Well, I’ve got my iPod shuffle now. Just a bog-standard 512MB model, “as cheap as chips” as they say over here in the UK (although, it should be pointed out, chips are no longer particularly cheap these days).
A funny thing happened when I first used it.
As I excitedly waited for it to fill with songs, watching the Autofill feature at work on my behalf (”Now we can choose what you listen to wholesale!”), my eyes involuntarily strayed to the titles of songs I knew.
“Oh good,” I noted, “The Great Dominions by Julian Cope is on there. And The Wrong Child by REM. Kandy Pop by Bis. Great.”
My eyes - and my brain - ignored the other stuff listed in iTunes; the songs I have no idea are buried away on my hard disk, until random play mode, or in this case, an iPod shuffle, brings them to light.
When it was charged and ready to use, I popped the earbuds in and switched on. The very first song played was a complete mystery to me. I had no idea of the artist or title. My eyes flicked down to the iPod to get the answer, and I had to laugh at my own silliness. So that’s why some people say they can’t live without a screen on their portable music player…
I’m not complaining, though.
When His Royal Jobsness unveiled the Mac mini, I had a little think and pronounced it the “just enough” Mac. The iPod shuffle is the “just enough” MP3 player - the kind of device perfectly suited to millions of ordinary folk who just want to listen to some music on the move.
These are not the same people who get geek pleasure from buying music electronically, who feel it is important to have 10,000 songs at their disposal at all times, or who feel the need to install Linux (or any other OS for that matter) on a cute device that fits in their pocket.
They’re people like my friend Celia, who I bumped into as I walked into town the other day. I uncorked the earbuds from my head to talk to her, and pulled the iPod shuffle from my coat pocket.
“Look at this, my new toy,” I said.
Celia is a busy mother with two young kids. She doesn’t have time to read weblogs or stay up-to-date with musical trends. She’d never even heard of the iPod shuffle.
“Wow,” she exclaimed. “I thought iPods were much bigger than that.”
“Most of them are,” I replied. “This is the new, cheap version.”
She asked how many songs it could store.
“About 120 or thereabouts.”
Celia’s eyes widened.
“Well that’s plenty! That’s about 10 albums! Wow. I’d love one of those.”
This is what the iPod shuffle is all about. Normal people, just listening to music. Not even their whole music collections; they don’t need to have their entire collection with them everywhere they go.
I don’t agree with Dan Hill when he calls the lack of built-in clock shortsighted on Apple’s part. Of course the company wants to keep costs down, but it also wants to produce a “just enough” music player for Celia and millions of people like her. People who don’t care that the Shuffle has no clock, about Audioscrobbler, or about their Recently Played playlist keeping track of what they listen to while iPodding.
All they want is the comforting sound of the music. Everything else is geekspeak to them; just noise.
Is the iPod shuffle all that it should be?