Where's my Apple iPod Shuffle headphone adapter?

Apple released a little bit of a firestorm with the announcement of its newest iPod Shuffle.

The new Apple iPod shuffle is less than eight millimetres thick.

The new Apple iPod shuffle is less than eight millimetres thick.

Apple released a little bit of a firestorm today with the announcement of its newest iPod Shuffle. The company has shrunk the device to a magnifying-glass-not-included 1.8 by 0.7 by 0.3 inches, but to do so, it's been forced to remove almost all control functionality from the unit's body. You now control the random (or sequential) back-and-forth progression of songs, the volume, and Shuffle's pause features via a small control box on the included earphones.

While this new variety of US$30 earphones ($80 for the in-ear model) have been around since late last year, this is the first time that Apple's required them in order for a consumer to use a handheld device. That means that you can take off the rockin' cans you currently use and put them on the shelf for awhile, as third-party adapters featuring the remote control functionality aren't out yet.

But this piece -- a cable with remote control buttons and a 1/8-inch stereo input -- can't be that difficult to make. In a perfect world, Apple would have bundled an adapter cable along with the new iPod Shuffle. But this is Apple. Regardless, the lack of any kind of adapter on the launch day of its new product raises an interesting consideration: Why is Apple competing against itself?

Hear me out. What are you more likely to lose, crush, or otherwise render obsolete? Your boring ol' default iPod Shuffle earphones or the Shuffle itself? I'm going to guess the former, as I've personally gone through (or loaned out) countless numbers of earphones, in-ear speakers, and headphones depending on where I'm jamming my music combined with my tendency to lose things.

In an interview with Macworld, Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPod and iPhone Product Marketing, noted that third-party adapters for Apple's remote control functionality should be arriving at some point in the future. What he didn't say was whether the company plans to market its own proprietary connector. Why not?

For starters, Apple could have capitalized on the legions of "I gotta have it" first-day product purchasers -- many of whom likely already own a unique pair of headphones that they've been using for their favorite Apple devices.

Beyond that, who's Apple trying to fool with its massive lineup of two headphones? Do they honestly think that consumers, having just destroyed their remote control earphones, are going to run off to the Apple store and make $30 replacement purchases when they can just pick up a cheaper adapter cable from any number of third-party vendors? And when you consider Apple's inflated prices for its earphones, why would consumers want to pay $30 for so-so quality speakers when they can pick up better headphones/adapter combinations for an equal (or slightly higher) price?

It's no secret that Apple leans toward keeping its accessories in-house and device-specific (mini-DVI, anyone?). That makes it even more baffling as to why Apple would surrender such a large cash cow with iPod Shuffle headphone adapters. If it's not going to make them exclusive to the Apple store, the least the company could do would be to offer its own product as well--especially in the critical time period between the iPod Shuffle's launch and the release of the first third-party adapters. Isn't the concept of supplying demand Business 101?

What about you? Would you have purchased an iPod Shuffle adapter today, or is the proprietary remote control mechanism keeping you from pulling the trigger on this newest MP3 player?

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David Murphy

PC World (US online)
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