Oct 11

iPod’s last gleaming

Damn, I love product announcement weeks.

The joy of the big reveal. The expert over-analysis. The traditional pouncing upon Apple for some perceived infraction.

But in all the guesswork going on about iPhone 5, I’m struck that there’s so little attention being paid to our old and dear friends, the iPod family.

Since the beginning of time, Apple has thrown a party every September to celebrate the annual refreshing of the iPod line. For Apple fans, the September iPod event has been the starting bell for the holiday gift-buying season.

This year, we didn’t get a September event. I didn’t see a lot of grousing about that from the press or the bloggers, which probably just reflects the reality. It was fun while it lasted, but iPod isn’t the big attraction anymore.

Recent rumors have it that the iPod shuffle and iPod classic will soon be sent to iPod heaven. This makes perfect sense. There really isn’t much point to the shuffle now that the nano is almost as tiny, attaches with a clip, and actually has a screen. A touch-screen, no less.

The classic is practically creaking with age, and could easily be replaced by an iPod touch with beefed up memory.

So it seems that this year’s iPod announcement will be more about end-of-life than new life. And if that’s the case, it hardly deserves a big party. In fact, it’s really more deserving of a demotion to One More Thing status.

Surely Tim Cook is looking for some fun and respectful ways to echo his mentor, and this would make perfect sense. With some cool improvements to the surviving iPods, he could present them as being so good that the other models aren’t even needed anymore. It’s either that or use the iPod news as part of the warm-up to the main event.

The real story, of course, is that with the widening audience for iPhone, iPods have simply become less important. The numbers are declining. Apple isn’t even advertising them anymore.

In fact, it’s not hard to envision a time when iPod nano becomes the last iPod standing. It can do the one thing iPhone can’t do — go anywhere, including the gym. Seems that one day iPod touch will just be an iPhone, with the option of activating the phone part.

If it’s true that the iPod line is contracting, we should have a moment of silence out of respect. It’s almost hard to remember now, but iPod is the device that changed everything. It was the first of Apple’s modern trilogy of revolutions, paving the way for iPhone and iPad.

So thank you, iPod, for everything you’ve done. See you again next September. Maybe.

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  • qka

    Cancel the shuffle? There’s a huge psychological gap between a $50 shuffle and a $150 minimum nano. That gap will affect gift giving of iPods, which can be an entrance to the Apple ecosystem. It will also affect user behavior – do I want to take my nano on my run in the rain? To the gym? On the subway?

    Canceling the shuffle has what I believe are too negatives for Apple. No nano update, continuing what is already perfect, would make more sense. (After all, the shuffle 2G was around for several years followed by the tiny 3G that was replace in a year by the 4G that is very similar to the 2G, with the “smarts” of the 3G.)

    As for the classic, we’ve been wondering when it would end ever since the mini was canceled in favor of the original nano. There are those folk who love the classic for its sheer capacity; even an updated touch would not be comparable in either cost or capacity. I’m afraid they’ll be the ones out of luck.

  • ken segall

    If they nix the shuffle, I’m assuming the price of the nano would be lowered. A $100 nano vs. a $50 shuffle would be more palatable. (Though I grant you, $50 is a good gift number.)