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1.12.2005

iPod Shuffle... is it a winner?

Is the new iPod Shuffle a winner? I'm not sure.

Industry reaction appears to be mixed, for precisely the reason I am up in the air about it -- no visual display. The going theory is that "blind" navigation flash-based players have been tried before and the consumer did not respond very well. So is this new product any different?

I think it may be. This is because of the "Apple style" factor. Apple is like the (somewhat) new Volkswagen image, you fit it or you don't. For these people style, image, and cachet is what matters, not the specs. This is why you don't see ads for Macs toting the "blazing fast video card" and the "massive hard drives" that you see in the PC market. While this is not a new idea, it is particularly applicable here. CNet.com editor Michael Kanellos has written an excellent column on the differences between PC and Apple people, particularly "marketing" characteristic of Apple folks. For example,
I think the first time I ever picked up on this emphasis on presentation at Apple came several years ago, while watching a preview of a soon-to-be-broadcast Apple ad. In the ad, kids have to stand in front of the class and show an object for show and tell. The first kids stand up and give slightly dispirited monologues about rocks or other things they found on their summer vacation.

Then the kid with the Apple shows up. He cues a video that shows the family laughing it up on a canoe trip and just lets the class watch. Some reporters got teary-eyed. It made me feel sort of weird about the public-school system. The kid got high marks for all show, no tell.

Now true, in real life this could have just as easily been a kid with a PC laptop, but that is the image Apple, and their fans, seek to promote. Why else does every iPod owner still use those default white earbuds when there are much better alternatives? Apple cachet, that's why.

Now don't get me wrong, this stuff sells -- it's even a part of the culture now. I'm by no means an Apple person (I refuse to buy an iPod because of the price/storage ratio) but this image that they have cultivated is appealing. Who does not want to be creative, youthful, funny, and polished -- or at least appear that way?

My current flash-based MP3 player that I use for working out is getting old, and its visual display is practically useless, so I am probably going to end up buying an iPod Shuffle. But this will be my first Apple product, so I ask you what is a cross between an Apple and a PC person?

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