Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet
By Mike Gould
Contrary to popular belief, I do not run out and buy the latest and greatest piece of computer doodad-ery whenever it first comes out. (Well, except for that Mac laptop 4 years ago, but that was a special case, and I forgive me. And as a new product, it did in fact have some problems...). "Beware rev.1" is usually a good motto; by rev.2, most of the bugs are worked out and by rev.3, everything should be in top form. Geekspeak alert: rev = revision, the version of the device in question. The first model available is rev.1, followed by regular updates. By now, the iPod is at around rev.5, so I finally got one.
The Business Model
Actually, I received one as part of my job - lucky me! The UM School of Education, where I work, is filled with techie professors who are itching to start podcasting videos of their lectures to their students. Ergo, the powers that be (my boss - thanks Edna!) decided to get iPods for all the tech support people so we can learn to support said professors in their endeavors. If you need to help others learn a device, you really need to have one to play around work with.
Everybody nowadays associates the iPod with music and downloading, but that is just scratching the surface. (And iPods are easily scratched, the first thing I learned). The models we received were the new 30GB iPods ($300); these support video and photos, as well as music. And that is why, Mr. or Ms. Business Person, you want one.
Well, you want one because you would like to listen to your music all day and it is currently the coolest digital doodad available. But what you really want to do is justify having your company buy you one (or buy one yourself and write it off as a business expense). So read on, then clip this article and present it to your boss: you too could become iPod enabled on the company dime.
The Book of Jobs
First, a bit of history. Apple's core executive, Steve Jobs, envisioned the need for a portable music player to be a part of his planned digital lifestyle system. The iPod would act as a satellite module to the Macintosh computer, enabling the user to easily carry around music downloaded from the Mac. The iPod was designed and built in less than a year, under the direction of Apple's engineering chief Jon Rubinstein with Tony Fadell and Michael Dhuey acting as main engineers. The first iPod was a Mac-only device with a 5 Gig hard drive that would put "1,000 songs in your pocket". It was announced Oct. 23, 2001 at an Apple Music Event; a video of this is available at the address below.
In the years that followed, the iPod was made to work with Windows, Apple aggressively marketed it, and it became a world-wide best seller. Sources differ, but the market share for the iPod is currently reported at around 82% for portable music devices. As with anything Apple does, articles are constantly being published about how this is expected to change momentarily, and that the iPod is doomed in the face of global competition. However, they've been doing pretty good with this, and I see no great slackage in their share going forward, especially since they now display video and photos. None of the iPod's competitors are as easy to run, maintain, or deal with their respective computing systems, Mac or Windows.
Podcasting for Fun and Profit
Podcasting is helping to shape the whole phenomenon. Podcasting is the publishing of sound (and now, video) files via the Internet. A user can subscribe to a regular broadcast, and whenever there is a new edition published, it is automatically downloaded to the users computer (Mac or Windows) and thence transferred to the iPod for off-line listening or viewing. We videotape a professor's lecture, edit it, upload it to a web site, from which his or her students can download it for review on their computers or iPods.
Podcasting wasn't invented at Apple; Adam Curry, one of the original MTV Vjs coined the phrase, as he was one of the first to start doing this. The whole podcasting business is beyond the scope of this article (perhaps to be covered in a future article Real Soon Now), so let's get back to the iPod. Suffice it to say, you can advertise your business via podcasting, possibly increase your web site's standings, and have audio or video bits in your pocket to play for prospective clients or customers.
Business with Your iPod
As a photographer, I find the coolest thing about the new iPods is the ability to load in a variety of photo galleries and use them to show people my work. Yeah, sure, we're talking a teeny-tiny screen here (2.5" color display), but being able to whip out a collection of your work can really impress a client in an impromptu meeting. For a planned meeting, I will bring a hardbound book of pictures, but you never know who you will want to impress at a party or chance encounter. Not a photographer? Have a slide show of product pictures at your fingertips, or pictures of your new plant, or shots of renovations your home remodeling company just completed. The possibilities are endless.
Same deal with movies. Have a training video in the editing stage? View the dailies on your iPod. A video tour of your new facility? Your new TV commercial? Downloads of "Desperate Housewives"? You got it. (I'm not sure how you would justify downloading "Desperate Housewives", unless you are writing a screenplay and need research materials...yeah, that's the ticket, research...).
And being based on a tiny hard drive, the iPod serves as a quick means of transferring large amounts of data between your computers at work and home. There are a lot cheaper means of doing this, but we're talking a multi-purpose Swiss army knife sort of appliance here.
And finally, if your corporation is wooing a particularly large and well-heeled new client, how about a gift to an executive of an iPod pre-loaded with your come-on video, product shots, and brochures in PDF form on the hard drive? If somebody gave me one of these jobbies, I would tend to think quite highly of them.
Jobs introducing the iPod: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kN0SVBCJqLs&eurl=
Adam Curry's site: http://www.curry.com/
A directory of Podcasts: http://www.ipodder.org/
Apple's site: http://store.apple.com (and click on the picture of the iPod)
Mike Gould, is a part-time mouse wrangler for the U of M, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Consulting/Digital Photography mega-mall, is a member of Factotem.com, and welcomes comments addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.