24 June 2006

[design, advertising] Actually, iThinkistilldo

The iPod. Isn't it a cultural force? You bet. Do I still want one? Definitely. Is the world an unjust place because I don't have one? That's prima facie correct. That said, is it still on my wish list? Of course.

America is a land of people who like being different, but frequently one suspects that Being Different™ for the masses comes with an EULA that states that you can be as different as you want, but just as long as you're different just like everbody else does. Looking at the iPod in that wise, there may be some point to those who hold that the iPod is more a cultural virus–and not necessarily a good one.

Myself, I look at it as a toy, maybe the most fun one out there today. I do have a concern about a certain homogenization of culture however; I love vanilla, but I also like spice. So, when something surfaces that speaks to that concern, I'm almost compelled to check it out.

One may have seen about the numerous "iDon't" billboards and adverts. Dare to be different? Hey, I just might be up for this. Let's see if I'm wanting to sign up.

When I got to the site iDont.com, I was presented with a very nicely designed package: rough-n-tumble graphics against a stucco wall, trim, tight Flash that didn't take forever to load on my dialup connex (that, per se, is big points with me) and a consistent, unified look that created a "world" that the surfer visited. Nicely designed site that emanated revolution that was entertaining even though the revolution seemed a bit too polished and studied.

I particularly enjoyed the way the spray paint would drip down from the menu items when I moused over them. Nice touch.

But what's the point of iDon't? Fortunately, you can go right to "The Alternative" and check it out...what sort of power-to-the-people message are we sending?

The SanDisk Sansa e270 MP3 player, it would seem.

Excuse, please? Rebel against The Man who, up until now, has been unable to force an iPod on me due to price, by getting...someone else's digital music player. That I still can't afford.

Now, to give the competitor his due, the SanDisk looks like it has a hell of a lot going for it. CNet (see the link in the 2nd 'graf up) gave it an 8-of-10 on the editor's review scale, citing value for the money–12-preset FM tuner, well-designed interface, good form factor, good price points, big capacity, multiple formats including video, apt positioning against the iPod Nano.
Go ahead and read the review, and make your own mind up. It looks like a rather good little MP3 player.

But, for some reason, I feel a little bit cheated. It's not really an insurgency, is it, if someone just wants to get me to buy thier MP3 player instead? By leveraging interest by tugging on one's desire to 'not follow the herd', somehow if, at the destination, I'm not presented with something more than merely "check out Our not-iPod", the cover comes off the manipulation and I just feel like I'm being played with.

In an article in the news section, a gent named "Eric the Sheep Herder" cited the consistent criticism as thus: why not present a toe-to-toe feature comparison? I suppose saying it makes it so, on the virtual side. My critique is more along the lines of: why must everyone who comes up with a competitor to the iPod automatically position it as the anti-iPod? Think about it: every digital music player which has been marketed has defined itself by how it isn't like an iPod, and by this standard I find the iDon't campaign's biggest weakness. It's easy not to have an iPod; just don't buy one. Life has existed before the iPod; it will (I hope) exist after.

The iPod conquered the market by truly being unexpected and new. It stays at the top by reinventing itself. Somehow, Apple knows how to stay the lead dog. The other dogs want you to think that thier just as good as the lead dog by being like the lead dog but not being the lead dog, which is apparently the preferred choice of fashionable conformists. The also-rans will reamin the also-rans as long as they compete by the terms Apple defined with the iPod, or until such time as owning an iPod actually becomes unfashionable (and the way things are going, it's hard to see when that will happen).

I went to iDon't feeling interested; I came away feeling like iBeenhad.

And I still want an iPod.

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Dale said...

You're right to want an iPod. They're cool, and iTunes is some of the best software out there of any description.

I went through two iPod shuffles before taking up a Sansa Clip. I have very particular wants and the Clip meets them just a little better. I've been very happy with it, but not with any of the replacements of the iTunes software. They scrape by, but ...

My wants/requirements aren't the world's. There are some terrific iPods out there. And I just can't get on board with the idea that the iPod is some Massive Evil that we must fight in the name of freedom and independence or whatever.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...


I appreciate the comment on this. To bring everything completely up-to-date since the writing of this discourse in 2006, I've since actually been able to acquire an iPod (used, rather .... thank God for Stuff at SE 82nd and Otty) and I absolutely adore the thing.

I'm a slave to visual and auditory input; my favorite moments in my life are certain songs and certain videos. I have a 5.5G iPod, 30GB model which supports video, and I enjoy it every day.

There are some things that you get that your life just improves with. This is one of them. I really like all the things my 'Pod can do to entertain me. It makes dreary days a little better.

I still can't buy a new one; I lust after an iPod Touch (surfing the web on your iPod? LET ME HAVE ONE!) but there's no money yet for that.

For what it's worth, I don't have a problem with SanDisk's products. I've seen a few and they look like good values for the money. Factor in individual tastes and needs, and any given Sansa model will probably be better for you than an iPod. It all depends.

The stupid about it was the negative. Apple has really made the perfect personal media player, and accusing people who go for it as mindless sheep won't increase your market share. Calling potential customers names won't get 'em in the door.

And it's entirely possible that the iPod owns the market because it's the best player out there (and unbeatable when paired with iTunes). Apple's just done it better and did it better first.

And I just can't get on board with the idea that the iPod is some Massive Evil that we must fight in the name of freedom and independence or whatever.

Exactly. that's the other sour note the "iDon't" campaign rang.