There’s one undeniable, unavoidable, unerring, immutable truth of technological toy buying. Whether its a computer, an iPod, a TV, or what we used to call a “stereo”, you can bank on the fact that very shortly after you buy “the next big thing”, the next big thing will come along. The new thing will have more capability than the old thing, probably at the same price or cheaper. You can’t escape it the best you can do is hedge against it by not “underbuying” just to save a few bucks.
This week Apple, in time for the holidays, gave their already solid-selling 13-inch MacBook consumer portable computers a shot in the arm by replacing the previously offered Core Duo processor with the newer, more powerful Core 2 Duo (I know, I know, it’s a downright confusing naming scheme). Apple claims the Core 2 Duo speeds up many computing tasks by as much as 25%. Although benchmarks are not yet available, reports from iMac and MacBook Pro users who’ve moved from Core to Core 2 indicate a slight gain in speed in everyday tasks, like email and websurfing. The more noticeable speed gains are in processor-intensive data manipulation like video, photo and music editing.
The “sweet spot” in the MacBook line is the middle offering. 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo with 4 MB of L2 cache, 1 GB of RAM, 80 GB hard drive, and 6x double-layer DVD-burnin’ SuperDrive, all for $1299. Without going into details, I can tell you this is a very competitive price compared to similarly-equipped offerings from Dell. Speaking of Dell, the notebook computer I “customized” (meaning to bring it up to somewhere near the capability of a MacBook) on Dell’s web site carried an expected shipping date of November 30th. Made-to-order MacBooks ship in 3 to 5 business days. Check out apple.com for more details.
Next week at this time you’ll have endured the opening salvo of advertising for the “Zune”, Microsoft’s much-ballyhooed entry into the personal digital media player market. However, without reading this article, you may never have known that the Zune is a Microsoft product. They’re working hard to distance the Zune from the Microsoft “stuffed shirt” persona.
I’ve seen the six or so TV commercials that will announce the Zune’s arrival, and, frankly, many viewers will be hard pressed to figure out what they’re selling in any of them. Microsoft is heavily targeting the 18-24 year old MySpace demographic, both in their ads and in the featured content initially available at the only place to buy music for the Zune the Zune Marketplace (another catchy Microsoft branding). The Zune Marketplace features a lot of obscure independent artists, like the Brazilian band “Cansei de Ser Sexy”.
The Zune Marketplace doesn’t deal in dollars purchases (and payments for their subscription service) are made in Microsoft Points. 79 points buys a single song. What does 79 points cost you? Sure enough, 79 points is 99 American cents, the same price as on Apple’s iTunes and other online stores.
Microsoft uses the phrase “Welcome to the Social” to tout the Zune’s ability to share music (for three days or three plays, whichever comes first) wirelessly with other Zunes. This may not play well in Great Britain, where the term “the social” refers to welfare, being on the dole, etc. No worries for Microsoft, as the Zune will not be available in Britain for awhile.
Finally, Zune, in French-Canadian, sounds like a slang term referring to very private anatomical parts. Wanna get social with your Zune? Thanks, but no thanks.
© 2006 Peter F. Zimowski