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Computing News

Apple’s iPod

Note: This document has been significantly revised since it was first published as a news article in December, 2001. The original article is here.


On October 23, 2001, Apple introduced the iPod, a significant advance in portable MP3 and music players. Lightweight (6.5 ounces), small (about the size of a deck of playing cards), fast, and easy to use, the iPod offered real and usable features such as a 1,000+ song capacity and up to 10 hours of battery life.

On July 17, 2002, Apple introduced a revised iPod. Now also available in 10 GB and 20 GB sizes, the iPod retained classic functions while introducing some new and improved features. Still lightweight (only the 20 GB is slightly heavier at 7.2 ounces), they offer a larger song capacity (2,000+ for the 10 GB, 4,000+ for the 20 GB).

On October 1, 2002, Apple introduced iPods with Windows compatibility. These units come in all three sizes like the Mac OS-compatible iPod, but include a six-to-four pin FireWire cable and integration with Music Match Jukebox Plus, an audio player for Windows. Music transfers will still require a FireWire card, so if a workstation does not have one it must be installed before use.

Features & Specifications:

Interface & Battery

With the iPod's scroll-wheel you can access your music collection by artist, title, and song. Through one-handed operation you can navigate through menus, choose your song, stop, reverse, or fast-forward through the song, or set preferences such as turning on the shuffle mode or the backlight. The bright backlight illuminates a high-resolution, easy-to-read display.

Not only can you store lots of your music on the iPod (1,000 or more MP3s), but you can play that music for up to 10 hours from the built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The iPod recharges completely in about 3 hours through the FireWire cable while connected to your computer, or you can plug it in directly to a two-prong power outlet through an included adapter.

Works With iTunes & Music Match

When used with a Macintosh, the iPod is designed to work with iTunes, Apple’s free music software. With iTunes, you rip MP3s from your CDs and add them to your music library. You can create custom playlists and then transfer the music from iTunes to your iPod through the FireWire interface at high speed (the equivalent of an entire CD in about 10 seconds).

iPod for Windows is designed for use with Music Match Jukebox, which is also free music software. Music Match Jukebox has many of the same features as iTunes, including one where new music added to your library or playlist will automatically sync with your iPod. Currently, iPod for Windows is compatible with Windows Me, 2000, XP Home, and XP Professional.

More Than Just An MP3 Player

The firmware in the iPod is upgradeable, so Apple can implement bug fixes, support more music formats, or provide new and/or improved interface features. In fact, Apple has released several updates that add features and address reliability issues.

You have 5 GB to 20 GB of storage space when you connect your iPod to your FireWire equipped Macintosh or PC, offering room for your presentations, graphic files, digital pictures, or movies.

The Contacts feature lets you view names and addresses downloaded from applications like Microsoft Entourage and Outlook, Palm Desktop, Eudora, and Mac OS X Address book for access to your personal information.

You can use your iPod to keep track of your schedule by using Apple's iSync to synchronize it with iCal, Apple's calendar application (both iSync and iCal require Mac OS X version 10.2).

Finally, the iPod is a fairly powerful handheld device, with 32 MBytes RAM, and a PortalPlayer microprocessor with an ARM7TDMI core - similiar to that used in recent Pocket PCs.

The Bottom Line

Even though the iPod's cost may seem a bit steep for a MP3 player (a good price for a 5 GB version is $269 at the Computer Connection), it is well worth it for many users. Unlike most MP3 players, you are really getting two products in one: a leading-edge music player, and a portable hard drive you can take anywhere. The upgradable firmware continues to leave the door open for iPod to get even better.

Information Systems & Computing (ISC) does not recommend or support peripheral devices such as the iPod, but suggests that only Mac OS 9.x and Mac OS X version 10.x users whose workstations meet the iPod's hardware requirements purchase this device.

--Kristen Zborowski, Vern Yoneyama, & John Mulhern III, ISC Technology Support Services (March 24th, 2003)

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