Saturday, April 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

Dear Steve,

Can we talk?  I have some issues with the iPod.  I think you are missing the mark with what the average consumer wants and needs in a portable audio device.  I am an avid music fan, and I think I have a good perspective on what your customers are looking for.  My current iPod, which is about three years old, is a fourth-generation 'pod - 20G, click wheel, no color screen.  It's still trucking along, but it will soon need to be replaced.  Speaking of which: kudos on the recycling program.  I would normally buy any electronics from Crutchfield, but I'm going to an Apple store instead. 

Here's my issue: the current iPod lineup doesn't fit my listening needs.  I would guess that my iTunes library is on the high-side of average.  I have just over 17G of music in my library and just over 1G of podcasts.  On my iPod, I keep about 16G of stuff - nearly the whole library, but not quite.  

The "small" iPod classic has 80G of memory.  This is insane, nearly the same amount of memory as my MacBook.  The nano, at just $50 less, has only 8G of memory.  The small size is very appealing and, at just under $200, the price is perfect.  However, I can't quite carry all that I want to have with me.  It doesn't make sense to buy the 8G nano when for an extra $50, I can have ten times the memory.  But the iPod classic seems like over-kill.  Don't even get me started on the 160G model.  Who has the capacity to have all of that music on one computer?  Who is the target customer there?  Even if that is designed to hold movies and TV shows, who has the space on a hard drive to store it at home?

The perfect iPod is only available in the iPod Touch - 32G.  But, at $500, that's a little too rich for my blood.  Plus, I have no desire to go online or check my email with an iPod.  I just want to keep myself occupied on the commute to and from work, and on vacation. 

The problem, I think, is in the plan for the nano.  Just because people want something small, doesn't mean they want less capacity.  If they wanted just a few songs, they'd go for a Shuffle.  I want something small, that I can put in my purse without adding too much weight to what I carry around.  

Here's my vision for the product line: Shuffle: 2G & 4G; Nano: 10G & 32G; Classic: 80G, & 160G; Touch - do whatever you want.  The people who buy this just want an iPhone but for whatever reason don't want AT&T.


Barry Stocker said...


I'm getting a bit tired of people who don't understand why there is an iPod with 160gb capacity. ıt exists because some of us need it to back up their lovingly built up music collection and appreciate the chance to have their whole music collection with them outside the house, particularly when away from home on a trip. The fact you don't need 160gb does not mean no one else does, and frankly it's not very considerate to others to lobby Apple to stop producing something you don't need. I will never own a Mac Pro, it may surprise you that I don't find it necessary to lobby Steve Jobs to stop producing them. My own music collection is just over 40 gb but when I add my father's collection and stuff from my friends, I'll be well over 80 gb and I'll need the 160 gb for additions to my music collection. I collect music but I'm not one of the world's biggest collectors. You can be sure that professional musicians, journalists, university musicologists etc have more than 160 gb of music.

My MacBook is 160 gb, so no I don't back up on the computer, I use something called an external hard drive, you should get one to back up the hard drive on the computer. Passport sized external hard drives from WesternDigital go up to 320gb, just right to back up my MacBook and iPod classic. Book sized hard drives from WD, Buffalo and others go up to 2 tb (= 2 terabytes = 2000 gb). Apple makes an external hard drive/wireless base called Time Capsule which has 500 gb or 1 tb capacity. It can be use to back up any kind of and number of hard drives, but is particularly designed to go with the Time Machine back up to external hard-drive on Leopard (the latest version of Mac OS X)

You should consider your own back up strategies and leave the iPod classic well alone . I'm surprised that people want to watch video and store movies on an iPod but such people do exist, so the need is for iPods with more capacity not less.

Please leave iPod classic alone, no doubt it will be replaced by a touch pad iPod in time, and hopefully one with higher capacity which some people need, even if you don't.

best wishes


Rita said...

Hi Barry,

Thanks for commenting.

I wouldn't really consider this post "lobbying" to Steve Jobs. I seriously doubt Jobs will ever see this, and I have no plans to actually attempt direct communication with him. Considering the vast number of random blogs out there, and this particular blog's extremely small reader-base, I was more using this space to vent, and maybe see if others agree with me, than attempting some real change.

My point was for the average user to have a mid-sized option. It seems to me that there is a lot of room between 8 & 80 gig, and there seems to be a hole in Apple's product line.

If you take a look at the last paragraph, I actually didn't say Apple should lose the 160G classic. My suggestion was that they should beef up the Shuffle a tad, make the Nano something useful to the average user, and use the Classic for what I would call power users - someone like yourself who has such an extensive collection.

It might be the case that, as our entertainment world moves closer to being completely digital, external hard drives will be commmonplace. Right now, though, I have room for my collection and my husband's on my Mac. My point was simply that the average user - someone who wants more than 8G of music with them, but doesn't have the need for 80G - is being overlooked.

Of course there are people with a real need for 160G - as you mentioned, someone in the music business, or a business associated with music - they would naturally have external hard drive space. I didn't really think that the average music lover would require or have on available that kind of hardware.

Again, I am not pushing to lessen the capacity of any iPod, just expand the capacity of the Nano, really, because 80G is way more than I need, and I would personally like to minimize the weight of the bag I carry with me during my commute. I, like many American women, tend to carry too much crap around and don't need the extra strain.

My current iPod is 20G, and I think a 40G was also available at the time. 32 - 40G would be perfect for me, and it is frustrating to me that I can't get it.

I'm sure you're right that the Classic will eventually be replaced by the Touch with a much larger capacity. I think the rub here is that I am a bit of a troglodite. I like my old iPod, it makes me sad to have to replace it, and I really hate having to get the biggest, shiniest, newest thing, especially when it is way more than I need.

You are clearly much closer to the cutting edge of technology and how you use it in your daily life, in comparison to me.

When I think about buying an 80G video iPod, I feel wasteful. I don't want to watch TV or movies on it, and I don't need all that space. Does the fact that I will probably only ever fill it up halfway affect anything? No. It's just a personal preference.

To me, it would be like someone who hasn't quite figured out how to get their digital pictures into their computer going out and buying the complete CS3 suite. It doesn't make any sense. Sure, there is a capability there for doing really cool things with photography and graphics, but they clearly won't be able to utilize it fully. Does that mean Adobe should stop making the program? No, of course not.

The bells and whistles that are increasingly standard on many portable devices just bug me. I want my phone to make phone calls, and maybe have a fun ringtone. I want my mp3 player to play mp3s. I hate having to buy something that has so much capacity and options that I will never use. It's a combination of an irrational attachment to my old-school tech stuff, and a deep-seated need to spend as little as possible on something that is, ultimately, a frivolous perk in my daily life. It's a toy. I could just as easily sit on the train and do the daily Sudoku. But the Mondays are too easy, and Thursday & Friday tend to get too hard, and I generally want something to block out the annoying chit-chat and cell phone conversations of my fellow passengers. Because I know it is not a necessity, I don't want to pay $300 for it. I want there to be a cheap option that fits my needs - the current line up offers cheap options that don't and expensive options that far exceed it.

I know it is irrational, and I know that it isn't that big of a deal. You are absolutely right - there are people who need 80G. But it is my blog, and so, I get to make declarations like:

Steve Jobs should make a 40G iPod that costs about $200 (or less!).

It's your right to say I'm wrong, but I wish you had read the whole post before commenting. Now I'm all worked up on a Sunday.

Kemp said...

Crutchfield recycles as well - and will even give you a gift card:

Rita said...

See? This is why I love Crutchfield. They are awesome.