The new iPod Shoplift

LuxPro Super ShuffleNow that I finally gave my brother his gift, I was going to blog about the iPod Shuffles I got him and Caitlin. But then on Friday, I read something amusing.

Think that the picture to the left is an iPod Shuffle? It’s actually a photo of the LuxPro’s “Super Shuffle” which DAPreview snapped a shot of at CeBIT 2005 (mouseover for the backside). What a clear case of trademark and trade dress infringement! And just after they were asked by Apple Legal to remove them on Friday, they put them back up the next day because “Apple said nothing about Saturday.” I guess that’s what happens when you live in a country that is perennially sanctioned under the U.S. Trade act.

But the best part of this whole thing is watching all the Apple-haters whine when Slashdot picked up the story. You can really see why Dru thinks Slashdot has gone to the idiots. It’s fun to watch them confuse blatant plagarism with reverse engineering and then pre-emptively whine about getting “modded down by Apple apologists.” I really wish I could mod them “+1 Slashdolt” because nothing shows the true spirit of Slashdot like making a logically inconsistent argument and then caring about how the other Slashdolt’s will “mod” you.1

I had a good laugh, but was surprised that in a forum of supposed engineers, nobody mentioned that the “Super” features that Slashdot (and LuxPro) rave over—voice recording and FM tuner—are actually built into the iPod Shuffle but unused (along with Windows Media Audio support and an LCD driver). I’d bet LuxPro is using the same Sigmatel chipset without Apple’s hacks. Given the turnaround time and the country of origin, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just bribed some Sigmatel engineer for the design spec. Too bad we’ll never know because this product won’t see the light of day here in the U.S.

This is just another case of people just not getting the iPod Shuffle:

“Actually, to me it’s a big let-down: we’re expecting a good fight but they’re coming out with something that’s five generations older. It’s our first generation MuVo One product feature, without display, just have a (shuffle feature). We had that—that’s a four-year-old product. So I think the whole industry will just laugh at it, because the flash people—it’s worse than the cheapest Chinese player. Even the cheap, cheap Chinese brand today has display and has FM. They don’t have this kind of thing, and they expect to come out with a fight; I think it’s a non-starter to begin with.”
—Sim Wong Hoo, CEO Creative, Channel NewsAsia

Creative’s comments are amusing because they completely miss the point. Apple introduced a product into a market segment (flash players) that they had 0% marketshare in and one that threatens their most lucrative one (iPod Mini) over the longer term (as flash RAM size increases and prices decrease). They did this in a way that doesn’t cannibalize sales from the full player. A person uses an iPod or iPod Mini in a completely different way than an iPod Shuffle. They did a market study and found that many people leave their music on one playlist and on random and rarely look at the LCD. Apple threw out the features that got in the way of this use and turned a weakness into a selling point. Result: The iPod Shuffle sells like hotcakes and Creative has to run crying to momma-Microsoft along with Napster. You’d think these guys this powerful would know better than to call 50% of their potential customer base stupid for buying an iPod.

I bought a Shuffle for my brother because less is more. He doesn’t want a voice recorder; he doesn’t want a tuner; he doesn’t want to carry his music library with him. He wants a USB keydrive to go from office (Windows and Linux) to home (Windows) and if it carries enough music to workout to, that’s nice too. I gave him the gift on Saturday and he set up the thing on Sunday without my help and had already used it during a workout. (Caitlin jokes that he sounded more excited about the iPod Shuffle than his up-coming wedding.) I got one for Caitlin so she doesn’t keep taking my iPod Photo now that her iPod has bit the dust. She uses it every day on her runs, but her armband is on backorder.

Tiny package, super-light weight (with battery), easy setup, AutoFill, automatic sync on connect, iTunes integration, iTunes Music Store and audiobook (Audible) integration, charge via USB, sync without cable, transparent music management (no managing a deeply nested filesystem), sightless navigation, and cheap price. The iPod shuffle sells so well that it already inspired a hostofaccessoriesfrommanymanufacturers. (For example, XtremeMac already has so many iPod Shuffle accessories that I have to think hard to recall a single Mac product they carry—they should just rename themselves “XtremPod.”) With all this, the iPod Shuffle pretty good consumer value that nets Apple a deserved $30+ per unit.

I bet Dell wishes they had those margins!

Here is a wonderful parting snapshot of their trade booth from MacBidouille.
Super Shuffle at CeBitLook familiar?

1 You’ve heard of the Southern strategy, but Slashdot really shows the success of the “Geek Strategy” which can loosely be defined as turning a bunch of intelligent, apolitical people into raving libertarian wackos.

12 thoughts on “The new iPod Shoplift

  1. Since this article was posted, Apple’s flash player marketshare jumped from the 0% I mentioned to 43% in February and 58% in March along with 90% in the hard drive player market.
    What an astounding figure! To be honest, I was thinking along the lines of 30% flash player market share with the Shuffle. I didn’t see the iPod Mini being so popular and had promised myself to be more observant with the Shuffle and thought that 30% would be optimistic.
    I wonder what crow Sim Wong Hoo (Who?) is having today?

  2. Since this article was published, the “Super Shuffle” has managed to make an appearance in Taiwan and Japan “Super Tangent”. Note that some people told me that the whole thing was a marketing stunt, but they never bothered to look up that the source was Jack Campbell. Admittedly, I’m more familiar with the strange corners of Mac history than the guys at Gizmodo.

    While I don’t expect Apple to be able to do anything in Taiwan (for reasons mentioned in my article), I don’t think it’ll last long in Japan given that LuxPro plans to unimaginatively pirating their products also.

    Go bottom feeders!

  3. Locked in a fierce price war with Apple and other electronic giants, Creative’s net profits in the March quarter fell 72 percent to 15.9 million US dollars from 57 million dollars a year earlier

    In contrast, Apple’s profits for its quarter ended March 26 shot up six-fold to 290 million dollars, with the iPod the main driver behind the gains.

    From Yahoo (AFP). It’s funny to read all those quotes from “analysts.” Where were they before the numbers existed to back up their statements? It’s easy to be Epimetheus.

  4. Today, Apple replaces the iPod mini (CF Hard drive) with the flash RAM-based iPod nano.

    As I mentioned in the article, the flash RAM market represents a direct threat to Apple’s iPod line. This announcement shows Apple’s strategy for dealing with it. Smart!

  5. Ipod Freedom release Date July 4th, 2006

    New hot rumor, guys 😉

    The new Ipod has no buttons, no scroll wheel, no headphone jack, no dock connector. In other words freedom from everything. The most aesthetic piece of technology ever conceived.

    1. Power Supply through SplashPower. Similar to those toothbrushes and razors that charge through there plastics with magnetic fields.(strange they haven’t updated there site since September 05…did Apple acquire them?)

    2. Transfer of songs…Wireless USB

    3. Headphone jack…Bluetooth

    4. Navigation…virtual touchless/touch screen. As your finger moves over the ipods screen a virtual scrolling interface pops up allowing for more screen real-estate. fingerprints?? not to worry you don’t actually have to touch the screen, embedded in/behind the lcd are capacitors that can tell, which direction your fingers are going.

    5. Hold Button/Power On fingerprint screen identification(great for if your ipod is stolen)

    So, there you have it a completely enclosed ipod, so elegant as not to have a single button or port opening or anything but a beautiful screen… Apple will release the Ipod July 4th 2006… Independence Day… free your self from everything.

    *ipod Nano will still have dock connector for now.

  6. An interesting postscript of this was LuxPro survived part of Apple’s lawsuit.

    Note that Gizmodo’s anti-Apple post glosses over the fact that this is a patent lawsuit. I fail to see how Apple could have won that. The issue of theft of trademark and design copyrights, not patents. In fact the whole concept makes me think that the entire story is possibly spin and B.S. Why would Apple sue about patent violations when the trademark and design copyright violations in the naming, device, and advertising are clear?

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