Well, we kept waiting for the punch line, but it never came: Apple's new device that's had us all speculating 'til our brains turned into warm JELL-O is the iPod: a portable digital audio player. It plays music. That's uh, about it. Let the class action lawsuit against Apple for misusing the term "groundbreaking" commence, because unless the thing also makes espresso, walks the family dog, and houses a phaser than can be set to "stun" or "kill," YADAP ("Yet Another Digital Audio Player") does not break any ground. At best, it dents it a little.
That said, however, based on what we've heard so far (thanks largely to MacMinute's excellent real-time updates), the iPod is indeed one mother of a ground-denting product. This thing boasts a backlit LCD display, a scroll wheel for easy playlist navigation, and a blazingly-fast FireWire interface. Why FireWire, you ask? Because the iPod also packs a 5 GB hard drive, which would take ages to fill up via standard USB; suddenly 400 Mbit/sec vs. 12 Mbit/sec makes a whole lot of sense, because the iPod allegedly lets you "transfer a whole CD in less than 10 seconds." In addition to that 5 GB of storage, the iPod also packs a 10-hour lithium-polymer battery pack which fully charges in just one hour-- via FireWire-- and the entire device is reportedly only the size of a deck of cards. In other words, this could be one seriously kickin' YADAP.
But wait, there's more: Apple has also taken this opportunity to announce iTunes 2, whose biggest new feature is-- of course-- a ridiculous level of integration with the iPod. Get this; apparently whenever you plug your iPod into your Mac, iTunes 2 will launch and automatically synchronize all your playlists via FireWire. In that sense, the iPod really does become a seamless portable extension of iTunes. Pretty spiffy, right? (Oh, and if you're not impressed with the whole iPod spiel, iTunes 2 also finally adds automatic crossfading and that equalizer you've been begging for since January.)
So there it is; all that's left to do is watch the commercial, scope out the promo video, and place your preorder. If you're just dying to get your hands on an iPod of your very own, you'll have to sweat it out for a little while longer: these things won't be available for about another three weeks. Still, it's probably a good thing, because you'll need the time between now and November 11th (otherwise known as "International iPod Day") to raise the $399 you'll have to drop to get one. If that sounds a little pricey, do some comparison shopping. Examine price and features and you'll find that this is classic Apple: yes, it's expensive, but you get more than you pay for.
So will the AtAT staff be biting? Probably. Our only portable MP3 player is the MiniJam SpringBoard module for Jack's Visor, and considering that it 1) currently has a 64 MB storage capacity, 2) isn't recognized by iTunes, and 3) requires a whopping fifty minutes to fill its single measly memory card (yes, fifty minutes-- as in, five times longer than it would take to fill an entire iPod), you can see why we'd consider the iPod a pretty nifty trade-up. It may not be groundbreaking, but sometimes it's enough to make a bunch of dents in the dirt instead.
Oh, did we forget to mention that you can also use the iPod as a standard store-anything 5 GB portable FireWire hard disk?...