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Apple’s Ping pongs

Now I’ve had a chance to download Ping I thought I’d add a few more thoughts to yesterday’s ramblings.

So like Apple do, they created all the massive hype yesterday to triumphally announce their big new plans for world social media domination.  A shiny new social network just for all of us who like music and can’t be bothered to find it anywhere else but iTunes.  So presumably millions of early adopters and geeks worldwide frantically download iTunes 10 with its new, 80′s throwback logo and its Ping capabilities.

So we sign up, fill out the extremely basic profile which doesn’t allow HTML so really can’t be made to look interesting and certainly can’t link elsewhere because nowhere else exists outside of iTunes.  We are told we like Alternative, Rock and Rap but that’s ok because we can change that to something less cliched (like Alternative, Rock and Pop in my case; I couldn’t face putting soundtracks down even if I am partial to a West End musical).  We don’t have any friends yet but that’s ok, no need to panic because we can follow our favourite artists on there.  Let’s see…they’re recommending Jack Johnson, Yo Yo Ma and Lady Gaga.  Thanks but no thanks, I’ll check out what Kasabian are up to.  Eh?  No Kasabian listed.  What about Radiohead?  Nope.  Erm, The Cribs?  Nada.  The Killers, surely as U.S. rock gods they’ll be there?  Sorry.  Kings of Leon (not a big fan but I’m getting desperate now).  No go.

Why couldn’t Apple warn labels and bands that this was coming so that those of us who want to check it out whilst it’s still hot actually have a chance to communicate?

Frustrated, I decide to post out there into the wilderness so search for the post button…and there isn’t one.  Turns out you can only comment on a post in the timeline, so I can say something about the latest item I bought, or reply to Coldplay’s posts (they’re on there because Chris Martin was guest of honour at the launch and they’ve already got 36000 followers so there are people out there).

I could go on, but I won’t.  This is worse than I feared; it’s not at all like social networking in jail as was suggested yesterday, it’s like social networking in a dream where you just can’t get your words out and even when you do, nobody’s listening.  And then when you wake up and try to talk about the dream nobody understands what you’re saying…because I can’t even link to a page to show you because it’s not on the web.  How are we supposed to share any information we want to from Ping?  Where is the ‘social’ or the ‘network’ apart from within the microcosm that is Apple?

I really don’t like being negative but I’m struggling to see the point of this apart from as a MySpace killer and a cynical vehicle to increase purchases from iTunes.  Anyone see it differently so far?

Apple updates iTunes, IOS, Apple TV, iPod, Chris Martin and…Ping

A vaguely considered review of the new Apple updates announced by Steve Jobs minutes ago follows…apologies for the lack of pictures but I’m sure you know what an iPhone looks like.

So I was babysitting today and as I promised myself I’d keep up with all things techie from now on, I attempted to juggle following the update live on my iPhone with In the Night Garden, bath, book and bed.  Martha (18 months) is now fully au fait with the full product range but is a little dubious as to their new foray into social networking.  More on that in a bit; just don’t tell the mrs that I wasn’t paying full attention to the small person.

First thing to note is that the whole thing was streamed live, iPhone compatible, naturally, which is always impressive.  If Apple do one thing very well, it’s pulling the collective geek-strings of the world to create a huge buzz around their new product launches.  Less impressive was the lack of a jump forward button in the timeline so even though I was running a few minutes behind live (Special Agent Oso was on so I couldn’t jump on it straight way) I couldn’t skip the boring bits (no, not Chris Martin, the ads and stuff).

So…the updates.  Gadget reviews aren’t really my thing even though I’m as prone as anyone to new stuff so I’ll keep this brief:  iPods are getting smaller.  Really small, and the Nano is now touch screen.  Presumably surgeons and concert pianists will be fine picking the album they want but the rest of us might struggle.  Oh and the iPod touch is getting even thinnner.  That was one announcement which the assembled audience didn’t bother whooping.  Also, iPhones are getting an update next week which should fix bugs (which is as close to an admittance of fault as you’ll ever get from Apple) and the new iOS 4.1 includes HDR (‘High Dynamic Range’) photo capability.  This latter update sounds interesting although I’m dubious as to how much you can improve your photos when your source is the pretty poor iPhone camera.  It apparently takes 3 photos with 3 different exposures, merges them to collate the ‘best’ image and offers you that as an alternative to your original.  Also included in the free update is GameCenter which apart from being incorrectly spelt opens up your games to live multi-player gameplay.  Beyond that, 4.2 will roll out in November and will mainly concentrate on the iPad, offering wireless printing and AirPlay, an updated version of AirTunes, a wireless music streaming service.

More interesting to me was the news that they’re giving Apple TV another aggressive push.  Accepting that it has never really taken off, Jobs and co and offering the new, 1/4 size box at $99 (or £99 over here, apparently).  It’ll offer HD, streaming content for rental from several major U.S. networks (TV shows for 99c) and first run movies for $4.99 including compatibility with NetFlix.  YouTube will also be supported although apparently still no support for the iPlayer.  At that price it’s going to tempt a whole new market into the possibilities of streaming media on demand.

For me, by far the most exciting news of the day was iTunes v10.  No, not the new icon, the announcement of Ping, Apple’s new social network.  I say ‘exciting’, as that’s with my digital head on, but at the same time I’m really wound up by it.  In a nutshell, it’s a social network run through iTunes where you can connect with friends or artists on a musical level, so share recommendations, leave messages, find out about gigs etc etc.  Fine; I get that.  It’s like…Facebook for music.  Sort of like…MySpace.  What??  Haven’t we been here before?  It’s a new social network to belong to which focuses on one subject (music) and which has no apparent links with the outside world.  Oh, and you have to do it all on iTunes which for all Apple’s worth is clunky at best in my opinion.  Someone on my Twitter feed just said it was like being on a social network in a jail.  I may be wrong; they may open up the API to allow it to link to other social networks but I’m doubting that.  I’ve got a feeling this is Apple’s attempt to suppress the might of Facebook and to a lesser extent, Twitter.  In the spirit of research and digital open-mindedness I’m going to give it a go (apparently the download is available today but not yet, apparently), but if I’ve got to do it through iTunes, and if I can only use it to talk about music, it’s not going to win me over as much as a thinner iPod might.