Giving Shuffle A Chance

by Gregory Ng Jan 12, 2005

“Give Chance A Chance.” That’s the tagline for the new iPod Shuffle. After going twice back to the Apple Store here in downtown San Francisco yesterday, I bought one to try out. See, at the conclusion of the Keynote Address yesterday, Steve Jobs casually mentioned, there might be some of these hanging around the SF store. This announcement, in turn, resulted in the running of the bulls from the Moscone Center to the Apple Store 3 blocks away. So by the time I arrived 2 hours later, they were all sold out. But after some persistence and some blatant loitering, I was there when the afternoon shipment arrived.

Give Chance A Chance. I admit, when Steve Jobs started his buildup of Apple’s increasing marketshare in the portable music category, my mouth started to water and goosebumps formed up and down my arms. But when he explained building the new iPod off of the concept of “Shuffle”, I became skeptical.

Why “Shuffle”? First off, positioning this new iPod around the concept of Shuffle is a point of differentiation amongst it’s new peers. But simply offering an iPod from Apple, at that price point, would be differentiating enough.

My first thought was the decision to use “Shuffle” was an excuse for not solving the issue of a small, inexpensive, interface screen. I can hear it now, “Well, we know other iPods give you tons of information for every song, but we can’t make one small enough and still make our $99 entry price point so why don’t we come up with something that will silence the critics?” By coming right out the gate with a new “bigger idea” around a “simpler product” allows Apple to hide behind the engineering inadequacies of the Shuffle.

“Enjoy Uncertainty”. “Lose Control”. “Add musical spontaneity”. Or my personal favorite, “Daily gridlock feels less mundane when you dont know what song will play next.” These are all lines served up for the launch of this product. Who knows? Maybe this is what the public wants. I think the fact that I am used to getting the exact song from a huge library at the precise moment I want it, is why this “Uncertainty” is hard for me to “Enjoy”. I am glad that the Autofill function (added to iTunes) is optional. I think I would be very upset when I’m in the mood for McClusky and Norah Jones pops up.

I bought one:
Partly because when crunching the numbers, it is the same price as buying a USB memory stick only it has the simple elegance from Apple. And mostly because I was curious to see how it would stack up next to my 20GB iPod.

The sound is just as good. The transfer of songs is slower (USB 2.0 vs. Firewire). But mostly it’s a different way of utilizing your music. I am viewing the Shuffle as a personal radio station. It’s all the songs you like. You’re just at the mercy of someone else’s order.

The Shuffles were flying off the shelves here in San Francisco yesterday. But the people buying them were attendees of MacWorld. Not a good barometer for mainstream success. The real proof in the pudding will be from those who already have the flash-based sub $149 MP3 players. Will they spend another $149 and buy a Shuffle? Or will they just continue to use their existing players still saving for the big iPod? I’m pretty sure, those who are entering the market will buy a Shuffle over it’s competitors. Place a Shuffle next to the others and once again, you will see, Apple has made it impossible to resist.

The jury is still out for me. For now I will give the Shuffle a chance. It will never replace my other iPod but you never know, it just might change the way I enjoy my music. At the very least, I got a cool portable storage device that i can wear around my neck.


  • From what I heard during the keynote (or maybe I read it in the online specs for the Shuffle there is the ability to switch it from shuffle to “loop” which plays them in the order they were in the playlist in iTunes.  While I don’t own one yet, I am pretty sure it was mentioned as a switch on the back or something that did it.  Allowing you to know the order in which the music will play.

    So far everyone I have talked to love the idea of it because a) its less expensive, b) less likely to be damaged if they drop it, or hit it hard while at the gym, biking, hiking, etc. and c) once they are started on a treadmill or whatever they don’t want to screw with the music, they just want it to play.  Factor in that it weighs nothing, and if it does get lost/“borrowed” by someone else, its $99 and not $250 - $500.

    We own a 15gig, 20gig and a green iPod Mini, and as a thumbdrive/music player I can really see a great many people enjoying them.

    Likewise with the Mac mini, so far I know two close friends that are Windows system owners right now, and were “saving up” to get a MacOS system “at some point” are both going to lay out the funds to get a Mac mini, right now.

    Will not even get into the uses I see for Mac mini’s in this post smile

    Nevin had this to say on Jan 12, 2005 Posts: 4
  • I think the iPod shuffle is promoted specifically as a “shuffle” experience rather than a low-price MP3 player because of the immense popularity of shuffling one’s music via iTunes and iPod.

    Steve Jobs commented in his keynote that shuffling music was the most popular way people are already listening to their iPods… and I would have to say that remark is corroborated by an extensive article several months ago in the Wall Street Journal that was exclusively about how popular shuffling music is on iTunes and iPod.

    So, it appears Apple is paying very close attention to how its customers are actually using its products… and creating innovative new products by combining technical advances with enhancements to the customer experience.

    Think about it… everyone was pretty much expecting a much lower priced iPod with flash-based memory, but did anyone think that the device would focus on the specific use of existing iPods that is most popular with consumers?  That shows Apple is very in-tune with its customers unspoken needs and expectations and bodes well for Apple & iPod shuffle.

    I won’t be surprised if Apple continues to confound Mac heads by creating new products that tap-into consumers’ unspoken needs and provide a great fit for unnoticed consumer behaviors.

    Oh… glad you got the iPod shuffle!  Do let us know how it fares.  I think an iPod shuffle would be perfect for my 3-4 hour cycling excursions.  AND… turn your iPod shuffle over and flip the switch on the back to linear mode… you’ll be able to listen to music in your order and not a random shuffle order.

    DF in Boston had this to say on Jan 13, 2005 Posts: 15
  • two brief points:

    1. The transfer rate is slower due to writing to Flash memory, not the USB 2.0 interface. A common misconception that USB 2 is noticably slower than Firewire.

    2. If Apple offered a screen to show track titles… the first thing people would exclaim is… “Why can we navigate around my collection?”

    Point is - actually, the design point is - less is better. Never add a feature if it doesn’t satifsy the large majority.

    Screens are used for navigating the vast majority time, and used for reviewing title tracks less of the time. I am sure that user research at Apple proved this out, which nixed the screen.

    Nathan had this to say on Jan 13, 2005 Posts: 219
  • I do not have one, yet. I mostly listen to classical music so shuffle is not the first thing on my mind. However, when I am ready to get a little portable music player to put in my pocket most likely it will be iPod shuffle. My reasons are:
    1. It is by far the smallest and lightest.
    2. I don’t need to view information while I am working out, sitting in a dentist office, etc.
    3. Rechargable battery that you don’t have to take out and charge.
    4. Simple, beautiful design. No extra features.
    5. Price is right. Heck, I have paid $169 for 512MB flashdrives to carry/transfer files around!
    One thing that it show us is how deep they are researching our lives!

    Ivan Sahba had this to say on Jan 19, 2005 Posts: 2
  • A beautiful view from Windows…

    I just bought the iPod Shuffle from the online store and got it in a week (I ordered it the day it debuted). I couldn’t be happier. I am by trade a seasoned Wintel tech (and not afraid of “complicated devices”), but always look to Apple to see what is new. I also wouldn’t consider getting a standard iPod either since thay are quite expensive and really have features I personally don’t need. Enter the Shuffle…compact, beautiful and purpose built. A magnificent play by Apple. sure I could have bought a Lyra for 70 bucks in Best Buy. However, the design and size of the Shuffle is what got me. The design is beautiful, a functional elegance reminding one of the fantastic designs from Europe in the early seventies by Artimede, Olivetti etc, really Bauhaus…true functional elegance. Secondly, simplicity…load it with a play list and I’m ready. I don’t need a portable to manage a 5000 song library, my desktop does that (besides if you drop your Shuffle you dont have to worry about denting or crashing it). The shuffle works for me when I walk; it weighs nothing and can fit in any pocket. In the car (with the Shuffle activated, who needs blabbing DJ’s or even satellite radio!). Though the iTunes software is a bit chunky looking it works pretty well and manages the shuffle well. Finally at $99.00 an easy way to enjoy a well engineered fully turned out product and to cheaply get some of that alluring Apple cachet!  Hat’s off to Apple for making a product that both experts and novies will like by making music plain and simple without the complication (and arrogance, hah!) of the regular iPods…

    chessieshuffle had this to say on Jan 29, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I just got an iPod Shuffle!!! Love it!!!

    I was thinking about all the nay sayers when it was announced and when Apple posted the slogans that run against the grain of the usual MP3 player bunch. But you see, my wife has an iPod. I have been waiting 3 years and an iBook later to buy an iPod. I sat there in the car and home listening to my wife choose the songs. I like most of the same music and I enjoyed just listening. I have OCD so I’m like a rat in a maze when I get too much control of things. I fiddle too much.

    Secondly, the shuffle isn’t too much different fromt the shoddy CD player in my car that plays 10 CDs. The only exception is that I can’t see the track numbers-like that matters since I forget which track number is the song I like-forget the other 16 crap songs on it.

    I already liked chance and mystery with iPod music from my wife’s. Now I have an iPod small enough to carry with ease AND use as a thumb drive all in one.

    Let’s remember that only since the iPod did we get so much info with such easily usable menu controls.

    The iPod Shuffle is a much better user experience than hitting the buttons on my CD player or scrolling and scrolling through the same music library I already have on my iBook.

    martyrart had this to say on Mar 02, 2005 Posts: 1
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