions he deems foolish are themselves rebuffed with a brusque question, such as “Oh yeah? Who?”

A friend who once worked at Apple suggested to me that “Steve basically thinks of the press as insects.” Certainly, he is hard to engage at a personal level. And journalists are always at a disadvantage to Jobs, which may be just how he likes it. He has the insider knowledge of which way the technological river is flowing. When I questioned him, Apple had not launched its video-enabled iPod, nor begun selling videos from its online music store. But to me it seemed obvious that would happen, and soon. Isn’t it a logical next step, I asked?

“Whether people will buy a device just to watch video – it’s not clear,” Jobs replied easily. “So far the answer’s been no, because there are several devices out which play video and none of them has been successful yet. So, um – so far, nobody’s figured out the right formula.”

What’s missing from the other devices already on sale, then?

“Well, uh, if we knew then I probably shouldn’t talk about it,” Jobs beamed. Three weeks later, he did talk about it, holding aloft the video iPod he had known then was ready: “Never before has it been done where you can buy hit, network, prime-time shows online the day after they air on TV and watch them on your computer and iPod.” Whether it’s the right formula remains to be seen, of course.

So, looking forward, what does he see? For example, will TVs and computers merge? “Our personal belief is that while there’s an opportunity to apply software to the living room, the merging of the computer and the TV isn’t going to happen. They’re really different things. So yes, you want to share some information [between the two], but people who are planning to put computers into the living room, like they are today, I’m not sure they’re going to have a big success.” That’s a no, then.

He is disparaging about approaching development backwards. Home networking wirelessly whizzing music and video around the house? “I think in the future you’ll see some of that, but you’ve got to be sure it’s not a technology in search of a problem.” Wireless headphones for your iPod? “It means you not only have to recharge the iPod, you have to recharge the headphones, and people don’t want to do that – so again, I think it’s like so much f you see: a technology in search of a problem.”

But when he’s got a problem that needs some technology to solve it, he can be as painstaking as he is about his computer company’s output. He once described how he and his family chose a new washing machine. Not for them a cursory study of the spin speed and price tag; instead they discussed European versus American design, relative water use, detergent demands, everything. When I remind him of this, he smiles slowly, and says, “Yeah, but you have to have a washing machine, right?” It’s all the other things that frustrate him. So how does he choose things? “Same as you,” he says slowly. “We’re both busy and we both don’t have a lot of time to learn how to use a washing machine or to use a phone – you get one of the phones now and you’re never going to learn more than 5 per cent of the features.” He’s talking much faster now, accelerating in frustration. “You’re never going to use more than 5 per cent, and, uh, it’s very complicated. So you end up using just 5 per cent. It’s insane: we all have busy lives, we have jobs and we have interests and some of us have children, everyone’s lives are just getting busier, not less busy, in this busy society. You just don’t have time to learn this stuff, and everything’s getting more complicated.”

That frustration is characteristic of the man. Jobs, 50 last February, is notoriously finicky about the tiniest details of the products that Apple produces. (He gets less involved in Pixar’s output.) The iPod’s success largely derives from its ease of use, which derives from his insistence, when shown prototypes, that one should be able to pick any piece of music within three button presses from turning it on.

It’s remarkable that Jobs is still about. By rights, he should have disappeared decades ago, after being kicked out of Apple in 1985 and starting up another computer company that couldn’t make a profit, and buying an animation company that almost bled him dry (and which he tried to sell several times).

Yet NeXT Computer was bought by Apple, throwing him a lifeline which let him take charge again of his creation. And Pixar Animation, which Jobs co-founded in 1986, came up trumps with the first totally computer-generated feature film, Toy Story, giving him leverage over the all-powerful Disney and making him a billionaire in its stock-market floatation.

Still, Apple was just chugging along before the iPod relaunched it in October 2001. The ubiquitous small white machines now generate just under half of its $14bn revenues, and are still growing.

It sounds easy enough. But Jobs has rarely been offered, and rarely taken, the simple path. The son of a college student and a political science professor, he was adopted by a family led by a machinist at a laser manufacturer. Although his birth mother had made it a condition of his adoption that his new parents get him to attend university, he dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, after just six months. But then he became a “drop-in” back at Reed, attending only the courses, such as calligraphy, that interested him, while scratching an existence earning a few cents recycling cans and eating for free each week at the local Hare Krishna temple.

He got a job with the games company Atari, then left to travel in India. On his return, he worked for Hewlett-Packard before setting up Apple Computer in 1976 in the Jobs family garage with former school friend and computer hacker Steve Wozniak.

Apple grew and prospered, and so did Jobs; the Macintosh introduced the idea of “windows” and “mice” to the wider world. Microsoft adopted the idea and made it famous, continuing a long rivalry between Jobs and Bill Gates that stretches forwards and back in computing history. While Jobs obsessed over details, Microsoft steamrollered its way into companies and took over the world.

What’s peculiar is that Gates has frequently been wrong about the overall direction of technology. His 1995 book The Road Ahead is full of clunkers about how life would develop; Microsoft barely realised that the internet was coming along.

By contrast, you’d be unwise to bet against Jobs. In 1996, when NeXT Computer had already failed in its attempts to sell hardware (and so was having to concentrate on software), he gave a long interview to Wired magazine. In it he forecast that Microsoft wouldn’t find out a way to own the Web, that nobody would make money from web browsers, that the Web would be a huge hit for commerce (at a time when Amazon was barely six months old), and that the internet would revolutionise the supply of manufactured goods, by letting consumers specify fine detail of their desired product which could be relayed back to factories. Dell Computer, for example, works on precisely that basis. And Dell is by far the most profitable of the computer manufacturers. Jobs tends to be right about the direction of technology.

He has been wrong a few times, though. At NeXT, he thought people would pay a huge premium for an overdesigned cube-shaped computer (it had a laser-cut magnesium case; most manufacturers just used injection-moulded plastic). Only 50,000 were sold over eight years. At Apple, he thought people would pay a premium for a cube-shaped computer, the Cube; they didn’t. In the same year, 2000, he thought people would prefer to watch DVDs on their computers, rather than making their own music compilations by “burning” CDs. They didn’t. But he learnt from the latter mistake: Apple immediately bought in a music-playing program called SoundJam and its developer, Jeff Robbin. SoundJam became iTunes, the program that feeds the iPod, and Robbin leads its software side.

What has helped Jobs back from his errors is his ability with people. From a point of minimal leverage he has bettered both the Disney corporation and the record labels, two of the toughest (legal) negotiators on earth. Disney gave Pixar a favourable deal; the record companies licensed the iTunes Music Store, which has more than 75 per cent of the entire legal music download market.

Alan Deutschmann, a journalist who researched Jobs’s middle years for a biography called The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, believes he displays two personalities in his dealings with people: Good Steve and Bad Steve. The Good side is charming, and can make people believe almost anything; that’s the side on public view at the rock-star product launches. He’s been said to have a “reality distortion field” – by a mixture of charm and exaggeration, he can make you believe pretty much anything. But once he’s walked away, you’re sometimes left thinking “Huh?” Or as Bud Tribble, another of the early Macintosh employees, described it: “In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything.” But, he added, “It wears off when he’s not around.” (Tribble, too, still works at Apple.)

When the Good Steve system hasn’t worked, or isn’t needed, there’s Bad Steve. He can get furiously angry, an emotion reserved for private moments with staff or those he thinks have been disloyal or useless. And his relationship with the media has its ups and downs, too. While he loves hobnobbing with celebrities, he hates being treated like one, and Apple’s relationship with the press reflects that.

“Apple manipulates several narratives to continue to make its products interesting fodder for journalists,” comments Jack Shafer, editor-at-large of the webzine Slate. “One is the never-ending story of mad genius Steve Jobs, who would be great copy even if he were only the night manager of a Domino’s pizza joint.”

He probably wouldn’t stay night manager for long, if he were. Jobs is a fiendishly good negotiator, a skill honed in the 1970s, when he charmed every supplier in Silicon Valley into providing parts for the first Apple computers. It’s this ability that makes him valuable to Pixar, where Jobs isn’t so involved in the production side (that is handled by John Lasseter). Jobs’s role was to write the cheques (which nearly bankrupted him, until the company was floated) and barter with film studios. Which he did with accomplishment: Disney gave in to Pixar, and is presently trying to woo it back to a new distribution deal – a deal that Jobs is making Disney give up all sorts of favours for, like providing content in the form of TV shows for his Apple iTunes store. The giant Disney, kowtowing to the tiny Apple? A bizarre reversal.

Viewing his life, one feels that Jobs, a Buddhist, came into some serious karma in his previous existences. Not only is he a billionaire but last year he fought off pancreatic cancer, usually a quick and efficient killer. He had a scan and was told it was a tumour that would almost certainly be fatal. He was told to go home and “get his affairs in order” – “which is doctors’ code for ‘prepare to die’. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means … to say your goodbyes.”

That evening he had a biopsy: it turned out to be a rare form of pancreatic cancer that makes up just 1 per cent of cases and, crucially, is curable with surgery. Talk about your karma payoff. And yet with all that karma accumulated and dissipated, Jobs doesn’t believe that technology is going to change the world. “This stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t … Technologies can make it easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in a radical new light – that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”

So then finally, what is the last piece of technology that he acquired – not made by Apple – that really delighted him? He pauses for long seconds, looks down, puts his hands on his knees, looks away. “I actually bought a bicycle recently. It’s just … wonderful.”

And how did he choose it? What sort of bike? What’s so great about it?

He holds a hand up. “That’s as far into my private life as I want to go,” he says. And with that, Steve Jobs moves on again.

The Apple story

1976 Apple Computer founded with Steve Wozniak in Jobs’s parents’ garage. Apple I computer introduced.

1977 Apple II computer launched, the first mass-market personal computer with colour graphics. (IBM’s monochrome PC was still four years away.)

1983 The Lisa computer, the forerunner to the Macintosh, launched. It uses “windows” and a “mouse”.

1984 The Apple Macintosh, the first general-purpose computer to use windows and mouse, launched.

1985 Jobs fired from Apple. He founds NeXT Computer.

1986 Jobs co-founds Pixar Animation around the remnants of George Lucas’s computer graphics division, which he buys for $10m.

1989 The NeXT Computer – an expensive black cube – introduced.

1993 NeXT ceases making computers, having sold just 50,000 in four years, and concentrates on selling its software.

1995 Pixar releases Toy Story, the first feature-length film that is completely computer-generated.

1996 Deep in financial trouble, Apple Computer, led by Gil Amelio, buys NeXT for $402m, bringing Jobs back into the fold. He insists he is not trying to take over the company.

1997 Jobs replaces Amelio as “interim chief executive”.

1997 Apple introduces its first iMac.

2001 Apple introduces the first iPod. It is a slow-burning hit. In the first year it sells about 400,000. To date more than 21 million have been sold.

2005 Jobs unveils the tiny iPod nano and a new iPod capable of playing video.

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Cartoon for your iPod

Channel Frederator will send you a new cartoon for your iPod every week. The people behind Channel Frederator the same guys that made Fairly Oddparents, the only cartoon I enjoy watching these days.

So check them out. Perhaps I might just get the 60GB iPod with all these audio and video podcasts, and cartoons, not to mention my music. I got to ask how much the 60GB cost from Microwarehouse.

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Hacks

Get your Mac mini (or any other Macs for that matter) to run Front Row.

Learn how to encode video for the 5G iPod without Quicktime Pro.

Update: November 1, 2005
An open source application, Handbrake, let’s you convert DVD content to MPEG4 so it can play on your 5G iPod.

November 4, 2005
Another application, MoviesForMyPod, claims to make putting movies into your iPod easier.

November 21, 2005
Another tutorial for Handbrake entitled “Rip DVD’s for your iPod Video [sic]” is now available. I’ve tried Handbrake before and it’s pretty straightforward. All you have to remember are the settings that’s best for the 5G iPod.

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All about the Apple

Apple spends 200 million on iPod ads. Apple scores more with talent and innovation. Apple still continues to dominate with the iPod+iTunes seamless integration.

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A tribute to Rosa Parks

Apple dedicates a webage to Rosa Parks, a black woman who lived during the era of racial segregation in the United States. Her defiance sparked the change in the country where only Caucasians were recognized as human beings. I wish for someone like Rosa Parks in a country where racism is an accepted norm, even if you are a racist against your own race.

Rosa Louise Parks, 1913-2005

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They invent. They imagine. They heal.
They explore. They create. They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, We see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

– Apple Computer

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Just stuff…

News is all around that the iPod nano scratches easily and it was just a matter of time before the sharks smell the blood. A lawsuit has already been filed buy one disgruntled nano owner after scratching his nano with a piece of tissue paper. But one writer thinks that the lawsuit will only benefit the attorneys.

An analyst warns that consumer electronics companies should fear Apple with its gently prodding of the masses towards the Mac platform. But Apple users also have something to fear. Because Apple is a closed system with its Mac OS and iPod digital music player, a time may come that Microsoft or Sony will gain the upper hand and wrest from the iPod and iTMS’ dominance in the market. What will happen is millions of iPod owners left out in the cold.

While Apple is sneaking up unawares, a judge scolded Microsoft for proposing to make an exclusive Microsoft-music player.

Where is the iPod-killer? It’s been about a year since Apple’s competitors have been trumpting around for the “iPod-killer” and yet nothing has happened yet. If you want to get a glimpse of the *snicker* iPod-killer and a couple of laughs, click here.

Paul Thurrott calls the iPod as “the new standard by which all are measured“, and highly recommends it. A Chicago Tribune writer in the meantime calls the iPod 5G as a showstopper, and what separates the 5G iPod from other video capable players is the ease of downloading video for the player.

A writer asks, “Why do you own a Mac?”, and he says his justification for switching was because of a Mac was the best solution for integration with his newly bought digital camera.

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Macs, the other meat.

Let’s get right to it.

David Pogue thinks that the new iMac earns a place in the living room citing the style and the new entertainment capabilities of the new iMac as enticing enough to put it in the public area of your house for your visitors to gawk at.

A writer dumps his Dell and gets for himself an iMac. But he feels left out by not being able to use Ad-Aware (wtf???) and Google Maps. Still, the trade off was worth it with a computer that was a joy to use.

Mac sales are said to be increasing 45% every year. So the question is, can the resurgence of the Mac last?

A writer thinks that enable for Apple to win the OS coup, it should license out their Mac OS license. But some Mac users disagree. It’s not just about the OS, but the user experience as well. If every Tom, Dick, and Harry started putting Tiger in every biege or blue or black boxes out there, then the Apple mystique goes away. But, hey, it’s just me. I’m the same guy that takes photos of boxes.

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More cheers and jeers, plus reviews and news

Let’s take a look at all the things that has been said about the 5G iPod for the past week.

Boos and yahoos!
Apple will always have its share of supporters and naysayers. One example of the latter is the Great Lemming, saying that though a lot were excited with the release of the new iPod, more people were not.

But from one disenchanted lemming, there were more praises for the new 5G iPod. David Pogue of the New York Times calls it “an iPod worth keeping an eye on.” He talks about the iPod and the most recent innovation of getting TV programs online to stuff your iPod with. The ‘video iPod’ is an ongoing experiment that is very much like the first iPod and iTunes, which in time would grow into something bigger than what it is today. Or maybe not.

David Colker of the LA Times says that with the short time he had with the new iPod, he got hooked on “Desperate Housewives.” After watching for several minutes, the screen and the new toy disappeared. All he’s experiencing is watching a TV show.

The Motley Fool thinks that the video-enabled iPod will save the TV industry pretty much what the first iPods did for the music industry. Even though there’s just three companies that are providing content, evetually more will come. (Build it…)

Reviews
It wasn’t before long that reviews will start cropping up. So far those who have come out with reviews are:iLounge, Ars Technica, and Playlist.com. It was only given a B+ by iLounge for current iPod owners and power users. They feel that the new iPod doesn’t bring in anything new or worthy, that existing iPod owners should run out and get one. But they do give a “A-” rating for first time iPod buyers.

Ars Technica gives it an 8 out of 10, echoing the same sentiment as iLounge had that Clint Ecker didn’t feel the need to go out and get a 30GB video enabled iPod in exchange for his current 40GB iPod. However, just like iLounge, first time buyers are getting a good buy with this one. They aso have posted the Top Ten Things Techies Wanted to Know About the 5G iPod.

Last but not the least, Playlistmag.com gives it a 4 out of 5, and cites cons such as no Firewire support, no included charger, makes some older peripherals obsolete, and Apple doesn’t offer great solution for converting videos for the new iPod. But for those who only have USB 2.0 (which is most people) the 5G iPod is a compelling buy with its sleek design and its ease of use.

And more reviews…
Here’s one for the Apple box fetish. Some guy named Matt got a 60GB 5G iPod on his borthday and took pictures while he opened the box and as he fondled his black 60GB 5G iPod. He also posted his first impressions.

CBS News echoes the same sentiment: if you got one already, you’re not likely to rush out to get one. But for a first timer, it’s a sweet, sweet experience. And with the new iPod, Apple will continue to dominate the digital media market.

USA Today columnist Edward Baig remarks that “even if you never watch a second of video… the world’s foremost portable music players have gotten only better.

Connected Home Magazine calls the latest iPod new standard by which all portable media players are measured.

Not really a review, but BusinessWeek takes a look at
the innards
of the 5G iPod and see what makes it tick.

PC Magazine gives a rating of 5 out of 5 stars and reminds eveyone:

“Don’t call it the Video iPod, the vPod, or anything that indicates that this is a video player. It’s the new iPod, period.”

Capeesh?

PC Magazine also thinks that Jobs may just have saved the portable media industry.

Unfortunately, David “Contrary” Coursey doesn’t think too highly of the new iPod. No capeesh, yes?

Just News
Could rising iPodPod sales grows, this could eat up at the sales hurt Apple?, asks a writer for Reuters. Some analysts think that as i revenue from other products from Apple, like for instance, the Macs? You do still remember the Macs, right? At present, iPod sales make up 1/3 of the total sales, and since Apple is forced to lower the prices on iPods as components for each becomes cheaper, their profits will slowly decline. But why drop prices? This is to keep the competition at bay.

Stanford puts its content on iTMS.

‘Nuff sed.

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