Friday, October 14, 2005

The iPod Frenzy

PSP Forum switchboards all over the world are lighting up today following the announcement of Apple's new iPod with video capability. Apple has done something with the iPod for video that they have already done for music - make it legal, accessible and easy. And that is putting the PSP fanboy network on high alert!

You see - they need to know that they have the "#1 Sexy Gadget in the World". But they don't nor have they ever - that mantle has belonged to the iPod since 2001.

So great is the draw of the iPod that people defy logic in how the respond to them. Recently in a frontpage blurb on GamerDad Andrew Bub stated how much he wanted a new iPod Nano despite already having another iPod - even though he is a member of the media and should be immune to such things. Personally, I got my first iPod right after they came out, and now have a '3rd gen' 40GB - the one with the different button arrangement. It works great, and there is absolutely no need for me to have another - yet I want a Nano ... or a video iPod ... they are both so alluring. Indeed, I was getting my wife an iPod for her 40th birthday recently and was all settled on the Mini (which I could get in pink with matching leather case), when the Nano came out - and for some reason I was thinking about getting her one of those. I have no idea why ... it would have cost more, messed up the accessories we have, and been less convenient ... but if they had a 4GB while model, I'm not sure I could have resisted.

So what does this have to do with the PSP? Well, Sony is selling it as 'ATTAP' - all things to all people. Touting the multimedia features at least as prominently as the gaming capabilities. There is no doubt that it is the most technically advanced handheld game system yet, with some very nice multimedia and other capabilities. But is it really 'ATTAP'? That is what Sony is selling, and that the fanboys are pushing.

But what about reality? Reality tells a different tale:

  • A tale of a game system littered with mostly mediocre games, except for a few decent console-ports and stripped down console releases ... and Lumines. Basically nothing 'system selling'.
  • A tale in which David is played by the DS, when it should have been the other way around. Sony so effectively pushed the technological superiority angle that the DS became the underdog, despite Nintendo having ~100% market share before the PSP release.
  • A tale in which things look great for David - in terms of awesome, system selling games like Nintendogs, Advance Wars and Castlevania. Games that make no apologies for being on a handheld, that feel like nobody's 'little brother' - these are just plain great games.
  • A tale in which the touted music capabilities are really rather rudimentary. They compare pretty well to those of the Pocket PC PDA from 2000 - manual transfers, rudimentary playlist controls, and so on. So far behind where the iPod was even at launch that it is not even worth comparing.
  • A tale in which another touted multimedia capability - displaying photos - is again a manual cumbersome process, while the iPod has a strange (through iTunes) but easy to use automated process.
  • A tale in which another secondary use - as a PDA - is accomplished on the PSP through another strange and manual method, whereas the iPod will synchronize directly to the Mac address book and calendar or Windows Outlook.
  • And finally, a tale of proprietary video disks that cost more than DVD's in many cases, which are playable only through the PSP, whereas the Video iPod has a huge hard disk for video, which loads from iTunes, and features licensed TV shows for $1.99 the day after.

Can the video display quality of the iPod match the PSP? No, but that isn't the point. Apple has once again changed the discussion from technoology of delivery to content - much as Nintendo has done with the DS. Sony and the PSP are left with impressive technology that has yet to demonstrate much value, and the fanboys are left defending their platform of choice.

Me? I love my PSP - and I'm hoping that some of the upcoming releases will finally break the trend of mediocre to crappy console Jr. games. Buy I will never mistake the PSP for something it is not. If I want to play music I'll use my iPod; need a PDA I'll pull out my HP Jornada; and if I need games ... well, right now that means the Nintendo DS for me.

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