Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment. This week marks the second birthday of Switched On, which recently passed the 100-column mark.
If you love the iPod, you may delight in how long it has maintained its superiority over other digital music players. If you hate the iPod, you may bemoan how consumers have overlooked the superiority of other digital music players. But if you're in an Apple Store, you may simply wonder if there are any other digital music players.
Two years ago, the first Switched On column focused on whether the new iPod photo would yield a video-playing heir. That level of attention, though, was nothing compared to the treatment that the the product receives every day in the church of the immaculate gloss. Apple stores present rows of well-maintained iPods fresh from their announcement ready to be enjoyed with a variety of sample songs and connected to earbuds, headphones or speaker systems from Apple and others. Cases and car chargers dangle below colorful signs extolling the breadth of content available at the iTunes store. A knowledgeable, no-pressure staff is usually hovering to answer any questions about the product you might buy while support specialists can address issues with the one you may have bought.
Compare these point-of-purchase penthouses to the plastic cells inside the glass case jails in which many MP3 players often rot away their shelf lives. It's a safe bet that, for a high percentage of those who tried to a digital music player at retail prior to purchase, the iPod was the only such device they were able to experience hands-on even if they were open to alternatives.