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This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2010-04-01 at 12:05 a.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/11135
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Apple Unveils big iPod touch

by Rich Mogull

In an effort to silence critics who consider the iPad nothing more than a big iPod touch, Apple is releasing a new device called "big iPod touch [1]," with models available for pre-order as soon as Apple updates the online Apple Store [2] today. 8 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB options will cost $399, $499, and $599, respectively.

Apple spokesperson John Bigbooté said, "Ever since we announced the iPad in January, critics have confused it with a big iPod touch, but nothing could be further from the truth. So, to fill out our mobile product line and eliminate this confusion, we are announcing an actual big iPod touch today. Apple takes customer feedback seriously, and based on the responses to our announcement of the iPad we realized there was clear demand for a larger iPod. big iPod touch is available today for pre-order."

The new big iPod touch shares the dimensions of the iPad, but uses the processor, memory, and operating system of the current iPod touch. It will run all compatible iPhone OS applications, scaled up to the larger screen size, but it will not support iPad-specific applications. The big iPod touch's body uses the composite plastic materials of the iPod touch, as opposed to the aluminum construction of the iPad.

Bigbooté told us, "From Apple's perspective, the most exciting aspect of this announcement is that we were able to bring big iPod touch to market in record time thanks to proprietary Mac OS X tools running on high-end Mac Pro workstations." According to sources, Apple engineers were able to design the product quickly by loading their engineering diagrams in Apple's internal computer-aided design software and pressing Command-+ until the schematics were large enough, a feature not available on any Windows-based CAD package.

As a result of this design process, the screen resolution remains 480 by 320 pixels, but each pixel has been scaled up to fill the larger physical screen dimensions. The original iPod touch uses a 3.5-inch display, while the big iPod touch shares the iPad's 9.7-inch screen. Another consequence is that the headphone connector has been resized to accept the larger 1/4-inch phono plug instead of the common minijack plug. This enables customers to use high-end audiophile headphones without special adapters. However, standard Apple earbuds will require a 1/4-inch-to-minijack adapter, available in the Apple Store for $22.

In a press release, Apple CEO Steve Jobs stated, "A benefit of this truly special screen design is that iPod touch apps run natively on the device without scaling images or adding black borders. When you hold the device at the proper distance, the images magically come together for a superlative experience." The 55-year-old Jobs claimed that the screen size and resolution clearly differentiate the big iPod touch from the iPad while filling market demand for devices with larger pixel sizes that are more visible to baby boomers.

Actor, author, and occasional technology pundit Stephen Fry said, "Well as much as my publisher will beat me about the head and shoulders for voyeuristically gawping instead of tip-typing away at my book, we members of the more rapidly aging classes will make the big iPod touch a winner for Apple. I marvel at any device that I can use without a reconnoiter of the flat for my spectacles." Fry is 52 years old.

Another industry analyst, who wished to remain anonymous for no apparent reason, agreed. "This is another master stroke from Apple," he or she said, "instantly silencing iPad critics, filling a just-created gap in their product line, and appealing to a particularly affluent demographic in a single move." Wall Street analysts estimate that 1,500,000 units of the big iPod touch will be pre-ordered in the first week.

Reactions throughout the Apple world weren't entirely positive. Frequently quoted Apple skeptic Rod Benderleaf wrote on his Tumblr blog, "Like the iMac, iPod, and iPhone before it, big iPod touch is nothing original and is doomed to fail. Without a camera, USB port, or physical keyboard, there's no way it can compete with Microsoft's forthcoming Big Zune or a Linux-based netbook."

In a related development, Apple rumor sites are reporting evidence of additional new products in Apple's pipeline. The latest version of iTunes includes a hidden icon for a "big iPhone" that shares the same physical dimensions of the big iPod touch. Rumor site sources have also discovered references to an "iMac mini," complete with a tiny keyboard and mouse, and a rack-mountable "big Mac mini" that shares the physical footprint of an Xserve, but which reportedly uses a "special sauce" form of liquid cooling to reduce power consumption and heat generation.

"If these rumors are true, and all evidence indicates they are, Apple's strategy is nothing short of brilliant!" wrote a pseudonymous poster at AppleInsider. "By completing their product line with new size options, Apple is destroying the market for Apple criticism. I'm particularly hoping for the inevitable 'big iPhone,' since I have large hands and prefer baggy pants with roomy pockets."

Apple, as usual, refused to comment on the rumors, other potential products, or even whether the company is open today.

[1]: http://www.apple.com/bigipodtouch/
[2]: http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_ipod/family/big_ipod_touch