An Addictive Taste of iPod

It occurred to me last week, as I inserted the earbuds and cued up a trip to my own little world. Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPod Shuffle is the musical equivalent of a gateway drug. It all starts out innocently and before you know it, you're hooked and searching for the next rush.

Don't worry, I'm well aware that drugs are a terrible and debilitating habit. I allow myself to joke about this because iPod addiction is a far cleaner habit, the only side effects of which are depreciating assets in the ol' checking account or, possibly, hearing damage at some later point in life. (An addict, of course, generally overlooks these kinds of concerns.)

I had implied the same concept when I first wrote a Take several weeks ago about lower-priced iPods, including the Shuffle. The lower the price point, the easier it is to funnel more users into the fold, which in effect escalates into a world-class jones. It's hard to argue the strength of that strategy.

And of course, there was my foray into the open-air market that is the Apple Store. I got crushed in the glassy-eyed, glo-sticked madness in a melee that was reminiscent of a rave. (Just kidding, I wouldn't go that far, but it's quite the image, isn't it?)

At any rate, when I got my iPod Shuffle, loaded it up with some tunes, and inserted the earbud, right after my initial euphoric surge of, "This is so cool," I immediately realized that one gigabyte wasn't enough. Sure, the Shuffle would do me fine for a sampling of songs from the excellent music (subjectively speaking, of course) in my CD collection. However, I was definitely going to need the real thing to load each and every disc in my vast collection.

And I don't even want to talk about subsequent evenings at home, when I could have been doing something productive, like scrubbing something or reading Peter Lynch but instead was sitting on iTunes looking up obscure and not-so-obscure tunes that I just had to have. It was like a compulsion.

But back to my point. Market researchers are predicting continued heady times for music players. No doubt. Recently, CNET reported that market research firm iSuppli conjectured that MP3 player sales will increase 57%, after having doubled last year. One might extrapolate that all the people who haven't gotten into MP3s are about due to join the revolution imminently.

People love their music, as I have opined in the past, and Apple has guaranteed that iPods are available in varieties and price points that are palatable to the masses. Of course, Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) trying desperately to rejuvenate the Walkman brand, while other companies, like Creative, are trying to woo customers of their own. Meanwhile, I know fellow Fool Seth Jayson has his own version of "think different," since he greatly enjoys his SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK  ) player, which is just a bit bulkier than the Shuffle and also offers voice recording and radio.

Judging by the immediate knee-jerk reaction I had to my own iPod Shuffle purchase, my other question is, how many current iPoddies will end up being repeat buyers of iPod products? I mean, if you have one, you might as well have them all, right? It's that Shuffle to Mini to full-grown iPod progression, not to mention accessories. Musical crack, I tell you.

Regardless, in closing, I do still wonder about investors' bite of the Apple. After all, there's a lot of euphoria built into this Apple pie. Buyer, beware. But whether or not Apple stock will have a brush with the principles of gravity, it remains clear that the company's making all the right moves in its attempt to hook its fan base.

Talk to Fools about all things iPod on our iPod Living discussion board, only on Fool.com.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.


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