Recently, an IDG News Service story titled “
Dell DJ Ditty squares off against iPod shuffle
” found its way into
news area and I must say, I was intrigued by what I found within. Specifically, I was entranced by this paragraph:
Unlike the iPod Shuffle, the DJ Ditty comes with a display, one of the major complaints lodged about the iPod Shuffle. It also plays songs in Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Media Audio format, which doesn’t take up as much space as Apple’s encoding format, said Gretchen Miller, director of mobile product marketing at Dell. Apple’s iPod Shuffle Web page says the Shuffle’s 512MB of flash memory is good for storing up to 120 songs, but Dell said the DJ Ditty’s 512MB of storage can hold up to 220 songs.
Entranced not only because it’s largely nonsense, but rather because it has opened up what may be a very lucrative personal revenue stream. It’s like this:
If you visit the
Dell DJ Ditty Details page, you’ll learn that the 512MB Dell DJ Ditty does indeed hold up to 220 songs, but that little number
next to 220 reveals this:
Assumes audio format is 64kbps WMA encoding with average song length of 4 minutes.
Ms. Miller’s statement that WMA “doesn’t take up as much space as Apple’s encoding format” is technically accurate. I ripped Page & Plant’s Kashmir from the
album at 64kbps in both the WMA and AAC formats and the WMA version weighed in at 5.76MB and the AAC version came in .08MB larger at 5.84MB. But this insignificant discrepancy in size isn’t what Dell’s trying to convey. Rather, it’s hoping that potential customers are so confounded by the mechanics of digital encoding that they won’t understand that when you reduce the resolution of your encoder (and sacrifice audio quality in the process) you also reduce file size.
In essence, all Dell’s done is work the numbers. You could just as easily fit 220 songs on an iPod shuffle if you rejiggered iTunes’ AAC encoder to rip files at 64kbps. Those files would sound just as wretched as 64kbps WMA files, of course, but it could be done.
Which brings me back to me. If a big ol’ company like Dell is ready to profit from this kind of numbers game, why shouldn’t I? If you take a gander at iTunes’ Importing settings you’ll see that you can encode AAC files as low as 16kbps. If, as Dell suggests, I can cram 220 songs at 64kbps onto a 512MB player, what’s to stop me from buying up a load of iPod shuffles and reselling them as the “iPod shuffle Plus,” which hold 880* tracks?
*Assumes audio format is 16kbps AAC encoding with average song length of 4 minutes.
Sure, the tracks will be unlistenable, but as Ms. Miller and her employers seem to be hinting, it’s about quantity, not quality.