On September 12th, 2006 Apple Computer (via the RDF of Steve Jobs) introduced new models of the iPod, the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle. Jobs also unveiled a new movie store with a select number of Disney titles.
On the eve of the big event, I wrote a speculatory piece in which I made a promise:
If 1 and 3 are announced tomorrow -- I will purchase at least one movie from Disney tomorrow night. (Assuming that the service is built into a free update to iTunes and that Disney is indeed the only studio on board at launch.)
Even if the selection is limited, I will find something to purchase. I will support this service for the same reason I support iTunes: It's content I want in the way I want it and I would like to see it flourish. I do not anticipate the "just Disney" issue to be an issue. It wasn't an issue during the initial rollout of the iTMS, and I don't think it will be a different situation for movies: When we buy them, they will come.
True to my word, I utilized the slow network at the hotel I'm staying in to download Toy Story. (This is despite the fact that I could probably argue that Apple didn't meet my requirements: They came pretty darn close and I'm happy with what they have. I expect that there will be improvements in the future to work out the kinks.)
Watching Toy Story for the first time in ages, it really struck me how perfectly it depicts a child's love for his/her toys. I remember having birthday parties for some of my stuffed animals and am pretty nostalgic about the things I had to play with as a child. Those toys shaped the imagination I never grew out of and I can remember feeling sort of upset when it became apparent that I was too old to play with toys.
As an adult, there are few possessions that we come to love like we loved our toys. We replace appliances and look forward to having something newer and better than what we currently own. As children, we ask our mom to sew up stuffed animals when they tear -- rather than replace them with something newer, yet less familiar
Two birthdays ago, I turned 27 and was pretty disappointed that I could not afford the full-blown iPod that I really wanted. My wife agreed to buy me an iPod Shuffle (as a result of my incessant whining) and despite being a bit like hoping for a boy and finding out that you're going to have a girl -- I was happy that I would have something to put my growing collection of digital music onto.
To further the analogy -- you do not love the girl less simply because you originally hoped for a boy and I loved my Shuffle almost at once for several reasons: It was really small, it held a ton of music despite only being a 1GB device and it seemed to go on forever without needing a charge.
Two years later, I may be one of the most unapologetic fans of the iPod Shuffle who isn't named Steve Jobs. Everything I note above has held true and I can now add: The Shuffle is practically indestructible. I've dropped it, put it in my pocket with keys, dropped various sundries on it and it looks like I bought it yesterday.
John Gruber sums up the way it works, perfectly (or, works perfectly):
So I did, and I loved it. My cheap little Shuffle is far and away my favorite iPod. It ends up that the shuffle modes randomizer does a better job picking music I want to hear than I do. When I pick music manually, I tend to keep picking the same music I just listened to yesterday, and I bore myself.
He's nailed the appeal of the Shuffle.
That's not to say my Shuffle and I don't have our ups and downs. At times, I don't really understand why it starts playing at various points in any given set of songs when shuffling: I'll push pause and an hour later it will begin playing in the middle of some other song when I resume listening. Sometimes, it takes a few too many pushes of the "play" button to actually begin playing a song. Like everything that we grow to love -- I can overlook these minor faults because of everything that is right about the Shuffle.
And then something came between us: I began to look at other models.
Steve Jobs stepped onto that stage last week and introduced newer versions of all of the iPods and I began to remember my pre-Shuffle desires. I even looked at pictures on the internet and had thoughts of bigger hard drives.
Maybe it's because my wife bought it for me -- or maybe it's because my Shuffle has served me so well, but I felt a strange guilt upon considering its replacement. It's as though I was packing my stuffed animals and moving on all over again. Still, that new Shuffle stuck in my mind: A built in clip, a sturdier case, a less chintzy on/off switch -- all for a paltry $79.
I'm not proud of this, but the deed is done: I went into a Best Buy and I left my Shuffle back at the hotel. I just replaced one of the best devices I've ever owned even though it still works just fine.
For a brief moment, I thought I wasn't going to have to: It turns out that the new Shuffle won't be available until the first week of October and I thought I was going to go home empty handed. The new Nano proved to be too much to resist and my resolve melted away as soon as I saw it. As I've mentioned, I happen to be working a ridiculous amount of overtime right now (money is not quite the problem it once was) and the Green aluminum case was simply too much to resist. I am now the proud (but guilt-ridden) owner of a 4GB iPod Nano.
It sounds ridiculous, but this is the sort of quality Apple puts into their devices. (Even those that retail for less than $100.) Product loyalty means that I justified the purchase of the Nano by thinking that it would not negate my Shuffle: The new "clip" Shuffle would have been a physical improvement, there's no doubt about that -- but would otherwise do the exact same thing as my old Shuffle. (The capacity isn't even any better.) I couldn't kick an old friend out of my pocket without stepping up to something in a different class altogether.
In short -- I am now an iPod polygamist.
With that said, I already notice that I feel more anxious when handling the Nano, whereas my Shuffle never felt like a risk: Drop it? So what. Touch it without wearing padded gloves? No big deal. Screen protector? Not necessary. Choose a specific song? Not even if I wanted to.
The iPod Shuffle also has one feature that is sorely lacking from any other iPod: It can convert songs to 128-bit AAC as it imports them in order to save space if you happen to rip your music at a higher bit-rate. (It does not touch the source file -- it remains at the original [higher] bit-rate on your hard drive.) This means I can fit far more music on a 1GB shuffle than my wife can on her 1GB Nano. I'm no audiophile and the extra quantity is nice, especially on long trips.
My Shuffle's battery life also happens to kick the ass of any other iPod on the market.
I say all of this because I think people tend to dismiss the Shuffle as an afterthought in the iPod lineup and doing so is a mistake. There have been rumors that Apple might drop the Shuffle entirely and I couldn't be more pleased to see a new design to counter those claims. If you don't have an iPod, or if you want something (extra) that is slightly more convenient for activities (such as running) I highly suggest looking into the new Shuffle when they are finally released. If Apple has done nothing other than improve upon the 1st generation Shuffle, they may have produced perfection in a screen-less digital music player. (For well under 100 dollars.)
I was chided at one point (here on Newsvine) for saying that the iPod Shuffle is the best item I've ever owned but I will stand by that statement. I can't remember the last time I owned something that did what it was supposed to do with the staying power that my Shuffle has exhibited. It's also happens to be the antithesis of feature-porn: It does one thing and dammit all, it does it almost perfectly.
Here's hoping the Nano I just bought works half as well. I think I have room in my heart for two great devices.
Short aside: Apple has just released the last episode of Lost for free but I notice that it doesn't appear to be widescreen. It also appears to be in 320x240 rather than the 640x480 that Jobs boasted of this week. Can anyone confirm whether they updated their entire television library to 640x480 -- or is it only content that is added post 9-12-06? Also, if you've bought any episodes of Lost, were they in widescreen? The episode of The Office that I downloaded yesterday appears to be in the higher resolution and is definitely in a wide ratio: I'm wondering if they lowered the resolution of the Lost episode (and cropped the free version) so those who bought it previously wouldn't be upset about its sudden shift to free.