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Product Positioning Dilemma: Apple iPod mini

Those who've read the book "In Search Of Stupidity" that Joel contributed to will remember the lesson on product positioning, with MicroPro's WordPro 2000 and WordStar 2000 given as the example.

Have Apple just created the same problem with the iPod mini? http://www.apple.com/ipodmini/

--Why would anyone want a full-size iPod now?

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Monday, January 19, 2004

Maxi = people who want more capacity
Mini = people who want smaller size

I don't think there's a real conflict here; most laptop manufacturers have the same two product lines and it works fine.

The real problem with the PCjr is that it was unbearably crippled -- a TI 99 at the price of a decent used Porsche boxster. The problem with WordStar 2000 is it was grotesquely incompatible.

Joel Spolsky
Monday, January 19, 2004

Worth noticing - the iPod mini comes with a USB 2.0 cable.

I suspect Apple got quite a bit of heat over that.

Philo

Philo
Monday, January 19, 2004

I'm just waking up to this stuff... isn't USB 2.0 faster than FireWire? And both are faster than physical hard drives, so any further speed doesn't matter? Does this mean Firewire will go away?

Joel Spolsky
Monday, January 19, 2004

the iPod mini comes with _both_ USB 2.0 and firewire.


Monday, January 19, 2004

Hey, for anyone smarter than me on this stuff - it seems like full Firewire generally powers the peripheral, while USB 2.0 almost never does - is that true?

Philo

Philo
Monday, January 19, 2004

Both firewire and USB can power the ipod. I don't know about the general case. I believe it depends on the power requirements of the device.


Monday, January 19, 2004

Maxi = people who want more capacity
Mini = people who want smaller size


I would generally not disagree with this, but Mr. Jobs himself was promoting the ipod mini as having much greater capacity than the existing small players for only $50-$100 more. Using this same argument between the ipod and ipod mini, one would have to go for the existing ipod's which have greater capacity at only $50 more. I will have to see one for myself to judge on the worth of the form factor.

m
Monday, January 19, 2004

Re: FireWire

I think there are two completely different FireWire connectors. One is small and four pin. The other is much bigger and has six pins. I seem to remember that the smaller four pin one doesn't have power, but the larger six pin one does.

I discovered the two standards when I wanted to attach a FireWire HDD to my Dell laptop. Had to get a converter from Maplin (about £0.50 + VAT).

Steve Jones (UK)
Monday, January 19, 2004

Does anyone understand why in the vending machines in Japan, the 12 and 22oz cans of coca-cola both cost 120 yen?  Why would anyone buy the smaller one, if the cost is the same?


Monday, January 19, 2004

Well, I have not purchased an iPod because of it's size (I use Flash-based player instead), but I will be certainly considering the iPod Mini, because it meets my size requirements.

MX
Monday, January 19, 2004

The only problem with the mini that I see is that it's too expensive.

Seriously, $249 for the 4GB iPod Mini, $299 for the 10GB iPod?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, January 19, 2004

Like I said, I need to see it up close. At least you have your requirements well defined, something I think we can all appreciate. :)

m
Monday, January 19, 2004

So, now we've got very small players with huge solid state memory banks, small size, great interfaces, fast hardware interfacing (w/ wire and w/o), and low prices.  Not one product has all of these, but there will be one soon I'm sure.

If that point is reached in a couple years, what do these manufacturers do then? Seems like they've reached the top of the mountain at that point.  If we look at PC's, there's always some improvement to be made in storage space, speed, memory, screen size, etc.

Once I can get an MP3 player that holds 10,000 songs, updates with my PC wirelessly in 2.7 seconds, weighs an ounce or two, and has a 10-hour battery life, for under $100, what would make me spend money on another one??

Nigel
Monday, January 19, 2004

Nigel, your logic can be applied to any business making any kind of product.

MX
Monday, January 19, 2004

Things like non-replaceable batteries that die after roughly 18 months.  That makes consumers buy another one.  Better yet, when the devices cost $100, continue to offer a battery replacement program that costs $99.  That will get consumers to buy a new one.

Elephant
Monday, January 19, 2004

"Buy the new AcmePod - same storage capacity and speed, but now with interchangeable faceplates!"

Philo

Philo
Monday, January 19, 2004

Makes sense to me Philo. Or that ever-popular built-in camera.

Nigel
Monday, January 19, 2004

the $249  i-pod is the one people are going to *gift* to someone else.

Prakash S
Monday, January 19, 2004

I'd sure like to be on your gift list.

m
Monday, January 19, 2004

As people have mentioned above on this thread, the iPod mini's sales are going to be cannibalized by the 15gig regular iPod.  I mean, $250 for 4 gigs or $300 for 15 gigs?  The mini's aren't *that* much smaller than the regular ones.

If it were $150 (even for only 2 gigs instead of 4), I'd be much more likely to get one.  Or if it were truly tiny compared to the regular iPods...

But as it stands, this product announcement was very anti-climactic.

Michael Kale
Monday, January 19, 2004

RE: USB 2

There are now 2 USB 2.0's. The old USB 2.0 is now called "USB 20. high speed". The old USB 1.0 is now called "USB 2.0". This was changed for marketing reasons; customers didn't want the 'old USB' for stuff like keyboards and mice.

USB 2.0 and Firewire 1.0 are similar speeds. Both fast enough to make video editing straight off the camera a painless operation. There's now a Firewire 800 that's twice as fast as the original Firewire 400. I speculate there will probably be a USB 3.0 aka USB 2.0 Ultra that is just a mite bit faster in numbers than Firewire 800. Ho hum. Any of these are fast enough.

Upgrading:

The next generation of iPods will also be PIMs. Then, GPS and cellphone add ons. Etc. Cellphones are thrown away every 18 months anyway so the batteries failing is not an issue for the typical user.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, January 19, 2004

> Of course, it is easy to talk about such startegy when we don’t have the figures from Apple so we have no idea of the margin or the individual component costs. Miniturisation is expensive, not just in terms of development (R&D) but also in engineering and manufacturing. We don’t know how much expensive the HD actually is so we don’t know if it is feasible to mass-produce a low-end sub-$200 system.

http://www.ifelse.co.uk/archives/2004/1/7/ipod-mini-announcement/

SC
Monday, January 19, 2004

My friend desperately wants a mini iPod, probably because of cool factor. I think he wants it as an external hard drive of all things.

I, on the other hand would want the full size one because if I'm gonna get the damned thing I'm gonna get the one with the biggest hard drive I could get.

I don't see the probem.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, January 19, 2004

One point to bear in mind Joel is that often there are bottlenecks that have little to do with the USB or Firewire transfer speed.

Writing to pen drives was one example that came to mind. I presume the same limtiations hold with other forms of solid state memory.

Stephen Jones
Monday, January 19, 2004

"I mean, $250 for 4 gigs or $300 for 15 gigs?  The mini's aren't *that* much smaller than the regular ones."

Michael, either you don't have a girlfriend, you don't pay attention to her, or she's a geek too.

A large portion of the market the mini iPod is targeted at doesn't pay attention to "technical specifications" or "how many GB is it?" These are the people who want to know what color your new car is.

It doesn't matter that it's only .5" smaller in each dimension; it's just that it's "smaller"

Philo

Philo
Monday, January 19, 2004

"The only problem with the mini that I see is that it's too expensive.

Seriously, $249 for the 4GB iPod Mini, $299 for the 10GB iPod?"

When you're talking about a player that already holds 1,000 songs, some people will pay $249 for form factor but wouldn't pay $299 for capacity.

In addition, once a certain threshhold is met, capacity is *not* the only measure for a device such as this. The mini is 40% less volume. In my pocket, I like the smallest device that does everything I want it to do. Seems like a very easy decision to me.

  --Josh

P.S. I should mention that along with the announcement of the iPod Mini, they also bumped the 10gig iPod up to 15gig and left the price at $299.

JWA
Monday, January 19, 2004

Haha!  I do, probably not enough, and yes.  ;-)

I suppose if these things sell like hotcakes, it's good that I'm not in marketing...

Michael Kale
Monday, January 19, 2004

I'm sure Apple would like to be down at $200 to further differentiate the lines, but the 1" Hitachi drive is the only 4G drive available at that size right now, and I'm sure that's the limiting factor for the price.  The mini has a smaller profit margin than the regular iPods even at $250.  Maybe we'll see something cheaper way down the road when the 1" and .85" drives from Toshiba are ready, or if Cornice can move up to 4G.  But I wouldn't hold my breath...

visit store.apple.com

Even at $250, the iPod mini is their top selling item right now, and they're not even shipping until next month.

There are few things in life more amusing than watching us technical people second-guess Apple's often surprising price and product decisions.  For a real kick, take a look at an Apple fan geek board after any major announcement.

veal
Monday, January 19, 2004

I don't get it. It *is* smaller, in your pocket 0.5" is a big deal. Besides, if Apple didn't do it, someone else would've, so why not beat them to market?

Never underestimate the public's ability to need something new to break up the dolldrums of their everyday lives.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, January 19, 2004

Does anyone need to carry 10,000 songs around with them?

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Monday, January 19, 2004

I forget where I saw it... yes it was here, A guy had around 100 gigs he was looking to backup to a format (he wanted to back up to CD-ROM) so he could carry these CD's around and play the songs in his car.

Don't forget all the hacked DVD's, Pr0n, and Warez you canfit on an iPod.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, January 19, 2004

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