March 31, 2009

Apple's Headphone Ploy

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Being a Mac user, I’m bombarded with the inane advertisement that is the Safari home page whenever I start up my browser. Surprisingly, I can’t believe that I’ve JUST seen the ad for the new iPod shuffle. Aside from VoiceOver, which (l) allows the iPod to announce things to you, such as playlist title, song name, etc., the other feature that caught my attention about the shuffle was the placement of the controls on the right earbud.

Hold on, something’s not right. The controls are on the earbud?

This feature just makes me think of the antitrust problems that Microsoft ran into with the EU. Based on what I’m seeing, putting the controls on the earbud may provoke the same kind of response. Let’s face it – iPods were the most popular mp3 players on the market even back in 2007 before the new iPhones came out. Apple could get even more money if they could dominate the headphone market as well. With the new shuffle using the earbud controls, Apple will have the chance to ease in on the market. Granted, the shuffle works with other headphones, but the lack of control will most likely force users to use Apple’s headphones anyways. And on the same note, this will also make third party companies who wish to make headphones for the shuffle buy licensing rights from Apple.

Considering that most Apple headphones , the new shuffle headphones won’t be cheap either if you break them by accident. I know I decided to buy third party in-ear headphones that cost as little as $6.00 rather than cough up the $20.00 for the ones from Apple and I know I would want to keep using my own headphones if I bought the new shuffle.

True, headphone controls may be an innovative way to control music players. But because Apple finds the need to squeeze the iPod cash cow dry, it’s very difficult for other companies to take off with this venture without Apple’s approval, which only solidifies Apple’s near-monopoly on the mp3-player industry.