Upgrade. Upgrade. Upgrade.
The whole computing industry revolves around ‘forcing’ us to keep up to date with software and hardware developments, whether the tactics are stopping you from doing what you want until you pay them money, or just offering something unbelieveably tempting that you can’t possibly resist upgrading. Last night I was reading all about new iPod Shuffle, which replaces the old chewing-gum-packet sized MP3 player with a new belt-clip sized model, sporting a sprung clip so you can actually wear it as a lapel badge, a tough anodised aluminium casing, and an even more spacious capacity. It’s the sort of thing you could very easily lose. But it’s also the sort of thing you’d quite happily risk for the fun of having something so ridiculously small plugged into the other end of a pair of earphones. The old Shuffle wasn’t half bad, but this new one takes the concept to a whole new level, and the tempation is almost unbearable.
Not only that, but iTunes has also had a revamp. There wasn’t much information about what the new version included on the Apple web site, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to download it anyway (it is free after all). Actually iTunes 7 is quite a bit better than iTunes 6, both in terms of appearance and functionality. The look has been tweaked yet again, refining it to something even more pleasing to use. My most favourite part about it at the moment is the way it uses album art. You could assign album art to tracks before, but now you get a funky animated bookshelf of all your albums which you can scroll through to access your songs. It’s all smoothly animated in that characteristic Apple fashion, which is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. You can also organise your tracks by album, which places each album separately with a picture of the album cover next to the tracks associated with it. All pretty neat.
Functionally iTunes 7 is a lot better too. For a start, tracks that are meant to run in to each other actually do, with not a trace of blank space between them. Apple has also made provision for future developments, by way of links to TV and Movie downloads. At the moment that service has only been launched to customers in the US, but when it’s released over here in 2007 you’ll be able to buy a film for as little as £8 or so. Not bad. That would certainly save me the bother of going all the way to the shop to buy a DVD. On the other hand, with my current internet connection speed it could potentially take a couple of hours to download, by which time I could have gone into town, bought several DVDs and a pizza, do the weekly food shop on the way home, and still have time to make a cup of tea before settling down for an evening on the sofa. But the thought is there.
The only frustrating part about all this is that Apple has locked us all into using their own hardware. If you buy songs through iTunes, you can only play those MP3s on iTunes or an iPod. You can’t sync with any other MP3 player, and although you can copy tracks manually, those purchased through the iTunes online store are encrypted so that only iPods will be able to play them back. Grrr. Not that it’s a huge problem for me, since I have yet to purchase any MP3s, and neither do I use my little MP3 player. But it would have been nice to have had the choice.