iBot 3000

OK, so here I am with towel in hand, wiping egg from face. I’ve been making this prediction for a year. It hasn’t come true yet, but it will, because it makes sense, and because so far all we’ve seen are underfunded entrepreneurs chipping away at the edges of the concept, rather than tackling it head-on.

Instead we got Mini iPods that don’t make any financial sense at all. Jobs claimed they were trying to go after the upper end of the Flash-based player market, but I think the real deal is that this is a play for teenyboppers who love to accessorize. Crap deal or not, they’ll sell a zillion of them.

G5 XServe, darn right. Glad to see it, but no surprises there. Had to do it. Kudos to the engineers who figured out how to cool the beast in a 1U space. Some cool footage of the G5-based Virginia Tech supercomputer. 1100 G5s. 2200 processors. 3rd fastest supercomputer in the world, at a tiny fraction of the cost of the next fastest. Apple has completely rocked the supercomputer world. The guy who called Apple to place the order for the 1100 G5s had never bought a Mac before in his life.

Arrived too late to catch the replay of the original 1984 commercial for the 20th anniversary of the Mac, but did see a variety of original Macs scattered around at historical booths. It blows the mind to see how far we’ve come… and to think that even those primitive little boxes with tiny screens and no hard drives were leading the industry in their own time.

The introduction of GarageBand to the iLife suite was pretty impressive, especially with John Mayer in person on keys and guitar. Anyone who’s played with Soundtrack can see that Apple has basically repackaged its guts — removed the video soundtrack-specific elements and wrapped it in hipper packaging. Nothing wrong with that. It’s the most intuitive multitrack editing, looping, etc. i’ve experimented with. Can’t wait to play with it more. As Mayer said, “If I had had this when I was 13, I never would have left my room.” Ahem.

The downside: More incentive for people not to learn to make real music. GarageBand and similar apps make it too damned easy to sound good.

On the flipside, plug a real instrument into GarageBand and you can do some pretty awesome stuff. The MIDI guitar sounds Mayer was generating via keyboard were incredible – realistic attack, pitch bending, fingertips touching string spirals. Amazing. Mayer claimed it was the first time he had heard software-based guitar sounds he’d actually want to record with. Not sure what he was paid to say that, but it sounded convincing.

There are revolutionary MacWorlds and there incremental MacWorlds. In all, I’d say this one was incremental. But there was one really revolutionary thing I saw – a guy in a wheelchair at the same height as standing men and women. He was a crippled Vietnam Vet in an iBot 3000 — a chair designed by Dean Kamen, who also invented the Segway. The iBot uses gyroscopes to balance, just like the Segway, and lets handicapped drivers climb stairs, traverse rough terrain, reach tall shelves, and stand at the same height as everyone else. Said he was riding one of 12 existing prototypes in the world. A thing of beauty to see in action.

Music: Ennio Morricone :: Indagine Su Un Cittadino Al Di

16 Replies to “iBot 3000”

  1. AFAIR, the iBot actually was in prototype LONG before the Segway was introduced. I believe that the Segway was actually just a byproduct of the iBot research.

  2. The mini iPods probably do make quite a bit of financial sense.

    1. The profit margins are probably pretty high.
    2. They are being marketed to 14 year-old girls and women. You don’t need to compete on capacity or features when you can compete on “oooooooh, it’s pink!”

  3. PJ, I meant they don’t make financial sense to the person purchasing them (for $50 more you can have more than 3x the capacity).

    Phil, yup! I hear they’re going to make that image into posters.

  4. Scot, you got to put the mini in perspective. If you care about hard drive space then sure it makes no sense. But imagine trying to convince your 15 year old niece or 60 year old aunt that they should spend $50 more for a bigger player that doesn’t come in colors just because its got an extra 11Gigabytes of memory. Watch eyes glaze over.

  5. PJ, you’re spot on. A friend sent out an email about the new iPods yesterday. A male response was “$250 – you’ve got to be kidding”. The female response was “No, they’re really cute and you can get them in pink!”

  6. Abe, it may be hard to explain 11GB but it’s easy to explain 3000 songs instead of 1000. Anyway, style counts, and the mini will do great. I just won’t recommend it when people axe me.

  7. You know, I can see that people other than just 14-year olds and women buying the mini-iPod – athletes, for example, for whom the smaller size and lower weight will be quite appealing (it is to me). Storage capacity is not everything.

    And another angle: How many people actually have an active music repertoire of 10 GB or more? Those who don’t will be glad that they no longer have to pay $50 more for something they don’t even use.

  8. My total music collection, a combination of ripping my own CDs and purchasing music from ITMS amounts to slightly less than 2 gigs. Were I looking for an MP3 player *just* for music, the mini ipod would be perfect. Also bear in mind that the ipod mini is the same capacity as the original ipod.

    About creating “real” music, it seems to me that music is in the ear and the mind and (for those less literal minded) the heart. The tools by which you get your music into the world are less important, and don’t make music more or less “real”. If they did, the only “real” music would be that which you can make without mechanical assistance – vocal music, basic percussion, and so on.


  9. re: Ipods – I forgot to add that I got one of the 40 gig models for Christmas, and it’s mighty nice to have all the music I own *and* a full backup of both my system’s drives on one device I can stick in my pocket. For geeks, capacity does matter, but that is not who the minis were aimed at.


  10. Jim, like mnep, my collection is also around 60GBs. None of the existing iPod models can hold it all. That’s fine though – I enjoy wiping it and reloading playlists every now and then.

    I hear what you’re saying about real music but we’re not talking about an instrument here- we’re talking about a pile of ten thousand loops all designed to work together. You don’t have to synchronize them. You don’t have to know anythign about pitch or melody or harmony or chords or anything. You don’t have to practice to make music that sounds sorta OK. You just sit down with no experience and drag in loops until satisfied. Most importantly, you don’t need to be *inspired*.

    I appreciate your lenience, but sorry, this and other apps like it do tremendous disservice to music as a whole. Look where music is today compared to 20 years ago, or 30 or 50 years ago. We’re falling off a cliff.

  11. Lars, good point about athletes. I wore the full size ipod on an armband once or twice in the gym and found it kind of bulky. It works much better on the hip or in the pocket. The mini would be great for working out.

  12. Lou, SoundForge is way more professional, has everything but/including the kitchen sink. GB is much more focused and simplified. On the other hand, it won’t have almost any learning curve at all. Like iMovie, you can get great results quickly.

    Vegas Video? Not sure what the comparision with that app is.

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