So Apple announced a new iPod lineup on Wednesday.
I think they botched it, and in doing so, they showed very un-Apple-like cracks in the product lineup. Here's why:
- The third-generation iPod touch is a wash. Sure, it's faster and cheaper, but Apple's already sold 20 million of them. Without a camera on it (rumor is that it was delayed), there's little to recommend as an upgrade.
- The iPod nano cannibalizes other products...and their customers. FM tuner (hello Sony and Microsoft!) and VoiceOver features make the nano a worthwhile upgrade for previous nano owners. With VoiceOver, it's got shuffle-like capability. Since it's light as a feather and almost as slim (and cheaper), why would anyone buy a shuffle for the gym? (Matthew Miller agrees in his assessment of the new nano.)
- The fifth-generation iPod shuffle is another wash. I estimate that it's selling poorly now, so I can't really see why there's a "new" one. If Apple's punting on this one, it's a wonder why it didn't can it in a single generation like it canned the third generation's stout form factor. The shuffle's only value, IMHO? To get teenagers into the iTunes fold early and on the cheap.
- The iPod classic is a total wash. Sure, those with huge music libraries are happy. But other than that, this legacy model is pretty much unchanged. It didn't even get an Apple press release today like the other models. My suggestion? That Apple figures out a better way to manage syncing between iPods with capacities smaller than a user's music library.
- Apple is surprisingly on the defense. In one slide, it showed Microsoft with a paltry 1.1 percent of the portable music player market....but used the term "other" to denote its nearest competitor, at 17.9 percent. You mean "other" as in "Sony"?
Above all: I don't get why some of these models continue to exist. The nano should be the next shuffle, and do away with the current model. The touch should have all the capabilities of the nano -- you shouldn't have to give up features such as an FM tuner, pedometer and VoiceOver when you upgrade, trivial as they may seem. The classic should be canned.
Why all this? Because in Apple world, the moneymaking content pipeline is iTunes and the App Store. And the problem is the shuffle, nano and classic don't have the same iPhone-derived pipeline as the touch. Without it, they don't have the full platter of content that Apple makes available to its users. They're shut off.
If I were Steve Jobs, I'd kill off the classic and the shuffle, make the nano the new low-end model and offer a new, iPhone OS-based iPod that sits in-between the touch and the nano. Maybe a stout, smaller-screened model, like a keyboardless, Wi-Fi sporting, 3G-less Palm Pixi.
What would you do?