Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Apple CEO Steve Jobs announces a new generation of iPods in San Francisco yesterday. Shortly after this event, Jobs declared the new iPods obsolete.
Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
So the new iPods have been introduced. Lest you think I'm one of those Macophiles who's camped outside the Apple Store, I'll have you know that I'm still rocking the black and white 40 gig (ten pound) iPod I got nearly four years ago. (Well, technically I'm on the fourth free replacement of that iPod because they keep breaking, but the point is, an iPod purchase is not routine for me.) When replacement iPod #4 started acting up on me a few weeks ago, I decided it was time for an upgrade. But a new generation hadn't been released in a while, so I figured I'd wait for the next new thing. At least that way I'd have the best iPod for a few weeks. Just days later, I heard that some brand spankin' new iPods would be released September 5th. I waited. I got excited...
Wikipedia defines planned obsolescence as "The decision on the part of a manufacturer to produce a consumer product that will become obsolete and/or non-functional in a defined time frame."
Companies of all stripes do it, but technology companies seem to do it most of all. Apple has probably already developed iPods that double as jetpacks that allow you to orbit the moon. But you won't see those any time soon. And when they come out, they'll first just have iPods that can fly you to your neighbor's house. Then a few months later they'll introduce ones that can fly you across the country. And that'll seem pretty amazing compared to the ones that could only go down the street, but they won't be amazing three months later, when the iPod Sputnik hits the market...
So I was feeling a small victory over the forces of planned obsolescence coming my way yesterday, since my old iPod was limping to its death just as a new generation was being released. I got a lot of years out of the old one and I legitimately needed the new one, just at the time that the new one was really new. I got even more excited when I heard that the new iPod would have one of those supercool big touchscreens like the iPhone.
Yesterday the release came, and I am crushed. You see, the supercool touchscreen iPod only comes in 8 gig and 16 gig sizes. What good is that? I have 40 gigs of music on my current iPod, and I'd like to have room to try this "video" thing the kids are doing. So 8 or 16 gigs is not an option. To add insult to injury, Apple is re-branding the old iPods with the clickwheels as "iPod Classics," and offering them with 160 GB (twice the previous capacity). Since when was "classic" an attribute for anything technological? And how much gall is required to call an item you're clearly about to discontinue a "classic" right before its demise? The rotary phone is a classic. The Atari 2600 is a classic. The clickwheel iPod is just old.
Buying an iPod Classic at this point is like investing in dinosaur food a week before an Ice Age. And buying a 16 gig iPod when I have 40 gigs of music is like casting myself in a tasteless parody of Sophie's Choice.
Worst of all, it's painfully obvious that if Apple can make a 160 gig iPod Classic, they could easily make a new touchscreen iPod with 80 gigs right now. Steve Jobs probably has a trunk full of them, with jetpacks to boot. Meanwhile, I'm stuck with the Victrola of portable audio players.
Apple is hoping that my desire for the new toy, combined with my frustration with the old one, will compel me to buy a subpar product now and be forced to replace it in a few months. Well I'm not biting. All I can say is, they better have that 80 gig version ready for Christmas. If not, I'm going back to my Walkman. After all, you can't improve upon a Walkman.
*** NOTE: The BPP's own Win Rosenfeld is planning a rebuttal to this blog post. In the mean time, feel free to post your own rejoinders.