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The iPod touch & the Innovation Vacuum

Then we come to the new iPod touch. To a large extent Apple nailed it, yet since Tuesday this has been the product which has come in for most criticism. I suspect the reason for this is the latest model is such a near miss that those eagerly awaiting it will still be reaching for their credit cards, albeit with a slight grinding of teeth.

The plus points are undeniable. The inclusion of a Retina Display, A4 chipset, HD video recording and gyroscope all follow the mantra of making an iPhone 4 without the phone. Even the addition of FaceTime may well see the service stretch beyond the novelty value it currently possesses, though I'd argue it needs 3G support from the iPhone to see a significant shift.

Instead, whereas dissatisfaction with the new nano and shuffle may stem from differing visions for these products, dissatisfaction with the iPod touch stems from what appears to be Apple's deliberate sabotaging. There is no such thing as a 960 x 720, 0.7 megapixel camera. It is created only by cutting down a sensor with a higher resolution. Yes the counter argument is the 7.2mm depth of the iPod touch prevents anything higher, but both 2MP and 3.2MP sensors are slimmer than this and should the touch have had to be a millimetre or two thicker to hold the iPhone's tasty 5MP module I doubt you'd have found many complaints.

The second problem is pricing. As a number of you have pointed out the decision to skip a 16GB model, arguably the potential sweet spot, is beyond cynical and clearly resides in a desire to maintain the appeal of the £159 16GB iPod nano. Releasing a 16GB iPod touch at £189 or even £199 - £209 would severely damage that and Apple knows it.

Ultimately, however, it all comes down to power. Apple has worked hard to establish a level of dominance in the MP3 player sector that no rival can come close to matching. In fact iPods barely have rivals, merely alternatives. Consequently Apple can do want it likes. The argument runs true that if you don't like something, don't buy it and I won't be buying a new iPod - many of you will and that's fine.

What frustrates me, however, is innovation breeds innovation. Like it or not the tech sector is a generally uncreative space with endless variants of a few specific products and regardless of your feeling towards Apple, it is regularly a source of inspiration for manufacturers without any to make perfectly acceptable - sometimes superior - imitations. Many of the phones and MP3 players in our pockets, laptops on our desks and potentially tablets in our... well, wherever tablets go... have been influenced by Apple's design team.

Consequently my frustration towards Apple's new iPods is perhaps only by proxy, but to me they tell the likes of Sony, SanDisk and Samsung that they can be less ambitious for another year. The market leader has decided to take it easy so they don't need to come up with an alternative to a touchscreen shuffle or 'proper' iPod nano. So it saddens me that, inevitably now, they won't...

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