Seeing red… already!

My word. After finally ordering the iPod I need less than 24 hours ago, it’s already arrived, complete with engraving! I’m in awe of a supply chain that can process orders, do custom engraving, pack, pick, dispatch and deliver within 24 hours. Well done, Apple Store.

(And before anyone asks what an about-to-be-student is doing buying the latest cool kit, it’s down to two things: I want to use the Nike Plus training system that only works with the Nano – to bring time management and structure to my workouts – and lectures at my University are heavily podcasted, making an iPod useful for offpeak learning experiences via the aural channel.)

But the clincher, of course, was that it comes in that amazing red colour.

This is my first brush with Apple in 25 years of using computers, and I’m impressed. Pictures don’t quite give an idea of how small it is; it’s TINY – but no tinier than it needs to be. I can enclose it in a palm, yet it’s just large enough for the screen to be readable and the wheel tactile.

The design delight starts at the packaging – a hinged perspex case no larger than a big box of matches, yet enclosing iPod itself (held proud of any surface by contoured grips), instruction books, earphones and cable, all folded up like a Transformer.(If the Transformers had disguised themselves as iPods, I think the iPod would actually attract more glances.) The scale throws out proportion: I was concerned that the earphone jack looked bigger than standard and my own earbuds wouldn’t fit. In fact, it’s a standard jack, made to look bigger by the iPod’s minisculity.

And when I take it out, weigh the little oblong in my hand, I almost shiver. A complete visual and tactile experience, before I’ve even charged the thing up. Apple’s just so much better at this stuff than anyone else; having spent a quarter-century in the PC world, I feel like a 1960s Soviet citizen suddenly teleported to… Renaissance Italy. I don’t want to touch this thing so much as bite it.

Of course, all this beautiful industrial design conceals the real value of an iPod: it’s not about the hardware, it’s about the system. iPod exists because the culture of iTunes exists, even though I never expect to use iTunes. The Video iPod and the iPhone aren’t the story; the network effects are the story. Steve Jobs’ real goal is to be the distribution channel for all media, just as Nike+ wants to be the training programme for a billion athletes.

Nike and Apple. Two of the greatest brands on the planet, brought together in one functional experience that blends entertainment, athleticism, and learning experiences. I live them, vicariously.

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