iPodlet redux

I wrote before that we’d see interesting things come of these matchbox-sized hard drives, now that they’ve got pretty serious storage capacity. And now we have. Apple doesn’t call it the iPodlet, though.

At the risk of sounding churlish, I’m a bit disappointed in how big it is. It’s the size of a business card. OK, that’s churlish. But I really thought they could get a microdrive-based iPod down to about half that size.

Later: There’s been a shitload of virtual ink spilled over this thing. My thoughts:

The iPod mini is probably using the Hitachi 4 GB Microdrive. Hitachi also makes 1 GB and 2 GB units. I am guessing that after Apple fleeces the early adopters, they’ll contemplate bringing out downmarket versions for a little less. Either that or the Microdrive capacities will ratchet up, and the 4 GB model will itself become the downmarket version. People condemn the mini for its capacity, but seem to forget that the original iPod had only 5 GB capacity.

People bitch about the price. Considering that a bare 4 GB Microdrive retails for about $500, I think it’s a steal.

People bitch about the capacity. I suppose that if I wanted to use my iPod as my primary storage for MP3s, I would too. But that’s what my desktop computer’s hard drive is for–I wouldn’t need to have all my music on my iPod, and Apple has done a lot of work to make it easy to move MP3s between the computer and iPod, to generate random playlists, and generally to keep the iPod full of whatever music you want. There are two limiting factors on how much music you can play on any portable player: the memory capacity (coupled with your tolerance for listening to the same thing repeatedly, I suppose) and the battery capacity. It’s a happy non-coincidence that the same device you use to charge the iPod is what you use to transfer music to it. Having 100 hours of music on a portable player is redundant if you’ve got 8 hours of playtime with the battery. I might want more than 8 hours of music so that I don’t need to pre-select exactly what I will want to hear, but I don’t think I’d need 12.5x more to satisfy my desire for variety. I get about 48 hours of music into 4 GB–or 36 hours plus my entire home directory, and I rip my music at a higher bitrate than the iTunes default. music time: battery time ratio of at least 3:1 and as much as 5:1 sounds about right.

People suggest that it’s foolish to buy a 4 GB unit when one can buy a 15 GB unit that’s $50 more. If I were getting an iPod, I’d get the mini. I don’t need a 15 GB player. I do need portability, and the original design of the iPod, clever though it is, just isn’t as small as I’d want.

People bitch about the design. That’s a matter of taste, and de gustibus, non disputandum est. I admit to being a little disappointed in the dimensions, and unthrilled by the styling myself. But I still look forward to playing with one.

Still later Now I read about Toshiba’s 0.85″ drive. Obviously Apple wouldn’t have had time to engineer the new mini around this, but it suggests we could see even smaller iPods, or that the mini in its current form will get a capacity boost sooner rather than later.

Also interesting is GarageBand. I watched The Keynote, and Jobs made a couple of wry references to file-sharing. In the back of my mind, I mused that with GarageBand, he might be taking the ultimate end-run around the MPAA. Surely this has nothing to do with Apple’s decision to develop and market this program. Surely not.

But it’s fun to contemplate.