Tuesday morning began much like any other day of the week for me. After checking my e-mail and Twitter, I hit the "home" button in Firefox, which I have setup to launch about 15 of my favorite tech news and review websites (TR included). I quickly noticed news stories about the new iPod shuffle from Apple, and once I realized there was a new product in the lineup, I quickly headed over to apple.com to see for myself what the new music player had to offer. The answer? Not much.
While I was a mild supporter of the second-gen shuffle (I gave one to my mother as a birthday gift, and she loved it for exercising), I find the newest version of Apple’s cheapest iPod really disappointing—but not surprising. Apple—or rather, Steve—has been trying to kill buttons of any kind since painting a hockey puck and calling it a mouse in the late 1990s. The one-button laptop touchpads have been the bane of the new Mac-user experience, forcing folks to spend their first week trying to get used to holding the control key to right-click (I got around that problem by setting the touchpad to register two-finger taps as right-clicks). The newest version of the shuffle is yet another stop along the no-button crusade, and it really takes the cake for "huh?" devices. Instead of the small button array we had on the last version (which, again, isn’t a terrible device if you’re into simplicity), Apple has moved controls to the earbud cord.
When I first realized this, the usability impact of the scenario hit me like a ton of bricks. The iPod shuffle, right out of the box, can’t hook up to your car stereo, can’t be used with your favorite headphones, and can’t be hooked into the home AV setup. You’re stuck with the stock earbuds, which after many many pairs have always broken for me after about six months of use. Give the customer base about a month, and someone may well sue Apple for this product. I can honestly say that despite my fruity bent, this product frustrates and disappoints me. Argh.
On another note, we’ve decided to skip this week for the TR Podcast, but we’ll be back next week. Sorry!