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Apple's iPod Does it Right

NMC/Radio and Records eChart main column as published in the 11/16/01 issue of R&R Leave it to Apple to wait until the market has settled, take what works and reject what doesn't, then add a twist to the portable MP3 player. In their new Apple iPod, they've done that and more. Like charge through the nose for excellence.

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Let's take a look at what you really want from a digital audio player: speed, capacity, ease of use, portability and quality of sound. Oh, and "cool factor." You can assume that if it's Apple, then its cool factor is a given, and in addition, all of the other criteria are simply spectacular.

The iPod uses an ultra-fast FireWire connector to transfer data between your Macintosh and your iPod: you can transfer a CD's worth of data in about 10 seconds. I say data because it's capable of storing anything on the built-in 5 gigabyte hard drive. This might make you think that if data can be stored, it would make a great 5 gig backup drive. And it does.

But Apple was smart about the way it allows access to files on the iPod: if they are Word docs or spreadsheets or PDF files, then you can use the iPod to transfer those files between machines. But if the files are MP3, WAV or AIFF files (the formats that the iPod plays), you can't deposit them on another machine after writing them to the iPod. If you could, that would make the iPod one of those nasty "serial recording devices," and would put them afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Apple's way too smart to fall into that trap, but they've gone one step further to let you transfer any other type of file. Even smarter.

The iPod is about the size and weight of a deck of cards, its controls are Mac-simple, and you'll even find an Easter Egg of a BreakOut game on the display. The MP3 files are written at 192 kbps, a much higher quality than the web standard 128 kbps, and even at that rate, you can store 1000 songs on the iPod. There are devices that hold 4 times as much for about the same money, but they don't work nearly as flawlessly as the iPod.

And if all this makes you drool, and you don't own a Mac with a FireWire port (or don't own Macintosh at all), then keep drooling. There are no plans to make the iPod available for Windows or a non-MacOS-X-based UNIX operating system. At

Which means I will be more than willing to write any of you a permission slip you can bring home to your SO if you need to go out and buy a Titanium PowerBook.



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