What Apple didn't announce
Wednesday's iPod announcements from Apple included some stellar advances, but there are still a few things missing from the lineup.
Wednesday's Apple announcements included some significant market advances, particularly the iPod Touch and the iTunes Wi-Fi Store. The new lineup of devices should keep the company clearly in the digital-media drivers' seat through the end of 2007, at least, and the pricing strategy is rock-solid. (Microsoft tried to pre-empt Apple's announcement with a $50 price cut on the 30GB Zune to $199, but with an 80GB iPod available for only $249, Microsoft's going to have to cut the price further.)
Even so, a few things that Apple didn't announce might leave some room for other innovators.
Subscription store. Maybe Steve Jobs is right, and consumers don't want to rent their music. I can understand why it's not particularly attractive on a PC-tethered store, especially if the user experience is poor. But with a Wi-Fi store--assuming it actually works the way it's supposed to--this seems like it'd be a great way to hear the exact song you want, exactly when you want it, without paying a dollar every time. But maybe I'm overestimating the attraction of this kind of impulse listening.
Wireless sync. The iPod Touch and iPhone have a Wi-Fi connection. Apple's AirPort system is perhaps the most usable home Wi-Fi technology out there. But you still can't sync your music library wirelessly--you have to connect the device to your computer. Seems like an obvious oversight, and one that Apple could fix with a software update.
User interaction. Over the years, friends and other musicians have been my most reliable source of new music recommendations. iTunes has some features along this line--in particular, iMix shows you playlists from other users and their average rating among all users--but it seems like there's room for innovation here.
What about a way to find individual users with similar tastes to my own and share playlists, samples, or streaming songs with them? The Zune's three-days, three-plays limitation makes the direct song exchange uninteresting, but it might be possible to build on that idea--say, a "DJ" mode that could let you stream a playlist to anybody else in Wi-Fi range, or allowing users to select songs on a virtual jukebox (say, at Starbucks) via the Wi-Fi network.
The Beatles. I'm neveragain. If it finally does happen, it'll be anticlimactic after all the rumors.