Selling the iPod Madness

Apple Computer expects to sell 20 million iPods in 2005. Humorist Brian Unger looks at the future of portable media players, as manufacturers make ever smaller products and target ever-younger consumers. Next up? The ipotty, which rewards toddlers for their "download" with the Scooby-Doo theme song...

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Financial analysts who cover Apple Computer say the firm may sell 20 million iPods this year. Their iconic dangling white earphones seem ubiquitous, and where there is ubiquity, there is Brian Unger. Here is today's Unger Report.

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

The only thing spreading faster than fear of the avian flu is the Apple iPod pandemic. Seems everyone's a carrier. And with the unveiling of the new video iPod, people who before couldn't hear you now can't see you either as they watch TV everywhere they shouldn't be, zombielike, insulated from the real world until someone robs them of their beloved portable, digital media device or runs them over because they're crossing against the light during an episode of "Lost." The fetishisms and covetousness for this electronic deity has led to mass iPoditry as more and more people become devotees. Apple had its best-performing quarter in its corporate history, selling 6.5 million iPods.

But where does Apple go from here after the iPod nano, so small, so thin it's practically a nicotine patch? Here are a few guesses. For toddlers, iPotty training would start around 18 months. The iPotty would be a sleek, sculptural white toilet seat. After a child successfully downloads, he or she would be rewarded with a medley from "Scooby-Doo."

(Soundbite of "Scooby-Doo")

Unidentified Group: One, two, three, four. (Singing) Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you? We've got some work to do now.

UNGER: But Apple could then make its iPod even smaller and target even younger demos. Look for Apple to next roll out the iPod in utero, or iWomb, for the only market yet to be targeted for iPods, the unborn. During amniocenteses an OB/GYN--or Jobs/GYN as they will come to be known--will extract amniotic fluid, then inject a microscopic iPod into the placenta.

(Soundbite of music)

UNGER: Parents can get started on what researchers already know to be true: The maternal womb is an optimal stimulating, interactive environment for human development. The iWomb would enable a fetus to shuffle a play list of 500 songs or podcast Andy Rooney.

(Soundbite of podcast)

Mr. ANDY ROONEY: How in the world did we ever allow the power companies and the telephone companies to disfigure our landscape with their tangle of wires displayed on 50-foot-tall poles?

UNGER: From cradle to grave, that seems to be Apple's strategy. Can it succeed? Well, in my 2:30 AM ritual, I stumbled half-asleep to the bathroom, semiconscious.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) In the wee small hours of the morning...

UNGER: I peered through the small window that frames a horizon of rooftops and street lights, near total darkness but for a few orange-hazed streaks of light and a single, brilliantly colorful billboard with an alluring silhouetted dancing girl holding an iPod.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) ...you lie awake and think about the girl...

UNGER: I fell back into bed, the dancing girl implanted into my subconscious. Then I awoke to file this story. Steven Jobs' plan is working. And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.

CHADWICK: And, dear listeners, the Unger Report is now available as a podcast. You can download it to your iPod. To learn more, go to our Web site, npr.org. Look down to the lower left-hand corner of your screen and click on `NPR Podcasts.'

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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