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Posts Tagged ‘iPod’

Revolutionary vs. Evolutionary Design – The 3rd Generation iPod Shuffle

Posted by Steve on March 18, 2009

I am sure many of you have seen the new 3rd generation iPod shuffle, as seen here. What really caught my attention was this line from the VP of product marketing:

“The new iPod shuffle is the world’s smallest music player and takes a revolutionary approach to how you listen to your music by talking to you, also making it the first iPod shuffle with playlists.”

What catches my attention is that they state that their new ‘revolutionary’ VoiceOver feature;  the ‘revolutionary’ VoiceOver feature will tell you the song titles, artists and playlist names. To me the fact that the shuffle talks to you is not a revolutionary change in the way people listen to music.I think they need a little lesson in what constitutes a revolutionary design and what really is an evolutionary design.

The terms evolutionary and revolutionary may seem very similar but there is an important difference, I’ll start by describing both. Evolutionary designs are ones that simply take a design to the next logical step, for example the first iPod nano with video support was an evolutionary design, it brought video to a small portable device but it did not really change how people watch videos. Revolutionary designs are those that fundamentally change how something is done, a classic example of a revolutionary design is the printing press, it fundamentally changed how information was desiminated and possibly led to the prevalence of literacy.

It should be obvious at this point how the new VoiceOver technology is not a revolutionary step in the way that we listen to music. The VoiceOver technology simply provides the same information that a visual display would, just through the auditory channel, thus not really changing how we listen to music.

To me, an example of a revolutionary design for a new music player would be one that could sense our moods and then auto create playlists based on them, or one whose controls could be operated based on our thoughts instead of the current tactile interface. Now obviously I know that these ideas are a little far fetched and currently infeasible, but one can always dream!


Do you agree or disagree with the arguments made above? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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