How Much Should an iPod Shuffle Cost?

PC World seems to know:

Analysts at IDC recently took apart an IPod Shuffle and come up with an estimate of how much the diminutive music player costs Apple Computer to make. They found that Apple makes a healthy 35 percent to 40 percent profit on each player sold, and stands to make even more from ITunes music purchases and expected drops in flash memory pricing.

iPod Shuffle Drives Memory Demand

Toshiba announced yesterday it will boost production of semiconductors in an attempt to prepare output of flash memory chips, a move fueled in part by iPod shuffles sales:

“When it comes to the supply-demand balance we are currently unable to satisfy all customer demands,” Muromachi said, noting in particular the launch of iPod Shuffle by Apple Computer Inc. in January. “Demand created by this new machine is so vast that our current capacity can in no way meet their needs,” he said.

It would be ineresting to consider whether this will eventually lead to a price drop in the shuffle.

Lubbock Pushing to Improve Image, Little Else

Some members of the Lubbock media are quick to jump on the press release bandwagon. Much like this:

According to the ACCRA, Lubbock is the 5th least expensive city to live in, in the US. The company surveys 314 metropolitan areas of all sizes in North America, taking into account six primary expenses: groceries; housing; utilities; transportation; healthcare; and miscellaneous goods and services.

Could it be that this is because Lubbock has one of the most dismal crime rates in the State of Texas? Barely a month ago, the same media outlet reported this story:

The cost of living in Lubbock is increasing. The overall cost of goods and services increased by almost 5% in the past year and .5% in December. Clothing prices increased dramatically with an eight percent increase in one month.

Not long ago, Self Magazine named Lubbock the 3rd unhealthiest city for women, a figure based on Lubbock’s unusually high crime rate.

Here’s another interesting commentary about the Lubbock Crime rate:

Compared to several other departments of similar size, the Lubbock Police Department is less forthcoming with the timely release of neighborhood crime information to citizens.

This is not to say that Lubbock media dodges less flattering news about the city, but it only seems fair and professional to look past the rhetoric.

In my analysis, if your community is deemed the 5th least expensive city to live in the U.S. you may have some questions to answer about the quality of your city.

Review: iPod Shuffle

If you want to be using an iPod, but don’t have several hundred dollars to spend, you’ll feel right at home with the iPod shuffle. My shuffle arrived last week almost a month after I placed my order at the Apple Store, thanks in part to a rush of new adopters soaking up the 512MB and 1GB versions of the ultra-small Apple innovation. The backorder from the Apple Store probably isn’t much better at press time, but savvy shoppers can find new, factory-sealed shuffles at eBay for a small markup. If not, look for shuffle to appear soon at your local Target and Best Buy.

Most notable about the shuffle, aside from its affordable $99 price tag, is its design. Shuffle’s size and weight is comparable to a pack of gum. With shuffle, Apple abandons the complex navigation system and digital display found on larger, pricier iPod flavors. Shuffle instead opts for a simple user interface consisting of a jog dial for direct audio control, and a slider allowing users to choose between shuffling their playlists and playing songs in order. Shuffle’s design allows for the same ergonomic feel that made iPod Apple’s saving grace from a reputation of lackluster product designs in the 1990s.

Shuffle works seamlessly with Apple iTunes. By default, my shuffle loaded about 125 songs randomly when I plugged it into my Mac-Mini’s USB drive. Adjusting the “iPod Options” feature in iTunes allows users to select how the shuffle acquires songs, either automatically or manually.

Users who insist on carrying their entire library of music with them will have difficulty adopting to the shuffles limited 512MB- (about 120 songs) or 1GB- (about 240 songs) capacity drive. If you’re looking for an iPod that will serve as a multi-gigabyte backup for music and files, the shuffle isn’t for you. However, shuffle’s flash USB compatibility makes it a good tool for data transfer. Users can set aside a portion of shuffle’s memory for files, which makes it easy to transfer documents between home and work. Shuffle’s non-dependency on a firewire port makes it compatible across both PC and Mac platforms.

Shuffle’s internal battery charges while plugged into the computer’s USB port, and usually requires three to four hours for a full charge. Many users are reporting getting a solid 15 hours of use from the shuffle on a full charge.

One caveat potential buyers should take into consideration is shuffle’s incompatibility with many USB drives. It’s width, for example, makes shuffle incompatible with my Gateway 600YG2 notebook computer, which has narrow USB ports. This issue, however, is easily solved with a USB extension cable.

Bottom Line? shuffle will probably be the first of many iPods you will ever buy.

Free Speech at Texas Tech?

Officials at Texas Tech are revising policies in response to a federal court ruling that orders university administrators to revise the campus’ free speech policy:

Judge Sam Cummings of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in favor of plaintiff Jason Roberts in part, saying his personal First Amendment rights had not been violated but that the university’s policies requiring prior permission before one could speak on campus were unconstitutional.

In 2003 the university denied Roberts’ request to give a speech about the sinfulness of homosexuality outside the school’s designated free speech area, a 20-foot-wide gazebo that is located near the student union and holds 40 people. Free speech inside the gazebo did not require prior permission.

Texas Tech University’s speech code also banned “insults,” “ridicule” and “personal attacks,” and required students to obtain permission from the university’s grounds use committee six days in advance in order to speak on campus. The code was not well-defined, Cummings ruled. Additionally, when students were forced to obtain permission six days in advance of speaking, they could not respond to current events, he said.

Roberts is represented by The Legal Liberty Institute, a faith-based legal advocacy group, who is no stranger to litigating with Tech. In 2002, The LLI led the charge against Texas Tech for a policy published on professor of biology Michael Dini’s Web site. Dini’s policy read:

“If you set up an appointment to discuss the writing of a letter of recommendation, I will ask you: ‘How do you think the human species originated?’ If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences.”

The LLI claimed the content of Dini’s site was discriminatory towards students religious freedoms. The university contended that academic freedom allowed Dini to choose who he coud write letters for. To me, this issue almost bordered on a freedom of speech case for Dini, although I’m not sure where freedom of speech for a professor stating a policy and freedom of religion for students intersect. The Department of Justice later dropped the case against Dini after he revised the wording on his Web site.

Last year, I talked to the university’s General Counsel about the free speech areas on campus, and this was his response to having a policy that restricts when, where, and how students can engage in free expression on the Tech campus:

“Our defense is, we’ve provided sufficient free speech areas across campus,” said Tech General Counsel Pat Campbell. “We asked the plaintiff to make suggestions to us and his response was to open up the entire campus (to unrestricted speech). Right now, we’re waiting for the court’s consideration of our motion to dismiss.”

The idea of having a such a policy baffles me somewhat, and I’m not sure why a state university would have a different policy than any other public area. It should be interesting to see how Tech officials revise the policy’s language to comply to Cummings’ ruling. Similarly baffling is the relatively passive handling of this issue in the local media. A Google Search reveals quite a bit of information about this issue, and many media sources outside of Lubbock are more up in arms about this than the local outlets.

Podcast News

Will Podcasting be the most revolutionary thing to hit the internet since blogs? It might be. Blogging became powerful because it essentially added a component to the internet that turned anyone with a web browser and internet connection into an armchair journalist, occasionally giving big media a run for its money. Imagine the same approach, but substitute radio for print journalism. Podcasting allows anyone with a computer and a microphone, or a similar digital recording device, to record broadcasts. These broadcasts are hosted, then synched with podcasting RSS tools that allow listeners to download content and listen to it on their computers or iPods.

The godfather of this technology? None other than 80’s MTV rock jock Adam Curry. The PodFather has been at his Amsterdam residence feverishly broadcasting and organizing the Podcasting movement. He founded Ipodder, a portal where users can download RSS tools and feeds. Thanks to Curry, there are literally thousands of podcasting shows to listen to: 80’s retro, sports, news, politics. Anything you might find on regular airwaves, sans FCC and Big Media influence.

Read more about Podcasting here, here, and here.

Mac and Me

My Mac Mini arrived 2 weeks ago and I couldn’t be more impressed with it. My original Mini configuration was 1.25ghz processor, 40 gig HD, and 256 MB of Ram. But even before my Mini arrived I went to Crucial and purchased a 512 MB Ram module, and did the upgrade myself. There’s been some discussion about how easy it is to open the Mini, and I can attest that it’s rather simple. I used a butterknife (more on opening a Mini). First things first. If you get a Mini, I highly recommend upgrading to the 512 module. You can customize your Ram at the time of purchase, or do it yourself, and the price will be about the same. In order to run a lot of the software the Mini comes loaded with, you’ll need as much Ram as possible, and 512 should be the minimum. I can comfortably run Garageband, Word, Firefox, and iTunes at the same time with no problems at all.

I’m a switcher, meaning that I’m a PC guy who has been curious about Macs for a long time, but a little put off by PC to Mac compatibility and high prices. I became curious about Macs after having such a good Ipod experience. The Mini comes headless, meaning no monitor, keyboard or mouse is included. I had a spare 19″ CRT monitor, speakers, and wireless USB keyboard and mouse setup, so I was ready to go. I was surprised to see that my two-button scrolling optical mouse worked so well in OSX. I’ve never been fond of single-button Apple mice, and was pleased to see that I can still right-click.

Overall, I think the real value in the Mini comes in the software package. Garageband, Appleworks, iLife ’05, Mail, Safari, and iChat are all incredible pieces of software, and come stock on Minis. But I think most PC switchers will be thrilled to not have to do diligent defragging, virus scanning, and updates downloading. A user can run OSX without having to worry about all the flaws and holes in Windows XP that make it so glitchy and susceptible to hacker attacks. Biggest gripes about the Mini? Low Ram on the stock model, and an overall lack of software titles available on the PC. Entry-level Mac buyers and potential switchers who don’t won’t to commit to a high priced Mac desktop will feel right at home with the Mini.

My Ipod Shuffle should arrive mid-week, and I plan to write a review of it after I have some time to tinker with it.

Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington Campus Abundant with Apple iPods

Wired recently reported that employees at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus are abundant with Apple Ipods:

To the growing frustration and annoyance of Microsoft’s management, Apple Computer’s iPod is wildly popular among Microsoft’s workers.

“About 80 percent of Microsoft employees who have a portable music player have an iPod,” said one source, a high-level manager who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s pretty staggering.”

The source estimated 80 percent of Microsoft employees have a music player — that translates to 16,000 iPod users among the 25,000 who work at or near Microsoft’s corporate campus. “This irks the management team no end,” said the source.

 

The story has many bloggers abuzz. In question is the story’s credibility in that it relies on only one source — who remained anonymous. Blogger Ed Bott has this to say about the story:

Well, having spent a fair amount of time around Microsoft’s campus, I can tell you that this story is mostly … what’s the word I’m looking for here? Ah yes, bullshit. I have no doubt that lots of Microsoft employees own iPods. But taking an offhand remark from an unknown source (who may or may not have a hidden agenda and who may or may not know what he’s talking about) and extrapolating it to the entire campus is just silly.

 

Blogger Paul Thurrott agreed:

The big question here, of course, is whether iPod usage at Microsoft is unusually high. That is, after all, the point of the article. Or is Kahney just stretching the truth yet again to write yet another pro-Apple story? That one’s easy, because I visit the Redmond campus several times a year. Kahney’s full of it. Utterly full of it. And I’m tired of this style of journalism. People like Kahney just demean my profession. And people who link to articles like this because it supports their love of the technology they support are just pathetic as well. Sorry, you’ve been outed.

Is there a Mac bias in the media? These bloggers seem to agree.