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Just A Thought
by Vern Seward

iPod Envy (In iPod Season): Part Deux
December 2nd, 2003

I still don't have an iPod.

I know, I know... I had intended to buy one when the prices got to around US$200. The price of a new iPod still isn't there yet, but there have been lots of decent refurb models around for well under US$200. In fact, I bought my son one for his birthday; a spiffy 10 gigger. I think he likes it, at least, he says he does. Toby lives in Southern CA so we don't see each other much and I don't know for sure if he's really using it or just saying so to be nice to his old man. If he's not, he's really missing the boat; there seems to be a California-esque subculture growing around the iPod that he, and I, are missing out on. I've had several experiences recently that will illustrate what I mean:

Legal Briefs

I was selected for jury duty in my county a bit ago, so I showed up with cell phone, paperback, and CD player in hand, ready for a long day of sitting and waiting. I noticed a guy sitting at a table nearby typing away on an iBook. Of course, my attention was piqued, and I was intending to approach him for some light banter. Before I got to the table, however, another guy strode up to Mr. iBook and started having an animated conversation. The second guy had an iPod in his hand, which he jerked about as he gestured. Mr. iBook also produced an iPod; I hadn't notice the tale-tail earplugs Mr. iBook was sporting, but the second guy did, and the two were now comparing iPods (the second guy apparently had an older model), and having a grand old time.

While I stood there trying to decide if I should butt into the conversation, another iPod owner -- white wires sprouting from her ears -- joined the group. They were swapping stories about their iPod experiences while clueless onlookers puzzled over the instantaneous camaraderie and I knew I had little to add to the gab; I was, after all, iPod-less. I slunked back to my seat and played my oh-so-passé CD player and read. Nobody called me all day on my cellphone.

Worker's Paradise

At work, iPod-connected men and women groove -- heads bopping, feet patting out rhythms only they can hear -- to music while the rest of us schmoes are treated to the white noise stylings of a local air conditioner duct. Many large businesses, including the one where I work, frown on using company bandwidth to listen to Internet radio or download MP3s, and they hate it when employees complain that their computer needs a bigger hard drive when a large portion of the drive they have is taken up by an extensive music library. The iPod People seem like happy, well-adjusted employees, even if they are a bit cliquish. Still, holding true to the Apple Owner's unwritten credo of freely offering information about Apple products to anyone silly enough to ask, these Ambassadors of Groove will gladly let you fiddle, poke, prod, and fondle their iPods while answering any questions you might have about Windows compatibility, battery life, or whatever.

As a result, the number of MP3 players, and iPods in particular, has increased over the last few months. Now, as you negotiate the Dilbert-like maze of cubes that serve as offices, you are bound to see more than a few heads bopping with white wires jiggling. In fact, iPod People are so contented that I believe companies should offer iPods as a hiring incentive.

Jacked

Walk through a mall or park and you are bound to see at least one person moving along with those tiny white cords dangling from his ears. And when two iPod People pass in public, I've seen them give each other a little nod. Apparently, they give each other more than a nod now: I read in Wired News that iPod People are 'jacking in' to each other's iPods to sample the music the other is listening to. According the report, an iPod Person will walk up to another, unplug the earphone jack from his iPod, and plug into the other's iPod for a moment. Seldom are there words exchanged, and when the impromptu rendezvous is over, they each continue on their way, both having had their musical horizons expanded a mite. Check out Leander Kahney's full article at Wired News for more on that phenomenon.

Now, I ask you: How cool is that? I half expect to hear stories of people meeting and marrying because of iPod 'Jack-ins'. In fact, if you know of such stories, drop me a line, I'd love to hear about it.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Everybody is getting an iPod; it's crazy. I was in my local way-smaller-than-the-average-but-still-way-cool Apple Store, here in Orlando, just yesterday and I saw a distinct dearth of 10GB iPods. Those are the first ones to go because they are the cheapest. In fact, finding a 10GB iPod is really getting to be a chore. You can still order them online, but stop by your local iPod retailer and you may find that your choices are limited. Wait another week and you may only be able to find the 40GB model in any real numbers.

What I see happening is that sales of iPods are so strong that demand may outstrip supply and people will make-do with other MP3 players. I could be wrong, of course; I stopped over at my local Best Buy and found exactly the opposite of what I saw at the Apple store; an ample supply of iPods in every configuration, and competing MP3 players of an even wider variety. What I noticed also is that the price of an iPod is not way out of line from what others makers of MP3 players are charging. This Christmas buying season is going to be very interesting.

OK, so, when am I going to get an iPod? I don' know. Christmas is coming up, but I've already got my 'Christmas Budget' funded and there's no money left for an iPod, not even a refurb. I suppose it'll have to wait until next year, which really isn't that far away. In the meantime, I'll keep scanning for a good deal and dream that some portly, red-suited stranger walks up to me and hands me an iPod just for being good this year. It tis the season, after all...

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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