Yesterday, I read the opinion piece by Dan Hill on Core 77 with regards to Apple and its’ now infamous IPod battery debacle. I am divided about Mr. Hill’s thoughts, and am curious to here some others on the board (yes, I do remember the post on the board about a month ago regarding this same subject).
Mr. Hill points out the pre-existing penchant for creating designs which are entirely non-upgradable (original '84 Mac had no expansion slots, and now the IPod’s difficult to replace battery). He continues to argue that this tendancy makes Apple’s designs just good enough in the usability department because they are non-adaptative to the changing environment which surrounds them.
I agree that when I shell out good money for a product, whose category evolves in terms of months, that I want to get alot of use out of it. Hence, adaptability being a big plus. Take for example my home PC. I’ve only bought one…a 80 mhz model in 1997, but I’ve continually upgraded different parts on a need-to basis and now still have a functional design tool. But a music player like an IPod is a bit different from a full fledged computer. An Ipod will arguably be just as useful a year and half from now when its battery dies as it is today. With regards to just playing music…it’s doubtful that the IPod will become dated until some new encoding standard is developed.
Since the IPod will be valuable for so long…is it reasonable to ask people to pay $100 or more to replace the battery? Maybe we should ask how deep is value? Is value only as deep as the battery is easy to replace? I think not.
The value of the IPod’s design is in its robustness, ease of use of its interface, beauty and small size. An easy-change battery could be added to that list, but it would also negatively effect a few of those points. The robustness of the design would be effected by having a gapping hole in its chassis leading to an increase in size (another point of the IPod) or decreased robustness.
Another point of value is the seamless functioning of the IPod. Unlike a CD player I recently purchased with bizarre proprietary batteries, the IPod doesn’t waste ones concern with batteries. The user just lays it on its cradle attached to your computer and pick it up when they are ready to go out. There is no door which either distracts from the pure design or falls open at the worst possible moments. The IPod is only concerned with its primary purpose…playing music.