Apple’s ICar is the sexiest, most desirable electric car in the world. So what if you can’t change its battery, tyres or any other parts, because it’s all integrated. You ignore all that, because it’s so cool. When the battery or tyres run out next year, you’ll just go out and buy iCar Nano, which is incompatible with iCar, so you can’t even share the recharge cable... But by now, there’s a new feature: changeable tyres. Wow.
Three cheers for Apple. It’s the only company around whose design is so uber-cool and products so sexy, that you overlook everything else that’s missing which should be a basic feature of the category. OK, they haven’t got an iCar out yet, but they do have the coolest of iPods, iPhones, MacBooks and more, which don’t let you change the battery, or do other basic things you may be used to. You ignore the other MP3 players’ built-in mic and FM radio... for this is the iPod. You can go out and spend extra on cool third-party stuff – like mics and FM radios.
This September, however, Apple suddenly jumped ahead and changed the stakes in the features department. The new iPod Nano has a video camera, a category-first in a mainstream pocket media player. There’s even an FM radio, a pedometer that works with the Nike+ module, and yes, a built-in mic. It starts at a rather nice price of $149 for the 8GB version, probably around Rs 10k in India.
No, the video isn’t high-definition (HD), and it doesn’t do stills; but it’s still quite a feature on an iPod. It gives you a video camera you’ll always have in your pocket – or handbag. For the YouTube generation, this is quite an advance for spontaneous video capture. And Apple’s iVideo software lets you create some neat personal videos. What’s next for the iPod? Clearly, there’s still photos ahead; then GPS, and Internet connectivity (which the iPod Touch already has). So the iPod is growing up: from 21st-century Walkman to shirt-pocket minicomputer.
Portable video isn’t new. Most compact digital cameras shoot video, albeit standard-definition (not HD) and iffy quality. Mobiles have had video, though tiny, grainy and jerky, for years, leading to lots of ‘spontaneous video’ doing the rounds, such as those of schoolkids doing things we can’t talk about in a family magazine. What’s new in 2009 is HD video.
A series of high-end digital SLR cameras from Nikon, Canon and others now sport high-def video. While I squirm at the idea of an SLR losing sight of its raison d’etre – to take the best possible high-res still images – I guess this is the converged future all cameras (and we) are heading for: high-def video and still images in every camera.
There are, of course, some really good sub-compact HD video cameras out there today, like Sony’s compact HDR-CX7 (Rs 50k), and they’re getting cheaper. Kodak’s even-smaller $180 Zi8 captures up to 10 hours of HD video. While it can’t match the quality of a professional video camera (just as a 6 megapixel SLR can beat a 12 megapixel compact camera hollow), it does a decent job in daylight. So even as you wait for HDTV to take off in India – perhaps with the Commonwealth Games 2010, if they happen – you’ll probably begin to capture your own HD video footage soon. So that you can finally justify buying that Rs 3 lakh all-HD plasma TV.
The author is chief editor at CyberMedia, publisher of 15 specialty titles such as Dataquest. email@example.com , twitter.com/prasanto