Out of control

Out of control

: Has the iPod jumped the shark? The entire point of the iPod is that it gives you control. Hell, the entire point of media that succeeds these days is that it gives you control. But the new, cheap, cute iPod takes that control away by shuffling the cuts you put on it. Gimmick. Off target. Doesn’t mean it won’t sell — it’s cheap; it’s iPod — but it corrupts the Apple/iPod message.

More about Apple’s other major corruption of its good-guy image later.

: UPDATE: In a more careful reading of the site, I see that it has an in-order mode but they do deemphasize that to emphasize the shuffle shtick. I think that’s a marketing mistake, then. Glenn Reynolds had the same uneasy feeling.

: Mossberg likes it.

  • The entire point of the iPod is that it gives you control.
    No, the idea behind the iPod is portability. Not everything is about control.

  • Howard Wright

    Yeah, I see your point about the lack of control, but for the price point, I think it works. Remember, everyone needs a computer to use these things, so it’s easy to make playlists or simply randomize your music collection. That is at least some control. Hopefully, the fast-forward and reverse are quick enough so you can rifle through tracks.
    Found your site from Howard Stern. Maybe he’ll buy Beetlejuice a Mac mini!

  • I don’t think this represents a lack of control. Without a display, the iPod needs a good way to give users a nice variety of music. Since it can still play in Album order, I think Apple has created a solution that maximizes the listening experience while minimizing the complexity. Certainly the market was telling Apple that a flash-based iPod would sell regardless of anyone’s philosophical difference with them. It fills a nice niche for those who just need something lightweight and rugged to listen to while jogging. I already own a regular iPod yet still wouldn’t mind having one of these.

  • Brian Perry

    Yes, I have drunk the kool-aid, and basked in the warm glow of the reality distortion field, but I agree with Mark and also Michael. The point here is portability, cost and simplicity. First, the size- incredibly good for running. iPod is fine, too, but is bigger and more expensive. Second, the cost- this pretty handily beats up on the current market price for a player of this size and price. Third, simplicity- if I am running or exercising, or skiing, I would pretty much load the thing up with what I want to hear and press play, not diddle around creating an on-the-go playlist or something.
    This is a $99, hands-off, tiny, cool music player. I suppose in 3 years the things could be the size of 2 quarters stacked up, and they won’t have a screen then either.
    One thought- how about a small player that projects the song information onto a flat surface with a laser? You could shine it on your arm or hand, eliminating the need for a screen.

  • Dan

    Nope, you get it totally wrong. With the number of songs lowered, and understanding the context in which someone would use it (working out, etc.), having a screen ($) and having to fumble for songs would have been a design mistake.
    I don’t need to know what song is playing. I want to feel my way to the music and get on with life. I like the emphasis on touch switches and simplicity over choice for this particular device.
    I think the reception to this device will prove me right. I love that you are opinionated, Jeff, but on this one, you’re out to lunch.

  • I think it’s a very different market. The iPod+iTunes combo is the “system of record” for music for an individual. The iPod shuffle is most definitely _not_ that. I think it is, instead, the device you use for portability. For the commute, for the workout, it’s the thing you can bring that, while painful to the tune of a hundred bucks, it’s no big deal if you lose it or if it breaks. Also seems to be perfect for things such as audiobooks or language tapes. More thoughts here.

  • Gotta say I’m not with you here.
    I already listen on Shuffle about 90% of the time…because I listen while driving, almost exclusively. I actually love to be surprised by what comes next. With 10K songs on my iPod so far, it’s very unpredictable…and fun.
    At this price and size, I could even see myself getting one and just filling it up with work-out songs for the gym, or songs that are great for driving, for a road trip.
    I spend very little time thinking about controlling my music collection. I just want to have it with me…accessibility, not control.

  • Austin

    I think this might be a case of hammer-nail on the part of Jeff. Why do I want an iPod? Because it gives me control? No. Heck, the iRiver gives me control. Name a single MP3 player on the market that doesn’t.
    No, the reason I want an iPod is that it is the best MP3 player out there: it’s got tons of storage space, it looks incredible, and it works easily and extremely well. All those things add up to a whole for which I’m willing to pay far more than the average player.
    I’m not paying for control. I’m paying for quality.

  • Well, it’s all been said so I’ll just add a “me-too” comment. You’re completely missing the point of the Shuffle Jeff. Apple is going to be hard pressed to make enough of these puppies to meet demand. I predict about a third of current iPod owners will get one of these too.
    It fills a niche in the market offerings, has all of the Apple cachet, and sets a new price point for Apple quality.
    It’s the perfect “take-your-tunes-to-the-slopes” ski gadget. And I can put all my Audible.com books on it too.
    I never needed even a 4 GB player, much less 40 or 60 GB. But a $99, slip-it-my-pocket player is just what the doctor ordered.

  • Jonas Cord

    It’s my understanding that the iPod Shuffle actually does indeed play in order as well:

    …Download an album from the iTunes Music Store and listen to it in order before you Shuffle it into your collection. Or just drag and drop individual songs from iTunes onto iPod shuffle. With Play in Order mode, you manage the music. If things take a turn for the predictable, never fear. Turn iPod shuffle over, flip the slider to Shuffle and mix on the go.

  • Jeff. It’s me, Rex. The person who immediately wrote off the iPod mini when it came out. Heck, for $50 more you could purchase an iPod that would hold 500 more songs. About 5 million iPod minis later, I get the point that everyone else is making. You get to program the iPod Shuffle on iTunes, yank it out of the USB port and go jog for an hour. Anyway, Ii’s not an iPod or iPod mini competition…a completely different product for a different purpose. I’ll let you know how it is when I receive the one I ordered a minute after they were available at Apple.com.

  • DensityDuck

    Wow. Everyone seems to be happy to rationalize Apple’s bizarre business decisions. I guess it’s true what they say; Mac vs. PC _is_ a religious war.
    Anyway. For one thing, listening in album order isn’t the same as “listening in order”. Maybe I’ve got a _reason_ I want my playlist to exist in a particular order. Or there’s a specific song I want to play for someone and I don’t want to fast-foward through every song on the player to find it. Or maybe I JUST WANT TO DO IT MY WAY, RATHER THAN HAVE SOMEONE ELSE TELL ME THAT I *HAVE* TO DO IT *THEIR* WAY.
    The only people actually speaking _in_ _favor_ of the forced randomization are saying that sometimes you just want to hear all the songs and you don’t care about the order. Well, fine–we already have something that does that, and it’s called a “random play” function, which CD players have had since God was a boy. Everyone else is just making excuses for Apple.

  • Duck – Relax: it is not “forced randomization.” You can create your own playlist on iTunes and set iPodShuffle to play in the order you want.

  • Jonas Cord

    Maybe I’ve got a _reason_ I want my playlist to exist in a particular order.

    Then the iPod Shuffle will play it in that order. Apple’s major mistake here seems to be that no one realizes this.

  • Bob Meyers

    As another poster say’s, you have it wrong, the iPod shuffle can plan in load order.
    They have a shuffle option because there is no way to control the flow once it is loaded. Playlist, album, load order or shuffle. Since it is really meant to be a load and go device, this seems fine to me.

  • Stewie

    The only major mistake is Jeff’s, not Apple’s. A lot of excitable commentators have made a supposition about mandatory shuffling that isn’t true. People who examine something before buying it won’t make that error.
    Jeff fancies himself a giant killer, so I can understand him wanting to lash out at an overwhelmingly successful product and thus confirm, once again, his brilliance. In this case, though, he has misfired.
    Newsflash: Apple is still the underdog *and* has the RIGHT attitude toward design, consumers, products etc. The iPod shuffle does not suck.

  • Scotter

    You can CHOOSE to shuffle the 200 songs. Flip the switch up.
    You can CHOOSE to play the 200 songs in the order which you set up and loaded the playlist. Flip the switch down.
    You can CHOOSE to skip forward or backward on the playlist.
    You can CHOOSE to spend $50/$100 more for one with a screen. But then it wouldn’t be the size of a pack of chewing gum, would it?
    J-F-C, all the CONTROL you’re wanking about has been offloaded to iTunes and the playlist you set up. What’s left are the choices you can make while in the middle of a sweat-in-your -eyes run/bike-ride/workout that you don’t have to interrupt.
    It’s a variation on the iPod experience, not a corruption. And it doesn’t conform to the meme that you’ve based your life on.
    And they’ll sell a billion of them.
    Haw Haw!

  • Until today, I couldn’t afford to even think about setting my Mom up with an iPod and audiobooks. Now I’m thinking about it.

  • Jared

    You may be able to play in order or in shuffle mode, but according to the linked Apple page, there’s at least one thing you cannot do:
    “Do not eat iPod shuffle.”

  • Is it about the iPod, or about control?

  • DensityDuck

    >It’s a variation on the iPod experience, not a
    >corruption. And it doesn’t conform to the meme
    >that you’ve based your life on.
    Meme? gb2wikipedia
    As has been pointed out all over the place, I guess we were wrong. This isn’t a moronic decision by Apple regarding product development. This is a moronic decision by Apple regarding product marketing.

  • Or a moronic reaction by those who can’t accept that some products aren’t designed for them.

  • Stewie

    You haven’t seen any Apple marketing, apart from the Macworld show and the Apple site. Marketers emphasize or de-emphasize that which they think will sell the product, and shuffle is a lot more appealing to users than linear play.
    The iPod shuffle is part of a product family. It is not the only iPod. Buy it if you like it, or don’t. But quit with the grand verdicts a few hours after a product is released.

  • Don’t forget your podcasts, listen to them in order or shuffle them. Grab all the gab you can handle with the latest 100 at audio.weblogs.com.
    I think Mr. Jarvis should do a podcast about his opinions on apple ipod and beyond. You could even record on the shoulder of a busy highway if you want.

  • jbbuhs

    I think that there’s more goinng on here than you credit: not just control, but creativity. See http://askpang.typepad.com/relevant_history/2004/02/the_genius_of_i.html and

  • A lot of people are missing the point of the Shuffle. This isn’t a portable hard-drive for carting around a large music library; it’s a thumb-drive for carrying a moderate selection of songs while you work-out. If you’re jogging, an iPod is overkill — you can’t really look at the screen, you don’t want to diddle around selecting a specific song, and it’s easier to have a pocket-knife sized object hanging from your neck than a walk-man on your belt.

  • its crap. and people will gladly stick earphones in a piece of crap as long as it’s made by apple.
    its 2005, and people are really willing to buy a 512mb mp3 player? with no interface? when other companies are selling tiny flash mp3 players WITH screens?
    total crap.

  • Henry

    Believe it or not blogelites, there are many-myself included- who can’t afford an iPod at $299 and up. Now we can crash your party.

  • pb

    I’m surprised how many people thought it only played in shuffle mode considering that that would be kind of stupid and you could figure out in 2 seconds that it’s not the case.

  • iTunes/iPod Shuffle mode is surprisingly cool. It seems to have a knack for putting songs together well.

  • Sam

    “its 2005, and people are really willing to buy a 512mb mp3 player? with no interface? when other companies are selling tiny flash mp3 players WITH screens?”
    For $99, yes. For

  • Angelos

    Another voice in the fray:
    -I agree Jeff went off a little half-cocked, but I also see how it happened. WIth the “in order” text buried in the third paragraph of the wab page, and all the hype about the Shuffle feature, you really do wonder what marketing decisions were made with this thing.
    -The price point is perfect. My brother’s a grad student, and isn’t spending $249 (plus various accessories) on a mini. This, though, he could buy to avoid lugging a bunch of CDs every day into the studio, where he spends 8-10 hours a day.
    -My fianc

  • Patrick

    I haven’t seen much discussion on this elsewhere but I think 2005 will be a pivotal year for Apple. As of this MacWorld, Apple has just dived into the low-end commodity market with two products.
    The Mac mini is a stroke of genius and I think it convert more PC users to OSX in homes, offices, and schools than the Switch campaign ever did. Price has always been the greatest barrier to entry to the Mac world. Now you’ve got a solution that is very competitive with a standard PC solution (read: non-techies) and allows PC users to keep their monitors. Anyone looking to upgrade is free to decide between Wintel and OSX without price parity. Mac-lust has just become an affordable addiction for anyone who already has an iPod.
    However I have mixed reactions to the iPod shuffle. From a engineering and marketing aspect, kudos to Apple for another job well done; the you-don’t-need-a-screen-to-shuffle focus is particularly brilliant (I think they should have rounded the edges but that’s nitpicking). I have no doubts it will sell like hotcakes at $99. It’s definitely the magic price for someone looking for a basic music player for daily activities and as a gift. But on the way into work (in downtown SF) this morning, I saw quite a few citizens already sporting the white lanyard and gum pack around their neck and at the Apple Store, every employee had one.
    Suddenly I could see this item on a ubiquitous level far beyond the white earbuds. Apple still maintains its cache as the cool rebel “underground” brand but if there’s anything that kills the perception of “cool” technology, it’s ubiquity. I’m hardly signaling any kind of downfall of Apple but I will be earnestly watching how Apple positions itself in this coming year.