People were buzzing about the new releases from Apple yesterday, the iPod Shuffle and the Mac Mini. The Shuffle is quintessential good marketing, in my opinion. The product is technically quite average, but the pricing is good (Shane is annoyed that Apple just undercut his recent purchase of a “low-priced” competitor), the design is slick, but most importantly, Apple made hard choices and then ran with them. Prime among those is the lack of a display. Geeks are saying “isn’t that weird?”, but my forecast is that regular people will completely buy the “theme” of the Shuffle, specifically the very strong bias towards “random play.” Everything about the design encourages that, from the off/continuous/shuffle switch (which encourages shuffling) to the taglines (“Enjoy uncertainty”, “life is random”, “Give chance a chance”, etc.). It will probably accelerate the need to do “something” with the other iPods soon (they’re still quite pricey), but it does seem a nicely disruptive product in a saturated marketplace.
The Mini is equally interesting, and the stakes are much bigger. It’s an ideal replacement strategy for people laden with older, virus-laden PCs, looking for ways to simplify their home computing life. The form factor is delicious, the DVI connector a subtle nudge to getting a nice LCD display. What I want the aftermarket to provide in the next year: a box with a congruent form factor (same footprint, smaller height) containing a video capture card and a high capacity drive, and a good PVR software setup. That would then be a natural replacement for my current PC-based SnapStream PVR. If I had the choice between an Apple-designed media station and a Microsoft-designed media station, I would probably pick Apple, as long as they got the software right. Sometimes they do, sometimes they seem a bit too arrogant still (Trent says he’d return his iMac if he could because of the productivity loss).