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Just a Thought - iPod Pretenders

by - October 15th, 2004

Just in case you somehow missed it; Archos, Virgin, and Dell have announced iPod or iPod mini killers. These are just the latest in a series of iPod wannabe. There are some features in this batch that might catch the attention of a few, but ultimately, I believe these will wind up as the other have, in the 'Also Ran' category.

Archos has the most interesting iPod heir-presumptive: The Gmini SX 200 (Is that pronounced 'Jiminy', as in 'The Cricket'?) is as small as an iPod mini, but has the capacity of a standard sized 20GB iPod, and it isn't hard to look at. From what I can tell from the pictures on the Web site, the Gmini's interface may be its downfall; the screens look crowded; and while the icons may be good for some, I believe they will ultimately get in the way, occupying space that could have been used to display more information in bigger, more easily readable fonts. On the plus side; it is Mac compatible, meaning that your Mac will recognize it, and iTunes will likely let you move MP3s to it, but not iTunes Music Store downloads.

Dell's Pocket DJ is closer to the iPod mini in specs - it holds 1 GB more data and is $50 cheaper - but it mimics the larger Dell DJ, and we all know that the DJ is no iPod. There is no Mac support for the DJ.

Then there's the Player 5GB from Virgin, which is the ugliest of the three, but does have some nice features, like two headphone jacks, and Mac support is promised.

What none of these players offer, however, is the one thing that will keep Apple's music playing marvel on top of the ever growing heap: the dock port.

See, Jobs and Crew were thinking when they added that cool little port on the bottom of every iPod and iPod mini; they knew that the competition would eventually create something that could seriously compete with a plain vanilla iPod. They also knew that vendors would love to be able to get in on the iPod game with peripherals and whatnot. By offering a means to truly integrate a peripheral with the iPod, you insure a more positive user experience which, in turn, create greater demand for iPods and peripherals.

Because of the dock port, the iPod can store pictures from flash RAM, integrate seamlessly with a BMW, or become the centerpiece of a home music system. More accessories that use the dock port are being offered all the time, and as vendors create new uses for the iPod, more people will find that they not only want the iPod, but they feel they actually need the iPod. And it is oh-so-nice to be needed.

There are rumors of a new iPod cooking in the tech-kitchens at Apple, but whether there's any truth to those rumor or not, one thing is for certain: When you buy one of these other players you get a music player, and that's cool. When you buy an iPod you get a music player with possibilities, and that's even better than cool.

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.

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