Thanks for nothing

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The stony silence issuing from this space during the past couple of weeks can be attributed to a pair of trade shows—the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and San Francisco’s far-more-manageable Macworld Expo. As a Guy Who Writes About iPods, I was tasked with taking the pulse of the iPod economy during my visits to each show. I’m pleased to report that neither was about the iPod.

And, may I add, thank god for that.

I say this not only as the author of two iPod books who is giddily relieved that his work, in the course of a day, hasn’t become completely obsolete. I also send my regards heavenward because I have the sneaking suspicion that much of the world has had it up to here with new iPod announcements. It’s time to give it a rest and let us enjoy the iPods we own without the worry that somehow the top-of-the-line music player we purchased just last week is suddenly second best.

My hope is that Apple’s paying attention to how we feel about a constant onslaught of iPods. Slogging down CES’ endless aisles I got the sense that—except for the folks running Creative—the world has pretty much accepted that when you’re talking portable music players, the conversation begins and ends with the iPod. Common as toasters, the iPod has become a commodity. Apple could continue to bombard us with iPod ads, release new models every two months, and update the iTunes Music Store with every quarter moon, but doing so risks us getting sick of the whole thing.

We get it. The iPod is cool. We’ve got one. Leave us alone!

That’s not to say that the iPod influence was completely missing from CES. Although Apple was nowhere to be seen in Vegas, its presence was felt in the number of content deals brokered and announced at that show. Although outfits such as Yahoo and Real squawked endlessly about how Apple’s control over the iPod and the iTunes Music Store was hurting consumers and throttling the growth of digital media, it was clear that they and others had to respond with something— anything —or be left behind when the next big home media wave rolled in. This was evident in such deals as Real making Rhapsody available to Cox cable subscribers, Microsoft buddying up to MTV, and any number of mobile phone providers offering music downloads. We’ll see how they feel about these lock-down deals when the deal is theirs to defend.

Steve Jobs certainly wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to crow about the iPod’s success during his Macworld keynote address, but after that crowing he and the audience were likely equally relieved to be able to leave the iPod just the way it was and talk about the company’s progress in regard to the Macintosh. Apple is, after all, also a computer company.

Of course Moscone South was crammed with booths that featured iPod accessories, but, unlike last year, I heard far fewer gripes about Macworld Expo being an “iPod show.” Far from this being an indicator that the iPod’s old hat, it shows me that Apple’s portable music player is exactly the fixture its creators hoped it might be. While Apple’s sure to offer up a regular diet of cool new iPods, I’m nicely sated for the time being. Intentional or not, I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciates the break.

This story, "Thanks for nothing" was originally published by PCWorld.

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