It started out as a game: we’d try to spot the white earbuds in crowded subways and on streets. But then we began to notice something. The ratios were different. It was more obvious on some days and at some times than others, but by Manhattan (circa two weeks ago) standards, the iPod seemed to be more closely matched by competitors in Paris than elsewhere in our travels.
That’s not to say that we haven’t spotted lots of iPods here. Dennis has counted thirty or forty a day without trying too hard. We’ve seen them on the Champs Elysses (above), La Defense, near the Eiffel Tower, the Sorbonne, and everywhere in between. But despite very conspicuous advertising here for the iPod nano, we’ve yet to see one in anyone’s hands. Why? A local FNAC store was selling a 4GB nano for more than the cost of a 20GB iPod (likely black and white, but hard to tell), and French prices for 4GB and 20GB color models are only 10 Euros different. Worse yet, a 2GB nano sells here for nearly $300 – the prices go up from there. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that we haven’t seen lots of color iPods on the streets here, either – mostly minis and older black-and-white models.
There’s another possible “why,” too. Stores here are stocked with competing options (see above), including myriad flash players from various companies, and hands-on displays are overflowing with different models to compare and consider. Put on display next to all of these options, the iPod shuffle really suffers, and it appears to translate directly into less street presence. We’ve noticed that quite a few people here wear flash devices around their necks, but we’ve seen zero iPod shuffles conspicuously worn. Again, prices might have something to do with it. A 512MB shuffle sells for over $130, while competing screened 512MB flash players here can be had for around $67. Which would you buy?
We’ve said it before, and will say it again: at the wrong (read: too high) prices, even the best technologies will fail to win the audiences they deserve. But from what we can see, it’s not too late to change that – if Apple really wants to increase the iPod’s international strength.