Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Lots of iPod hype this week.

Including the Newsweek cover story, of course. The iPod mini is now available in Europe, as are the new cheaper 20Gb and 40Gb iPods. It seems to be normal for Apple to update the product once a year, keep the $299, $399, and $499 price points, but improve the models. However, we now have 20Gb at the $299 point, 40Gb at the $399 point, and nothing at the $499 point. This is an interesting coda to Toshiba's announcement a month or so back that it was releasing a 1.8 inch 60Gb hard drive, and that Apple had placed a large order. Steve Jobs was clearly not happy at this sort of pre-announcement of a 60Gb iPod from Toshiba, and conspiracy theorists might conclude that the absence of a 60Gb iPod model now is in a sense payback to Toshiba for not keeping quiet.

Except that I don't actually believe this. I suspect that Toshiba is simply unable to provide the 60Gb drives in large enough quantities for now, and I am sure we will see a 60Gb iPod later in the year: probably just before Christmas.

Another interesting thing is whether we will see an update of the iPod mini before long. This of course uses a 4Gb 1 inch drive from Hitachi/IBM, but Apple has had trouble getting enough drives to satisfy the immense demand for the iPod mini. Interestingly, Seagate now has a 1 inch hard drive, and they are producing a 5Gb version. Presumably Hitachi will not like losing the largest one inch drive crown, and they will announce a bigger drive before too long. At that point, Apple will no doubt announce an iPod mini with a larger capacity. (And let's face it, the 4Gb capacity is the weakness of the iPod mini).

Or of course Apple could source its drives from multiple suppliers. Creative are basing an MP3 player on the Seagate drive, and for now that means they have the highest capacity player of that approximate size. Apple could release a 5Gb iPod mini based on the Seagate drive too, but I doubt they will. 5Gb is not really sufficiently bigger than 4Gb that they can really gain much leverage out of a "new, bigger capacity iPod mini". I suspect they will wait for a bigger drive from Hitachi, although if getting enough drives is the real problem, they might like to have another supplier. I suppose they could sell a 5Gb iPod mini with a dock and accessories that don't come with the 4Gb version as standard, so as to properly distinguish this from the 4Gb version. They did this with the 15Gb and 20Gb full size iPods last year after all.

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