Mac users have been having fits about the unbundling of
FireWire cables from this week's new iPods. Even CDM contributor Jason
O'Grady says this is a sign of Apple abandoning Mac users.

Um, huh?

Sorry, but this is pure cost-cutting, nothing else, and streamlined
costs have been part of iPod's explosive success. Apple doubled its
iPod market share in just a year with the Mac mini, partly because of
size and design but probably more so thanks to a lower price point. USB
2.0 is now standard on new Macs, too, and an optional cable is still
available. Yes, the lack of a power adapter (as observed by iPodLounge)
is annoying, but hardly a deal killer, and it's further evidence that
this is a cost competition equation alone. True, many PCs lack powered
USB 2.0 ports — but they often lack powered FireWire, too. Whose fault
is that?

On the Mac, meanwhile, Apple continues to push FireWire for audio,
storage, and video. And audio users, don't expect the 'death of USB
2.0' anytime soon. Hardware developers I've talked to say the cost to
develop USB 2.0 audio devices is significantly higher, and you'll
notice nearly all pro audio interfaces use USB 1.1 for 1-4 channels or
FireWire for greater broadband. The PC, for its part, has started to
more aggressively adopt FireWire — once unheard of, now standard on
many machines. We're clearly living in a multi-bus world, and using
more external devices than ever. So Apple has decided to move iPod to
the USB 2.0 bus. That's not Apple abandoning the Mac, and it's not the
death of FireWire.

In other words, this is not news. Meaning . . . well, sorry you had to read this. End of line.

  • Guest

    As a Mac user, it bothers me.

    I have an Apple iBook which I bought less than a year ago. Suppose I went out and bought an Apple iPod today.

    Call me a crazy naive Mac guy, but I'd sort of expect that an Apple iPod would work an Apple iBook right out of the box with no problems. But, whoops, I'm going to bring it home and plug in the USB 2.0 cable to my USB 1.1 bus. Will it charge? Will it even work? Will I be transfering songs at 11Mbits?

    You see, one of the reasons I bought a Mac is that Apple cares about these things. Way back when, Apple used to actually include printer cables with their ImageWriters–crazy, I know. I know that when I buy something for my Mac from Apple, everything will work. Or at least it used to. Not anymore.

    Of course, if I hadn't bought that iBook and had bought a PC laptop, everything would have worked fine when I bought my iPod.

    Apple used to include both a FireWire and a USB 2.0 cable to insure that whichever platform you used, you'd be set. In fact, Apple claims on their box that it works with PC + Mac–I assume that means that you need a brand new Mac. Otherwise, you'll be needin' to spend more money.

    I expect this sort of attitude from PC companies. I don't expect it from Apple.

  • Guest

    It does work with USB 1.1, just very slowly. If it was any bigger then 1 GB it would take FOREVER to load. The power charges as well.

  • admin

    Well, yes, those of us with pricey Apple machines from before the 1.1 to 2.0 shift will either be buying an extra cable or watching a new Shuffle move kinda slowly. (Count me in.) Neither is earthshaking.

    Yes, it'd be nice if Apple included both cables in the box. Yes, we can complain about that in a review. NO, it's not the end of the world. If you can provide solid evidence that Apple's attitude has changed radically, I'll listen gladly. But I just don't see it. Way back when Apple was including cables with its ImageWriters it was also abandoning customers who had spent THOUSANDS of dollars on a system when it aggressively abandoned three hardware platforms (Apple II, Apple III, Lisa). The good news is, Apple doesn't behave that way any more.

    USB 2.0 and FireWire are alive and well. The box is missing a single cable but, thanks to the fact that the cable doesn't cost $50, the price cut is real — and even without the price cut, these are still the best music players on the market. And it works with the Mac. And Apple is still a Mac shop when last I checked.

    So why are people so stressed?


  • Guest

    I don't believe for a second that any Mac user actually believes that Apple is on its way to abandoning Firewire. I believe it's just a way to grab headlines and make Apple rethink the message their sending to the faithful customers who bought their machines just a few years go and are now forced to pay extra to use the newest iPods.

    As an owner of a USB 1.1 eMac, I AM upset that Apple is forcing me, as a Mac user, to pay more money than someone who would be buying an iPod for use with a PC. I don't believe that they should necessarily bundle a Firewire cable with the new iPods (they do have to cut costs somewhere), but they should allow customers to at least trade in their USB/dock cables for a Firewire/dock cable free of charge either via mail or going to an Apple reseller/store.

  • Guest

    Mac or PC, it doesn't matter. USB 2.0 just sucks. you can plug your mouse and little things in but hard drives should only be FW.

  • Guest

    " but they should allow customers to at least trade in their USB/dock cables for a Firewire/dock cable free of charge either via mail or going to an Apple reseller/store."

    One of the best things I've read over this whole debacle. I am in the same boat as I am still using my 1st gen 5GB iPod and don't have USB 2 on my TiBook. Then again, I am sure cheap cables will flood the market and paying another $20 is something I can live with and then just sell the USB cable on ebay or the such.

  • admin

    USB 2.0 "sucks" — on what grounds? I'm using FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and USB 2.0 for hard drives. All work without a hitch.

    USB vs. FireWire is not a "PC vs. Mac" issue. Apple popularized the adoption of USB with the iMac, and the PC followed. Now Apple is standardizing on high-speed FireWire for pro video and storage, and USB 2.0 as a cross-platform bus for the iPod.

    Current generation Macs all feature USB 2.0 standard — even the Mac Mini. Should you go out and buy one to run your iPod? NO! You should buy the cable, which is $19.00.

    On the PC, consumers are pretty unaware of all these issues, so I think the Mac's hyper-sensitive reaction to this discussion is an indication of just how obsessive we are.

  • Guest

    I keep wondering why no one makes
    an 8-in/8-out Firewire MIDI breakout
    box. USB MIDI timing is marginal, but
    the big MIDI-only breakout boxes are
    still all using it. This is particularly
    useful if you want to buy a Firewire
    audio box w/o MIDI (say, the Metric
    Halo), but you also want your MIDI
    on Firewire, and you want lots of MIDI.

  • admin

    Sounds great, but I think the window of opportunity may already have closed, as gear will increasingly be connected directly via USB or FireWire rather than MIDI.

    Manufacturers still haven't sorted out the best way for us to manage gear; mLAN has some promise but isn't yet fulfilled by enough equipment.

    Keep your fingers crossed.

  • Guest

    While I agree that Firewire does not necessarily means Mac-only and USB2 does not equal PC-only I can't stop feeling bothered and cheated. And if Apple believes that the main reason for the setback is that USB 2.0 outsells FireWire then why not ditch the Mac line in computers altogether and concentrate on the PC market which exceeds 80%. Or just save a few bucks by stopping development of Mac iTunes. Other 3rd party utilities will surface and Mac users will happily pay the penalty.

    IIRC iPod sold millions and become an icon not because it was cheaper or unique but becuase it was superior and made no compromises. And that superiority was shown by the enhanced connectivity FireWire offers. Most people do not care about the extra $20, they are spending more than the competition buying Macs and iPods after all. But they are too proud to be treated as 2nd options by the same company it sold them their desktops.

    And while "experts" would apploud Apple becoming Dull and Apple admitting defeat in FireWire (and maybe afterwards in QuickTime, OSX, PowerPC etc) many people would detest it. The computing world needs more Apple not Yazumi.

  • Guest

    Apple's moto "Think different" has never sounded more ironic.

  • Guest

    So for the iPod mini, a two-year-old piece of equipment:

    in February 2004 a 4gb mini cost $249

    in February 2005 a mini equipped exactly the same costs $218.

    Color me underwhelmed.

  • Guest

    Oops, looks like I gave Apple too much credit. I didn't realize that they had also removed the AC Adapter from the iPod mini.

    That means that:

    Feb. 2004: iPod mini w/ Firewire and AC Adapter: $249
    Feb. 2004: 4gb iPod mini w/ Firewire and AC Adapter: $247.

    Apple has managed to reduce the price of an iPod mini by the whopping sum of two dollars in one year.

  • admin

    Apple took out stuff people might not need to cut the price to sell more iPods. Period.

    This has absolutely no impact on my life as a Mac user or my perception of Apple's devotion to the Mac platform. In fact, I think there's no question anecdotally that the iPod is inspiring confidence in the Mac platform again. People all around me who I thought would never switch from Windows suddenly have to have a Mac. Coincidence? I don't think so.

    So here's the choice. Which is a bigger deal to you:

    On one hand, we have a dramatic market share grab strategy with iPod (now with better battery life, shuffle, cheaper iPod photo, etc.), but also Mac Mini, HD video, pro apps, OS X Tiger, etc., etc.

    On the other, we have . . . a $20 cable.

    Which would you look at to try to tell how much Apple cares about the Mac?

    This may not be the iPod you want to buy at the moment (I won't — I want a new shuffle for the gym, actually!). But why do we have to divine the future of Apple from what is or isn't bundled in the box?

  • Guest

    Anybody know what jacks are
    on this thing? I've been on
    Apple's wanky sit for a
    goddamn half hour trying to
    find basic information about
    this product.


  • admin

    iPod jacks are the same as usual — a dock connector and a headphone jack (with remote port)

    Shuffle only has (standard, non-proprietary/dock) USB + headphone.

    The day these have audio in, I'll be holding a special 'input' party here in NYC. Except we'll have to contend with the hellfire and end of days, so you may have to accept the mark of the beast.

  • Guest

    You still save money by not having to pay for additional accessories that you don't need.

  • Guest

    It's not dead yet, but it soon will be. Even DVs are feeling the pressure to switch. So with Apple abandoning 1394 and DVs, the last bastion, switching over, kiss your pretty ports good-bye.

    I'm not a mac user, but really…is it necessary to bash Apple for it? The argument that they should hang onto it even if it's not bestselling doesn't hold water. Do you really want to have extra ports on your laptop or more cables lying around? No thanks. And just as it doesn't make sense to have 5 different DVD formats, it doesn't make sense to waste time, money, and space on the parts of developers and consumers. Mac computers fill a niche, so that does make sense, but USB and Firewire (except 1394b) don't have a considerable enough difference for non-fanatics to care. It doesn't fill a niche. USB will never die–it's too widespread, both in onboard ports and peripherals, and many still have 1.1. Firewire, on the other hand, isn't standard for most peripherals and most of that 80% market share just don't have anything Firewire.

    It had its chance, but the revolution failed. It's on its way out.