Apple's fun new products

Last week, Apple sent out invitations to various media and tech types to see some "fun new products" they were unveiling. The event was scheduled for yesterday, and expectations were riding pretty high on the internets about what Steve Jobs might be unveiling.

Apple's fun new productsIt was largely taken for granted that Apple would be including an iPod-compatible HiFi Boombox and an Intel-powered Mac Mini, but everyone knew there was gonna be something else, something bigger. Maybe the Mac Mini also gets DVR capabilities and HD output, turning it into the complete home entertainment machine it really wants to be? Maybe iTunes starts selling feature films? New touch sensitive "all screen" video iPod? Intel iBooks? You get the picture.

So, what he unveiled was an Intel Mac Mini and an iPod HiFi system and... yeah, that's pretty much it.

So, big-ol letdown on the sort of websites I tend to cruise. But hey, that new video iPod isn't gonna happen for at least six months or so. The iTunes selling feature films is probably going to wait until then too. And the Tivo-Killer Mac Mini? Actually, that was decently likely, and Apple really should take a swipe at this. Microsoft's Media Center is hogging all the glory, and the Mini really would fit well in the living room. And they did improve things a bit if you want to use it like that, because it now can output in HD resolutions, but it doesn't have component or HDMI out, so it's not quite there connection wise. Overall, it's a pretty nice machine, though they raised the price, which takes away from a large part of the tiny thing's appeal.

The HiFi, on the other hand, I'm not so excited about. Basically, it's a set of big, extremely good speakers with an iPod dock on top. It can run off batteries (6 "D" cells), so it's portable, but not particularly easily portable. It's really meant to be used indoors, and at first glance, would seem to be a very nice set of speakers for your living room (or whatever room you keep your main TV in). Not only can it play music from the iPod, but it's got a combined optical/analog audio in, so you can listen to other sources as well. But really, it's not for hooking up to a TV, and I think just a couple of minor changes would have made it much more useful.

The first problem is that it doesn't have video out. Normally you wouldn't expect speakers to have video-out, so why is this a complaint? Well, because it's meant to work with the iPod, and specifically the video iPods. So that means if you want to watch videos or photo slideshows stored on your iPod you can either use a separate docking station, which means you won't be getting the big-ass speaker sound, or you have to plug an AV-cable into the headphone jack on top, which is frankly really ugly (and let's be honest here, with Apple, you're paying for pretty). Either way, it's not the ideal experience. Plus, even though it includes a remote, you still have to physically go to the iPod to change playlists or albums owing to the small size of the screen. If they could output a menu to a TV, like the upcoming DLO HomeDock Deluxe or Griffin Tunecenter do, navigating your music becomes a lot easier.