Back in the day, when you wanted to gain some clue about what Apple was up to, you did things the old-fashioned way—you dove into dumpsters, shadowed anyone with a three-digit-or-fewer Apple badge number, and lied your way into a subscription to MacWEEK . These days, such behavior would likely land you in the hoosegow.
No, if you want today’s Apple dope you wing your way to the Near East and muck through the refuse bins of Asian chip and memory manufacturers. While Apple’s silicon curtain will certainly prevent you from seeing the next iPod before its time, uncovering a soy-soaked schematic that reveals
Samsung and Toshiba’s plans to make a mess of high-capacity flash chips —the kind of chips that go so well with 2- and 4GB versions of very tiny portable music players—gives you more than a small clue about where the most portable of iPods is headed.
That speculation offered, I have to admit that this is yet another instance where I just don’t get it. Yeah, yeah, I know, today’s childhood obesity statistic clearly indicate that “more is better,” but I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around a 4GB iPod shuffle.
If you’ve used one of these diminutive iPods, you know that loading it with just the right mix of music can take some time. iTunes’ method of cherry-picking playlists with its AutoFill function is all well and good, but with AutoFill you can easily pack the shuffle with a very odd collection of music if you’re not careful—banging from hip-hop to pop to jazz to classical to comedy, if you’ve got a varied music collection.
Savvier iPod shuffle owners know that they can
create more cohesive playlists —based on music style or mood, for example—and feed those to the shuffle. The current shuffles’ capacities lend themselves to this kind of arrangement. You can fairly easily load a playlist that makes sense—that includes just the 128 or 256 tracks you’re going to want to listen to the next time you put your shuffle to work.
But suppose your shuffle were to hold just over a thousand tracks—the number of tracks offered by the very first iPod. Unless you’ve got a very extensive music library and are really good at making playlists (or simply don’t care what you listen to), you’re going to spend a fair amount of time banging the shuffle’s Next Track button. It seems to me that a 4GB music player cries out for navigation controls more extensive than Next and Previous Track.
I understand that iTunes allows you to easily create storage areas for music and data files on the shuffle so that you needn’t devote all that space to music. And sure, a larger capacity shuffle could do things the current shuffles won’t—accept big ol’ Apple Lossless and AIFF files, for example. But how do you convey that in a snappy soundbite to consumers who, in large numbers, do nothing more than fill the shuffle and press Play?
As the guy who proclaimed the original iPod mini a non-starter due to its price, I’m the world’s worst speculator. But were I to speculate, I’d guess that there’s a piece missing.
Life may be random, but, where possible, it needn’t also be disruptive.