Apple iPod touch upgrade fee

From today’s WWDC keynote, Apple referred again to the fee that will be charged to iPod touch users for features iPhone users receive for free, which reminds me of the post I wrote up in January a year ago about the same issue with the Apple TV. If you’re curious about why this practice is followed, please go here for the relevant background.

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Quiet car artillery

Twittered by NPR‘s Scott Simon this morning, via the trendy iPhone/iPod touch app Birdhouse:

I am very surprised how many people refer to the Quiet Car on Twitter. Google Reader tells me the most activity is between 3 and 7 pm, corresponding (I assume) to people’s end of day train ride home, which makes sense. Friday and Saturday are the two most active days of the week for this topic, suggesting that people value their quiet at the end of a work week. In other news, dog bites man.

Prior coverage here.

Type display on Windows

Yesterday, the Safari 4 beta died on my work PC, taking with it a slew of tabs with no mechanism to restore them. I am so accustomed to Firefox and Chrome saving my sessions that I really take that for granted, but it is so awful that I resumed using Chrome as my default browser on my PC. (At home, I move back and forth between Firefox and Camino.)

No sooner did I fire up Chrome than I was reminded how awful the type display on Windows is. Look at the three samples below:

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Type rendered in Chrome using XP and no ClearType
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The same thing, with ClearType enabled
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And finally, the same text from Safari 4 in Windows.

Seriously, it is 2009 – how is it possible that Apple can manage to display type on a Windows machine more attractively than the native rendering routines? Wikipedia says ClearType is now 10 years old – yet type looks better on my iPod touch than it does on my PC, for crying out loud!

Even more amazing, when Apple first released Safari for Windows, was the outcry by so many users that Apple made the type look blurry, which is (I assume) the reason Safari 4 brags about native rendering as the default.

In my book, this is further proof that the Windoze world does not deserve a satisfying, aesthetically coherent computing experience. Thank heavens I can go home and return to my Mac at the end of the day.

Notes on today’s iPod announcements

Apple‘s CEO Steve Jobs just announced that the new, 4G iPod nano as well as the new iPod touch will both have the ability to display (while playing a track) other tracks on the currently playing album, other tracks by the current artist, or to make a “Genius playlist.” This functionality sounds useful, and while I realize many, many people have thought about similar things, it does remind me of my post from June of last year, where I suggested building functionality akin to TiVo‘s swivel search feature into the iPod.

What I wonder about, given the above, is how the data necessary to generate a “Genius” playlist are stored on your iPod. I guess Apple plans to generate IDs for every track, and then using their whizbang mathematicians, build a matrix relating all of the IDs to one another, and that makes perfect sense to me on the desktop, but it seems like a lot of data to carry over to the iPod itself. Once this is in the wild, I really hope some clever person rummages around on their iPod and opens up the file that stores all of that information.

WWDC raises iPod touch accounting issue

From today’s WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs just referred again to the fee that will be charged to iPod touch users for features iPhone users receive for free, which reminds me of the post I wrote up in January about the same issue with the Apple TV. If you’re curious about why this practice is followed, please go here for the relevant background.

Time machine

I often write here about the associations I have with certain pieces of music. As much as I love all sorts of music for its own sake, there are dozens hundreds thousands of songs that lodge in my memory not just for their melodies or lyrics or instrumentation, but also for the simple fact that they spark particular memories. Like a faint hint of perfume, a few notes of music is often enough to conjure up astonishingly vivid memories – some good, some bad.

For almost a year, a lack of free hard drive space brought to a halt my efforts to rip our CD collection. Christmas fixed that, so I have been trying to rip a few CDs a week since then. Old CDs and shuffle play on an iPod make for all sorts of unexpected combinations of music, much of which has gone neglected for far too long since I never listen to CDs anymore. (They’re just so nineties.)

Cover of U2’s 1992 Achtung BabyOne band that I’ve been very remiss in ripping is U2, but this week I am fixing that. I started with Achtung Baby. Although it was released in November 1991, its universal popularity across my college campus really fixes it in my mind in spring 1992, when everyone’s windows were open, and I would marvel at being able to walk from Funston to Park Place and never be out of earshot of someone playing this album. I even had a joke in my column in the paper suggesting that we all start the album at prescribed times to synchronize the listening experience across the campus.

Spring 1992 was the end of my Junior year of college, and while it had its share of accomplishments and satisfactions, it was also a time of frustration and transition. I went through my last awful round of adolescent betrayals that year, and like any adolescent rite of passage, I took them hard. So the dozen tracks on Achtung Baby serve as a bit of a touchstone for me. I have never been a hard core U2 fan, although my first album on casette was U2’s War from Bert’s Tape Factory. Instead, it was the record’s simple ubiquity that spring that wove it into my memories of a time when some important bonds dissolved and I shed some final youthful illusions. Trite stuff, to be sure, but nonetheless powerful as well.

With this background in mind, I have to say I had not been prepared for the impact of having my iPod randomly serve up songs like “So Cruel” and “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.” Thoughts of long moonlit rambles and sullen sessions with the Bishop have come flooding back to me, reminding me how indelibly some episodes stamp themselves on one’s memory. They also remind me how glad I am to be grown up and, for the most part, beyond that kind of roller coaster. There’s plenty to worry about in my life these days, but there’s also so much more to anchor it, and the contrast between then and now is quite something to behold. And all of this triggered by 17 year old pop rock music. We find our Muses where they find us, I suppose.

On the flip side of the music coin, spring 1992 was when I was introduced to Joni Mitchell’s 1971 gem Blue for the first time, as well as to David Wilcox‘s beautiful songwriting. I still cannot hear Mitchell’s “Carey” without thinking of piling into my friend Jason’s slightly ratty ol’ Jetta and storming around the Connecticut countryside when both of us had more than enough things we should have been doing. Looking back, there’s no doubt in my mind we made the right decision then. Homework fades, but real friendship endures.

iPod touch/Apple TV upgrade fees and accounting

In today’s Macworld keynote address, Steve Jobs indicated that the new features that were being offered to iPod touch users would cost $20 as an upgrade, whereas the new Apple TV features were being offered free. Now I own neither of these gizmos, but if I did, I’d be very excited about the free upgrade to one and I’d be annoyed about the fee for the other. So why is this?

A year ago, when Apple enabled 802.11n functionality in its Macintosh computers that had been sold as 802.11g machines, Apple charged $1.99 for the ‘enabler.’ The explanation at the time was that this was to satisfy some accounting rules under GAAP. One article covering the issue is Cnet’s Apple’s 802.11n accounting conundrum. From that article, we learn:

…because the company has already recognized all the revenue from the sales of those computers, it has to now charge customers at least a nominal fee in order to establish the value of its software upgrade and satisfy an obscure accounting regulation known as SOP 97-2, said Fox.

More recently, Cnet has discussed Apple’s accounting as it relates to the Apple TV and the iPhone in the article Accounting for iPhone, Apple TV’s future. The idea there is that Apple will sell those using a subscription model to account for the associated revenue, enabling them to roll out upgrades for free with no need for fees like the 802.11n enablers.

I can only conclude from this that the iPod touch is not handled via subscription modeling, making a fee necessary. That much makes sense to me, but why Apple feels compelled to charge $20 for something that they could have just as easily charged $1.99 puzzles me. From the short-term, obviously they want the revenue of the higher fee. From a longer term point of view, high fees remind Apple’s potential customers that early adopters are not appreciated at Apple. If you create in your customers the doubt that you will treat them fairly, at the very least you postpone sales and possibly you lose some of them altogether.

[For some older thoughts of the whole ridiculous kerfluffle and whining associated with Apple’s early iPhone price reduction, see here.]

Update: via this post on TUAW, I see that DF’s Gruber speculated about this in October.