New Apple announcements: Apple is everywhere

As per usual, I’ve been in meetings and on travel all day (in fact, I was in the Pittsburgh airport at 2:30 pm when I started writing this) and am just catching up on Apple’s announcements from earlier this afternoon. Briefly: new higher capacity iPods with click-wheel driven search, new thinner iPod Nanos, a Shuffle that doesn’t look like a USB stick, new radically overhauled iTunes, iTunes store with downloadable movies and games, and a preview of a set-top box.

So read between the lines. What you see is a company trying to answer to Wall Street how it will follow up the iPod, arguably the most successful new product of the first half of this decade. The answer is content and a wider footprint, and a clear statement that the iPod has become not just Apple’s music brand, but Apple’s consumer electronics brand (to use an awful phrase). The iPod/iTunes/iTV family is now solidly positioned in Apple’s product suite for people who watch and listen, but don’t necessarily create.

That’s not a bad thing, and the devices don’t lock out user created content; on the contrary, the embrace of podcasting within iTunes is as significant a factor of the meteoric rise of that phenomenon as anything else. But what this announcement illustrates is that it’s not just the MP3 player makers and the makers of competing DRM; it’s the living room electronics manufacturers who are squarely in Apple’s sights. And having screwed around with dizzyingly complex products for about 40 years now, these guys have a lot to lose. Should be fun to watch…

One last thought: The momentum with which other studios add movies to the newly renamed iTunes Store will probably be considerably slower than the rate at which music studios signed up, and that might really hurt Apple’s odds in this market. Bet Jobs didn’t figure on that when Disney bought Pixar…

Oh, and confidential to ZDNet’s David Berlind. Given the amount of energy the record companies have put into fighting iTunes, the number of alternative companies that are out there, and the still rapidly changing market, I’d say it’s a little precipitous to call for government intervention in the iTunes/iPod ecosystem. Particularly since there is nothing, device manufacturers’s claims to the contrary, that prevents any content manufacturer from getting their content onto the iPod. The format is called MP3, and it trades off restrictive DRM for support everywhere. Look into it. It seems to be working well for eMusic.

Five years (and change)

I didn’t post anything yesterday about September 11. It’s not that I didn’t think about it. How could I not? I was in Cambridge, just a few miles from where I live now, when I first saw the news on Yahoo. I am constantly surrounded by reminders of that day, whether the profound (the silent presence of a 9/11 widow in our soprano section, the memory of Doug, the skies over the Charles that were so eerily silent that week) or the mundane (long lines and byzantine security procedures at the airport, five years of online saber rattling by both sides).

But I cannot participate in the sanctification of September 11. And I cannot give the administration a free pass for continuing to drag us into unrelated conflicts in memory of that day. Too much wrong has already been done in the name of this day.

Ironically, I’m flying (on business) for much of this week, so I don’t really have the time or energy to say more. But this column by H. D. S. Greenway in the Globe, calling the administration on their policies, is a good start.