Apple, take my $20 please, or someone is finally paying for Google Maps?

ipod touch 1.1.3 update

Please forgive my non sequitur in the title of this post. But I think it’ll make sense as you read on.

I’ve been raving lately about what a transformational device my new iPod touch is. And I’ve been struggling to put into words exactly what’s why that’s so. At first, I wasn’t convinced that it was so much different from my 5th generation iPod, which I still use daily.

Then I took the iPod touch on vacation with me and discovered that the Safari browser was compatible with Outlook Web Access 2007. And that I actually enjoyed watching videos on YouTube. And that the flicking and pinching stuff I thought was the equivalent of tofu — as in real men use mice to navigate — is the first significant UI innovation in at least a decade.

Then I started reading on the Internet about the upcoming 1.1.3 software update. Monday, Apple announced this was free for iPhone users, but would cost iPod touch users $20. Apparently, Apple has decided that the iPod touch is really a handheld — not just a music device. Ergo, bug fixes are free but enhancements are not. I know that lots of people will whine about this…and I gotta admit I wasn’t too happy having just spent $400 on the device.

But, man oh man, is it worth it! I suspect the iPhone people got this upgrade for free because they are AT&T’s prisoner for two years, and food is included in the jail stay. But for those of us who own our iPod touches outright and have to decide to pay or not, I must say I am not looking for $20 back.

The mail client is astonishing…Google Maps is amazing. This is the first device I have ever owned where a setup mode itself is entertaining (the icons wiggle when you are configuring dock pages).

But for all of the amazing new features and the value, there are two things that bother me: first, Apple really should have made this one free. The device has only been in the market since September, 2007. I’ll bet a lot of people got theirs over the holidays, like I did. It leaves a small aftertaste to have to pony up 5% of the price to get the thing to do what it should’ve at first customer ship.

Second, am I the only one who worries that the Google-masters-of-the-universe-who-control-all-our-searches-and-all-galactic-advertising have figured out a new way to extend their monopoly? This is, I think, the first time anyone is paying for a system with Google Maps. (I downloaded an excellent new version that uses cell towers for location onto my Windows Mobile 6 device last week for free.) Google Maps is a killer app…it’s one of the things that makes the iPod touch a transformational device. I wonder if all the “free” stuff people have become accustomed to was really nothing more than a very long term trial.





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