New iMac G5 and video capable iPods in Bangkok

By Graham K. Rogers

metro briefing metro briefing

At the end of October at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok, Apple held a press briefing for the latest G5 iMac and the latest iPods, which can now display video. Therdsak Skulyong, Managing Director of Apple, Thailand introduced Tony Li from Apple's Hong Kong office: he is Director, Product Marketing, Asia-Pacific.

Tony Li split the event into two: G5 iMac, then iPod. He began by highlighting the ideas that the iMac was a "slick" design, now came with iSight and "Photobooth", and also had "Front Row" and an Apple remote control.

The 17" iMac G5 now has a width of 1.37" and the shape has evolved from its previous boxiness to a more curved rear. The 20" was also thinner with a similar shape. Apple's self-adjusting web camera, iSight, is now included and is built into the computer's body, just above the screen. As some might use the machine in a bedroom, Apple has thoughtfully provided a light to indicate when the camera is operating and the computer online.

A new application, Photobooth, is included with the iMac and it has the effect (using iSight) of acting like the picture-taking booths at shopping malls: those that students use to snap images of themselves. The images can be manipulated on the fly -- and this included reshaping the pictures and other effects. Tony Li demonstrated this much to the amusement of attendees. Let us hope this finds its way onto all consumer machines.

Tony also demonstrated Front Row with the infra-red (IR) remote control supplied with the iMac. Front Row is an interface to control music, video, DVD and photo displays from a distance of up to 30 feet (about 10m). The remote control operates all functions with only six buttons. An interface enables selection from a full-screen display like the iPod's menu. The remote allows full control of the functions (e.g volume) of iTunes, iPhoto (and its slide-shows), iDVD, and iMovie.

metropolitan briefing

Tony Li explained that Apple's concept is to "make complex technology easy to use": continuing the convergence that is beginning to merge functionality. The iMac would look good as an item of furniture in a home.

There are now two models in the range and both come with Superdrive for burning of DVDs. They come with Airport (WiFi: 802.11g) and Bluethooth 2.0. There are three USB 2.0 ports and two Firewire 400 ports. Apple claim 44% faster graphic performance.

The 17" has a 1.9GHz chip and 160G hard disk, and is officially priced at 60,900 baht (cheaper than the previous models). The 20" has a 2.1GHz chip and a 250G hard disk. It is priced at 78,700 baht.

metropolitan briefing Before the event I had a look at the video-capable iPod and a Korean-made digital audio player with video capability that will be announced here soon. The iPod display is clearer and crisper. Any doubts about clarity of images were dispelled in that (brief) comparison.

With 28 million now sold, the main focus of the iPod remains music. Apple has built additional functionality into the top devices in the range to allow photographs and video to be displayed. The two new 5th Generation iPods (30G and 60G) are 15,320 and 20,350 baht repectively. When I bought my 3rd generation, 15 gigabyte iPod, it was about 15,500 baht.

The video capability is not a minor detail of this device. The new display size of 2.5" means that, small as it is, moving images are surprisingly clear on the TFT display.

How tedious such a small screen might become has not been tested yet, and I look forward to the opportunity. It is possible with the right connectors to connect with the TV. Examples I have seen online suggest that the images, despite the iPod standard format of 320 x 240 dpi, are still sharp.

While the iPod was introduced in the USA with information about downloads from Disney, Pixar and ABC, there was (unsurprisingly) no mention of this type of tie-in elsewhere. Instead the emphasis was on the home movie in both H264 and MPEG-4 formats. As video podcasts are increasing, this is an obvious use of the iPods.

Along with the music, photographs can also be displayed and slide shows created as before. Several accessories are available, including a dock, AV cables (1,100 baht) and a remote control. This is the same one used with the iMac, but it will cost you 1,400 baht for the iPod (and if you lose the iMac one). There is also a camera connector for 1,700 baht.

iPod at metropolitan briefing

The original iPod was 20mm thick, and the 4th Generation machines were 16mm, the 30G iPod is now 11mm and the 60g device is 14mm. Battery life has been improved, with up to 14 hours for the former and 20 hours for the 60G iPod. As with the nano, the iPods come in black as well as white.

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For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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