If you stop by Apple's Web-based store, the 512 MB model (at $99) has a two- to three-week wait, and the 1 GB model (which has a $149 price point) has a three- to four-week wait. That would imply that customers are snapping up Shuffles like hotcakes and forming virtual lines out the virtual doors.
When word first hit that Apple was releasing the iPod Shuffle, I had my doubts (as did some of my Foolish colleagues), and they were serious ones. Why would anyone want to shuffle their songs all the time? What about the missing screen? These seemed like perfectly good reasons to believe that the Shuffle wouldn't be able to emulate the success of the iPod and iPod Mini.
However, the more I think about it, the more I find myself being pulled into the Shuffle's teeny, tiny tractor beam -- and thinking maybe others are having the same experience. First off, heck, the low-end model is only $99. In this day and age, that's not exactly a massive amount of cash to shell out for entertainment, even for kids saving their allowance money. Heck, think of how easy it is to blow through a good $20-$40 on a movie for two at the local multiplex, and that puts the low price in perspective.
Second, maybe there's some real marketing wisdom behind the Shuffle's marketing tag line: "Enjoy uncertainty." Think that statement through. That's one element people enjoy about radio (I myself declared the death of terrestrial radio, or at least its chronic sickness, last week) -- serendipity. In that Take, I recognized that as radio programming comes to disappoint some music fans, it's quite likely they'll latch onto satellite radio or Internet radio or simply fire up their iPod gear.
The Shuffle lends that element of surprise that can at times make listening to music such a pleasure. And what's more, that element of surprise is completely made up of tunes that you handpicked yourself. Chances are, you're going to enjoy the lineup, and there are no commercials. (However, I have been informed that the Shuffle also allows users to play songs in the order specified in their playlists.)
There's also its tiny size, which leads us to why I warned in the headline that nobody should eat this Apple. On Apple's iPod Shuffle page, the device is placed next to two packs of gum, to show just how darned "mini" it is. Which leads to the footnote on the page: "Do not eat iPod Shuffle." Imagine my surprise and delight at seeing such a strange disclaimer. Which, of course, has led to some joking around today. "Mmm, iPod Shuffle, you look good enough to eat!" "I love my iPod Shuffle so much, I could just gobble it up!"
Anyway. Investors are certainly anxiously awaiting signs of how Apple's newest miniature offerings are going to do with consumers -- or if the stock is about to jump the shark, so to speak. (However, if you read that article, be sure to read this one, too.) For now, I'd venture to guess that Apple's still got the musically minded held in thrall with its devices.
Do you think Apple's good enough to eat? Or a little rotten? Sound off with other Fools on our discussion board dedicated to taking stock in Apple.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.