Latest Macworld Rumor — Flash-based iPod (Code Name: “Shuffle”)

(UPDATE!: iPod Shuffle confirmed.)

“An Italian enthusiast reportedly snapped photos with his cell phone of an Apple banner, normally covered until Jobs’ speech, that promotes a flash memory-based iPod. Security officers allegedly tried to chase down onlookers who might have taken photos.” (from eWeek)

Rumored specs:

  • Code name: “iPod Shuffle” or “iPod Micro”
  • 1GB storage
  • Small, vertically-oriented
  • $99-$149
  • Tagline: “Life is random.”

Perhaps called “Shuffle” since it may not have a screen (thus requiring randomly-ordered songplay).

If true, could be a very interesting transitional device…instead of being the “system of record” for audio, this instead could be a viable device for putting together a drivetime playlist. Grab the handful of songs or podcasts that you want for your commute or your jog, load it up, and you’re on your way. (Come to think of it, this would be a great form factor for audiobooks or language tapes as well.)

From the US Patent and Trademark Office database


Owner (APPLICANT) Apple Computer, Inc. CORPORATION CALIFORNIA 1 Infinite Loop Cupertino CALIFORNIA 95014

Goods and Services IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: Computer hardware; computer software; prerecorded computer programs for personal information management; database management software; character recognition software; telephony management software; electronic mail and messaging software, paging software; database synchronization software; computer programs for accessing, browsing and searching online databases; computer operating system software; application development tool programs for personal and handheld computers; handheld electronic devices for the wireless receipt and/or transmission of data, particularly messages; handheld electronic devices with video, phone, messaging, photo capturing and audio transmission functionality; software for the synchronization of data between a remote station or device and a fixed or remote station or device; Portable digital electronic devices and software related thereto; handheld digital electronic devices and software related thereto; digital audio players, including digital music players, and software related thereto; digital video players and software related thereto; MP3 players and software related thereto; handheld computers; personal digital assistants; pagers; electronic organizers; electronic notepads


Serial Number 78528005

Filing Date December 6, 2004

No, We Don’t Sell A 186,000 Mile-Per-Second Death Ray

“Here we are one day, a small company in Corvallis, OR (on a holiday!) manufacturing and selling outdoor recreation equipment, then the next day we’re asked to be experts on everything from terrorism to the Patriot Act.” – Noah Acres, Sales & Marketing, Bigha

Bigha’s doing a great job explaining to customers their (non)-involvement in the laser-on-the-airliner story. He also posts the full transcript of an interview he had with a belligerent interviewer.

“I could tell this wasn’t going to be a friendly article by the line of questioning. I kid you not, this is pretty much how it went:

Jim Wright: “Mr. Banach is facing 20 years in prison for pointing his Jasper at planes, and I go to your site and the first thing I see is photos of it pointed towards the sky.”

Noah Acres: “Anyone can tell the difference between a star and a plane. In order to point at a plane, you’d have to point, and then actually follow it. This guy put effort into this.”

JW: “I just think your site could be more clear.”

NA: “How could it be more clear. We state explicitly not to point towards they eyes of people or animals and to avoid vehicles and aircraft. This is stated on our site and in the manual that comes with the Jasper.”

JW: “But what if somebody points at a bird?”

NA: “We say not to point at animals. A bird is an animal.”

JW: “That’s up for debate.”

NA: “I would classify a bird as an animal.”

JW: “But if you look in the dictionary, a bird is not actually an animal.”

NA: “I think most people consider birds to be animals. I can’t put the enitre world species list on my site.”

JW (in not-satisfied tone): “OK, thanks. Bye.”

If you look at the site today, you’ll notice we put up a new warning on the Jasper homepage. “Warning: Do not point Jasper at aircraft, motor vehicles, people or animals.” Or birds. Or dolphins. Or zebras…”

That Crackle You Hear? That’s The Kindling Catching.

As alluded to below, some great things going on today. Macromedia. Microsoft.

In social customer land, blogs are going to be first. For a non-technical customer, it’s easy. Click “comment.” Speak. Repeat. It’s great to see some of the leaders out who are not only getting it, but doing it. Smaller companies (Clip-N-Seal, T-ShirtKing) that understand have been doing this for a while now.

Now, the challenge for Dowdell and Scoble will be to take it to the next level. Now that the forum is open with the customers, what is going to be done? And by when? Despite all their hassles over the last few months (oh geez, the colo is on fire!), Technorati has managed to navigate through adversity and challenges that directly affected customers, and has done it the right way. Let’s call it the “Sifry method” of dealing with customer issues:

1) Say what happened – State the case, tell what happened, explain what the situation was. Don’t BS, don’t make excuses. Just the facts.

2) Say what you’re going to do about it – The short term fix. How are you going to put out the fire. (Usually, this is a figure of speech.)

3) Plan for Murphy – Ok, the immediate crisis is over. What are you going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

4) Report back – Let the customers know what’s going on. Was the short term fix applied? Are the long-term changes happening?

I’m chomping at the bit for the wiki and social networking tools to get easier to use from a customer point of view. They’re likely to be the next enablers, but they have to get to the point where the non-technical customer can intuitively understand what they can do to inject themselves into the process.

Update: Holy cow! GM is blogging…with comments on, even! (hat tip: dave)

Apple: The New Sony

(UPDATE!: Mac Mini unveiled.)

Oy. I was all queued up to write about someone doing something positive with their customers (check the comments; they’re awesome), and this comes across. Dan Gillmor, Om Malik, and many others are reporting that Apple has just sued Think Secret, one of their most rabid fan sites, which has been hosting rumors of a $499 iMac. Gillmor:

“I’m fairly sure of this: If the party leaking information to Think Secret had sent it, say, to the San Jose Mercury News or New York Times, and had those publications run the news, Apple wouldn’t be suing them. Both have deep enough pockets to defend themselves.”

Sony v. Kottke anyone?

So, Apple is going after Think Secret in order to plug the leaks that Apple has in its own organization. Sony is going after Kottke for information that he had gotten from a source.

EugeneCraiganyone…help us out here!

As the customer guy, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Why go after the customers, when the root of the problem is internal? Do it once, you make a point. Do it twice, and “ok, already.” Do it three times, and it may start to put people off. In fact, this is starting to happen. From Allen George, an Apple customer:

“Many Apple fans (in this context I prefer “Apple apologists”) have sided with the company, citing dubious reasons such as ‘protecting the investors’ et. al. I disagree with their point of view.

I ask:

  • In what material way do these rumors hurt Apple?
  • Does Apple ever consider the fact that people are actually interested in their products as a result of this?
  • Why is this suit being conducted?

At any rate, this site – one of the most reliable Mac rumor sites out there – will almost certainly be shut down as a result of this. Apple’s legal department is well known for its bulldog like tenacity and ferocity, so it’s unlikely the owner will be able to stand up to their wrath.

Another example of corporate power against the ‘little guy’? I think so.

And a reason for me to actually consider _not buying_ Apple products.

[shakes head]

Why Apple why?”

MacHeads discuss the situation here.

Applying The Cluebat, Episode #742: Before Advising Your Customers To Do Something, You Might Want To Do It Yourself

Interesting bit from Steve Rubel about PR firm MWW Group‘s new “weblog marketing practice” which “will advise clients on strategies to create, participate in, monitor, and advertise in blogs,” according to MWW’s Alissa Blate.

Rubel nails it:

“Blogs are just the beginning. The bigger trend is that consumers want to have a role in talking about products and even in marketing them”


“Consumers are in control, and consumers are the media. It’s a paradigm shift that’s going to change PR forever. We need to be listening to bloggers as much as talking to them.”

Steve’s points are spot-on. But with respect to MWW…I am the only one that finds it really funny that MWW is doing this…and that they don’t have a blog themselves?

RealNetworks Jumps The Shark

(I’d made a commitment to a certain reader a few weeks back to follow up on why Real does things the way they do.  Here’s what I found. Photo credit to Christopher Chen.)

After listening to Real’s most recent conference call, it certainly does appear that Real views its customers as a nuisance and as a necessary annoyance.  In over forty minutes of presentation and Q&A, customers were barely mentioned.  Instead, the discussion focused nearly exclusively on what Real’s competitors were doing, and on the various distribution deals that Real was landing (and losing, such as Major League Baseball).

Perhaps this is a result of some sort of Rob Glaser myopia.  In the ten years Glaser spent at Microsoft (1983-1993), he managed a number of different products, including Microsoft Word.  Locking up the channel, and wielding the power of being thrust upon customers (as opposed to being chosen by them) seems to continue to be the M.O. of Real, as it is at Microsoft.  This does not appear to be changing any time soon.

What does seem to be changing, however, is Real’s focus, which is now not only on music but other downloadable content such as games.  Real seems to realize that the audio/video space that they’ve been playing in since their inception is now crowded, and that they’ve been pushed to the sidelines in the process.  It must irk Glaser to no end that, not only was he rebuffed by Steve Jobs, but now Apple has a 70% market share of the downloadable music market that he and Real, ostensibly, pioneered.  So, in what was quite likely a move based more on emotion than sense (and probably driven by Glaser’s reported bull-in-a-china-shop personality), he decides to trump up a petition and rally Real’s customers to rail against Apple.

This was a bad idea.

Here’s the wakeup call, Rob.  Apple’s customers love them. (And the ones who don’t are at least creative about it.)  Yours don’t.  In fact, your customers former customers such as the beloved CarTalk guys from NPR have gone so far as to publicly state why they are "uncermoniously dumping RealMedia."  Here’s why:

"Why? Because, for a long time, we’ve had tons of complaints about RealNetworks. And the one that ticks us off the most is the perceived trickery they use to sell their premium products. This is just our opinion, mind you, but it’s shared by enough of our listeners, that we finally decided to take action.

Here’s the problem. In order to hear our audio, you have to go to and download their "free" RealPlayer. But when you get to the web site, the free player is harder to find than Osama Bin Laden at night. And the site seems to do everything it possibly can to get you to "buy" a player instead. You have to work very hard to get the free player. And we think that stinks. And get this. It stinks so much that it even makes Microsoft look good by comparison. That’s something, huh?"

Even when asked directly by a Slashdot reader, "Why try so hard to force your software on the user? Is it worth the market share to anger and confuse your core audience? Mention Real to the average user, and their first response is ‘I hate that software. I wish I knew how to delete it.  I’ve always been taught that it’s best to make your customers happy, instead of holding them hostage. Does your business model say otherwise?" Glaser answers in PR-speak and evades the issue, instead focusing on competitors (Microsoft in this case) and his technical team.  Glaser:

"We have put a lot of effort into making our users happy and in giving users lots of choice in how they install and use our software. We have learned a lot over the years and I think if you look at RealPlayer 10 for Windows, Mac, or Linux carefully, you would find that it gives users much more choice and control over how our player works than any other major media player, including Microsoft’s Windows Media Player or Apple’s iTunes.

While I’m not 100% sure, from your description it sounds like you have a previous version of RealPlayer. In RealPlayer 10, the user can select Tools/Preferences/Automatic Services and configure all of the background activity, including features that remain active when RP is not running. With just a couple of mouseclicks, the user can disable all background services.

Compare how our software works to Microsoft’s. Have you ever tried to "uninstall" Windows Media Player? All Windows does, in its own words, is "removes access to Windows Media Player from the Start Menu and Desktop," yet it doesn’t actually get rid of the software. If you uninstall RealPlayer, we uninstall the whole enchilada. Same with mime types: we ask you what mime types you want our player to play, and then we only play those. On the other hand, when you upgrade your version of Windows, it takes the mime types it wants to without even asking. What’s more, we’ve been told by reliable sources that Microsoft writes into its contracts with computer OEMs that the OEM MUST make Windows Media Player the default player for major mime types, otherwise the OEM doesn’t get access to critical marketing funds that every PC manufacturer needs to stay in business.

Regarding your question of why we have put the features you want on specific menus, I will ask the guy who runs our player product group to take a close look at how we can make control of the specific features you have described even more obvious. My guess would be that the tradeoff is making the features available to technical users without confusing average users. Even so, we’ll try to do even better next time. I promise that we will do our best to keep improving our software for both regular consumers and technical users. "

"We’ll try to do even better next time," says Glaser.  Good grief, man…you’re on version ten of this thing already.  You haven’t listened to customers since the company was founded.  Your marketing department is out to lunch. You make it impossible to cancel a subscription once it is started.  Your product is accused of being spyware and adware (so much so that the BBC apparently requested its own version that was malware-free).  Why should customers believe you?

Here are my predictions on where this story is going to go.  Real is going to continue to swim upstream against not only Apple and Microsoft, but also a host of others such as in the downloadable music and video space.  They will continue to attempt to cut deals with "last mile" intermediaries such as Comcast, Earthlink, and others to get automatically installed on desktops in the gaming space.  They will work with Vodaphone, Nokia, Sprint and others to get their players as the "default" media and game players on mobile devices.  And maybe this "ignore the customer, but focus on the intermediaries" strategy will be successful for them, which will only happen if they are able to get complete lock-in, which is increasingly unlikely as other alternatives become available. 

I wonder if at some subconscious level, Glaser knows that this strategy is too broad, and opens Real up to a death by a thousand cuts from a variety of competitors.  This is almost inevitable, since he doesn’t have a customer base to back him up (as was shown by the Apple petition debacle).  Maybe that’s why he’s already picked out his next career?