The rumour mill didn't do Apple any favours at its recent product rollout conference in San Francisco. The iPod Touch was upgraded with a faster processor and a 64 GB model was introduced, as predicted, but the new versions also lacked a camera - a feature that many supposed insiders assured us was going to be included in this generation. Instead, new versions of the smaller iPod Nano were launched with a built-in video camera that shoots at 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, but that can't take still pictures.
Probably the biggest thing to come out of the conference was iTunes 9.0, which among other things has an LP mode (where the albums you buy come with lyrics, cover art, photographs and other special features, and the videos you buy come with additional content), an upgraded Genius feature for generating playlists, and the ability to manage Apps and content on your iPhone or iPod Touch, among other incremental improvements.
There was no Apple tablet, which some people were expecting, although with the general theme of "It's Only Rock and Roll" it is probably being saved for a later date.
While the general consensus of the tech trolls out there is that the event was a disappointment, I wouldn't worry too much about Apple just yet - sales are up in every category, and a line of lower-priced Nanos with cameras and radio can only help their bottom line.
But if there was a real winner last week it was definitely Microsoft. On Sept. 15 the company launched its Zune HD line of portable media devices, an answer to the iPod Touch. Without having a lot of details at this point - touch screen with great picture and resolution, tilt-sensitive accelerometers, HD radio, web access, app store and a lower price than iPod Touch - Microsoft's answer to Apple is expected to sell very, very well. The fact that the iPod Touch didn't come with a camera takes away the one advantage that the iPod Touch was supposed to have over the Zune HD (that is, if you don't consider iTunes integration, the incredible App store and a two-year headstart).
All the tech specs are there at www.apple.ca and www.zune.com and if you want a side-by-side comparison then try www.gizmodo.com or www.engadget.com or www.cnet.com... pretty much every review site is going to compare the Touch and HD.
While I'm on the whole Apple vs. Microsoft thing - a popular theme with the pending release of Windows 7, it's interesting to note that Apple has yet to reply to the growing number of touch screen all-in-one desktop computers that mimic the design of the Apple iMac. HP was first to market, but Dell and Sony weren't far behind and now there are probably a dozen computers out there with touch.