March 12, 2009

Apple Introduces Talking iPod Shuffle

Apple launched a new and improved compact version of its popular iPod Shuffle with a new feature that announces the song to the user, Reuters reports.

At half the size of the original Shuffle, the new $79 device offers 4-gigabyte storage space and carries up to 1,000 songs, which is double that of the last generation gadget. 

In order to accomplish such a tiny device, Apple had to remove buttons from the device and rearrange them on the earphone cord. 

To keep the Shuffle under $100, the screen has always been minimized making it visually difficult to navigate through stored music on the device.  The original Shuffle only held about 240 songs, so one could manage with the smaller screen.  However, now that the new device can carry 1,000 songs, this warranted a new way for people to be able to search and identify the music they want, Associated Press reported.  For this reason, the new VoiceOver feature is especially useful.

The new VoiceOver feature functions by synchronizing iTunes software with the Shuffle.  A voice kit is installed onto the user's computer that translates the artist or playlist.  The device can even handle up to 14 different languages.

Apple vice president of iPod marketing, Greg Joswiak, stated, "You previously couldn't have multiple playlists on the iPod Shuffle because you couldn't really switch between them as there was no way to know how you would switch. So now instead of seeing, you get to hear."

Charles Wolf, a Needham & Co analyst, commented that the new Shuffle voice function was a "nice a little gimmick. It shows that Apple intends to keep that piece of the portfolio going. They're going to continue to innovate, upgrade the sub-$100 device."  He further added, "It won't necessarily stimulate sales, but it clearly will keep sales of the Shuffle going forward."

The tiny new Shuffle will be available this Thursday for sale, in black and silver colors with a shiny stainless steel clip.  Eventually, other companies plan to make headphones and adapters compatible with the new device, but Apple's own headphones are the only option upon release of the product. 

Shares for the Cupertino, California based Apple rose $4.05 to $92.68 in midday trading. That is 4.6 percent increase. 


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