Sunday, August 14, 2005

iPod -- pro or con?

I just read an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Sunday, August 14, 2005 edition, Resisting the Temptation regarding iPods. There seldom seems to be a middle ground reported in the various "technology wars" these days. Granted, reporters have limited column space available to them and editors may even shorten articles, further eliminating pertinent information. However, there just doesn't seem to be time or space for thorough examination and balanced reporting. This isn't just true for articles about iPods -- look at the ridiculous articles that happen on a regular basis about operating systems. Some of it is just plain silly, mostly prompting flame wars among people who seem to have nothing better to do than sit at their computer waiting for one of these to surface so they can immediately log in to the discussions to say "I hate Windows/Mac" or "You Mac/Windows users don't know what a real OS is..."

I happen to own an iPod. I own and work on Macs and also work on Windows from time to time. My personal preference is to work on my Macs. No particular piece of technolgy is right for everyone. I'm certain that, in the academic setting where I work, I could canvass a hall or two and find an equal number of people who will or will not use the iPod, for various reasons. Price is certainly an issue. And, believe it or not, everyone who buys an iPod is NOT buying it to be hip or trendy.

Some of the things that opponents, vehement non-iPod users, or even general non-MP3 player users, may not get are:

(1) The iPod doesn't just hold music... ever heard of books on tape? Well, they produce quite a few titles on CD. There's also Oh, and depending upon the length of the book (6 Harry Potter books, an Isaac Asimov collection, Hitchhiker's Guide, Salmon of Doubt, etc.) it can gobble quite a chunk of drive! It can provide hours of listening -- especially nice when driving a distance, in rush hour or not. There are myriad adapters available to make the iPod playable on your car stereo. You may even be a lucky person and have gotten a vehicle that has a direct hook-up!

(2) The iPod doesn't just hold music... ever heard of backup files? Hopefully, if you use your computer(s) much you have a good backup strategy. The iPod I use could just hold tons of music in addition to the books on tape. However, it is a wonderful external drive for my Macs. I can do backups on the fly or at set times. I can use it to take work files home to work on when I don't have my laptop and don't want to futz with logging in over the network. It's extremely versatile.

(3) The iPod doesn't just hold music... I'm becoming a broken record, eh? So, I don't have this capability because my iPod isn't the newer color version. I'd like to get the 60 Gig photo version because I have a 4 year old. The logic here is, I'm constantly around people who ask me if I have photos of my son with me. We had Gordon late in life (when I was 38) and a lot of people are just as thrilled as we are that he came into our lives. I could show many more photos to folks, not just of my son, if I had the iPod Photo. It's a pain to pull out the laptop even though the photos would be viewable in a larger screen. I tend to keep my iPod with me almost all the time. Ready access to the photos would be great.

(4) While I'm on the "not just music" kick... Don't forget about PodCasts. Some of them are indeed music or music related but there are so many other types with more popping up every day.

Still, even with all of these capabilities the iPod certainly isn't for everyone. My husband thought he'd like to try out a competitor so, as a gift, I bought him a 20Gig Rio Karma (does Rio make a large capacity player anymore? They show the Karma but no "buy it" button for it). I should have known better. In our family at least, I'm more of a gadget user than he is. He aquired my old TiBook and it's languishing a bit from lack of use (wish he'd just get into the habit of checking iCal on it regularly so he'd have the family calendar I have posted ;-). He had a Palm for a while and it too found a corner to live in (he recently rediscovered it and put in new batteries but it's not functioning at the moment). I'm still regularly using my Handspring Visor that I've had for quite a few years now.

The article ends with the suggestion that rather than buying an iPod you might buy Apple's stock instead. I can agree with that. I have purchased stock in Apple, have had it for a number of years. The kicker here is, if you are buying the stock you REALLY, REALLY want people to be buying the products that the company is producing!

I'm sure that I could have come up with another product that would be useable. The final component for me regarding a lot of Apple products is that I really do appreciate the quailty engineering and the fine industrial design they produce. Though, I'm reserving judgement on their latest iteration of the mouse. That will be a separate blog once I get my hands on one to check out thoroughly.