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iPod users bitter over limited 1.3 software update

Demanding iPod 2.0 features

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Owners of original iPods are getting decidedly miffed with Apple, if discussions on the Mac maker's own support bulletin board are anything to go by.

At the heart of the argument is the recent iPod system software update 1.3, offered to owners of existing iPods to provide their portable players with support for the AAC audio format used by Apple's new online Music Store.

The trouble is, they were expecting the update would provide all the features offered by the latest generation of iPods, launched on Monday. They include an alarm clock, two extra games, the ability to customise the iPod's main menu and the ability to generate playlists on the iPod itself. Current users can only create playlists using iTunes running on their Macs.

It transpires that the new iPods feature version 2.0 of the player's system software, not 1.3. This fact emerged when some users spotted an unrelated Apple KnowledgeBase article discussing a problem with the new devices' ability to cope with imported notes written in Korean, Japanese or Chinese characters.

Yesterday, an Apple support staffer named Gayle posted a message saying: "iPod software 2.0 and its features are only compatible with new iPods. iPod software 1.3 allows existing iPod customers to play back AAC music purchased from the iTunes Music Store or ripped from a user's CD collection on their iPod."

That too is causing fury, as iPod users try to figure out why they can't have the same features as the new version, and why version 2.0 might only be compatible with new iPods. We can understand the latter - hardware differences - a new processor, say - would require different code, but we can't come up with a plausible reason why the features listed above can't be coded for older iPods.

Now to be fair to Apple, it never said the 1.3 update would provide all the features found in the new machines - users simply took it as read. And as is the case with many new versions of old products, both software and hardware, the new release eclipses the old - that's how manufacturers continue to sell new products, after all. No one asks for a new processor when a manufacturer launches a faster computer.

But back to the iPod. To make matters worse, a number of Reg readers claim Apple has been deleting posts from grumbling iPod users. If true - and we should say we had no trouble finding disgruntled user comments - it's hardly a method guaranteed to calm the fevered brows, but Apple has taken such an arguably arrogant stance before. So have other manufacturers, for that matter.

So we asked Apple to clarify Gayle's posting. Unfortunately, it has not responded to our request. Apple has since posted this KnowledgeBase posting which lists the many differences between versions 1.3 and 2.0 of the software.

That leaves us with little choice but to assume the motive for not upgrading older iPods to 2.0 is more commercial rather than technical. Sure, Apple has a right to make such a move, and it's by no means unique in doing so, but it could have approached the matter with rather more tact and honesty than it appears to have done. ®

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