If Apple retires iPod classic and shuffle, rest of line will shine

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Apple is reportedly very close to permanently cutting the iPod classic and shuffle from its line of media players, according to a report from TUAW late Tuesday. It’s not the first time we’ve heard that some iPod models will be retired, but it does seem more likely than ever that it’s true this time around. And that might actually be great news for iPod fans in the long run.

The iPod classic is basically a legacy holdover at this point among Apple’s portable media players. Its platter hard drive is an oddity among today’s PMPs, for which flash-based storage is the dominant tech by a long shot. It hasn’t changed since 2009, when a 160 GB version was introduced, which eventually replaced the 120 GB option entirely. Really, though, not much is different about the original classic introduced in 2007 and the one on sale today. The classic’s only advantage, from a user perspective, is its sizeable drive; the closest a flash-based iPod currently comes is 64 GB.

The iPod shuffle, while flash-based and subject to more frequent design overhauls, is simply being upstaged by the iPod nano. The latest nano is almost as small, and while it’s more expensive, its touchscreen makes it more usable and expands its capabilities considerably. The shuffle has always been a fairly good gateway device for users looking a cheap way to get into the Apple ecosystem, but with the selling power of the iPhone and iPad, that’s no longer much of a concern.

Dropping the classic and the nano shuffle would free up staff and resources that Apple could reinvest in advancing the remaining products in the iPod line, too. The most recent iPod nano has spawned a thriving accessory ecosystem based on watchband straps to hold the PMP, and it holds plenty of potential as a connected display for iPhones, if Apple does decide to enter the fray with other wrist-based connected devices that are emerging to support the Android ecosystem. The iPod touch, of course, is one part of Apple’s iOS platform, and an important one at that; in April, Ars Technica reported that it accounted for one-third of overall iOS device sales. The iPod touch now makes up at least half of all iPods sold by Apple, and is the only model that consistently sees positive growth.

Put simply, both the nano and the iPod touch have futures that either could potentially, or already do feed the growing beast that is iOS. Steve Jobs may have conveyed back in March that the company had no plans to discontinue the iPod classic, but times change, and so does a company’s focus. With Apple’s new iCloud push, the classic and the shuffle become even less relevant to its overall goals, so it’s highly possible their time has indeed come. Will you miss them?

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