iPod Shuffle already flying off the shelves

Looks like the new iPod Shuffle is already in short supply, with a four-week backlog, just seven days after launch. As a Mac user and technology marketer this product baffles me:

  • Creating a low-end product if you are the leader with a premium
    brand just undermines your own sales. Now all those potential
    customers who were saving to buy a $300 iPod are getting a $99 iPod
    Shuffle. I don’t think Apple is expanding the market here, it’s simply
    undercutting itself. We’re not at the stage of selling players to
    laggards yet – just go into any Apple store and see all the customers
    pawing the iPod with green eyes. Jaguar made this mistake with the
    X-Type – it just sold cheaper cars to its installed base, instead of reaching a new market.
  • Technically the iPod Shuffle is basic (just a USB MP3 player) so it limbos under all the great usability and innovation hallmarks of Apple. For instance, is random-play really that much of a differentiator in the flash-memory MP3 market, or really that important for the customer? That feature seems like bloatware in iTunes to me, so it seems an odd lead here.
  • The tampon-like design devalues the iPod brand, and reflects poorly on the iPod proper. Why not call it an iStick, or something which maintains the ‘snob value’ all those who bought an iPod experience?
  • If you do go for a high-volume, low-price strategy, it seems a mistake to create demand for a me-too product and fail to fulfill swiftly. Apple could be stoking demand for its competitors – demand which was originally waiting to buy the main iPod. You might argue that the backlog proves otherwise, but that depends on the amount of product available on launch. Apple has a loyal fan-base already who might be creating this initial demand. The iPod Shuffle is aimed at converting new disciples – and they might not prove so faithful.