Thursday, May 11, 2006

Apple Product Suggestion

I got my first iPod as a Christmas gift from Gwen and the girls in 2003, after coveting the device for about a year.

When I opened it up that morning I wasn't disappointed... the packaging was cooler than anything I'd seen before. I hadn't been this excited by a new consumer electronics device since I bought my Palm V in the late 1990s. To me, the iPod was one of those things you sort of couldn't believe you were allowed to own, so far ahead of anything else out there and so transformational in terms of your personal experience... STACKS of cds all fit into this little thing the size of a deck of cards, and you had them with you anywhere, anytime... it was unbelievable.

It was also terrific in the car with the girls because we put all of their music on the thing as well... Baby Bach, Barney, Dora, Laurie Berkner, Green Day, it all went on the iPod. And from about the age of three, whenever Madison heard a new song she'd immediately ask if I had it on my iPod. We'd download songs from iTunes and listen to them on our morning drive to her school.

Earlier this week we were on our morning drive and I was clickwheeling at her request to "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. Before I got the song going she asked, "Daddy, do you have the words from songs on your iPod?" I told her no, just the name of the song and the artist/performer, but as the day went on I kept thinking about her suggestion, which really made a lot of sense particularly since the one thing you really lose through the iPod/iTunes experience is the cd art/lyrics. They've started including these "digital booklets" with some new releases but I've never been able to figure out how they work and their most significant manifestation for me has been "failed to load" error messages when I sync up the iPod. Madison was onto something... a new capability and option on the iPod that would enable the device to scroll lyrics to the songs as they played.

This was the kind of thing I would have loved to e-mail to Steve Jobs directly, but I don't have his address. I did a quick Google search and found numerous people speculating on how to reach him, but nothing seemed too reliable. I work in media relations so I naturally gravitate to the press people anyway, and found an e-mail address for a guy in Apple's corporate communications department and sent along Madison's idea along with a nice and truthful accounting of how much we loved the company and particularly the iPod.

To his credit, I got a note back within an hour, but it was very brief and had a boilerplate "thank you for your comments... we always appreciate hearing from our customers" feel to it, so I didn't delude myself into thinking that Madison's concept was getting any traction over at Apple. It was also the kind of thing, I noted in my original e-mail, that probably came up in an iPod group brainstorm about five years ago. Another possible reason for the perfunctory response could have been a general wariness of external ideas or suggestions on the part of technology companies in the post-Blackberry patent troll world.

I had no way of knowing whether my innocent little message prompted an afternoon of hellish terror for this guy, sitting in his Cupertino cube with beads of sweat rolling down his forehead and headlines like "Five-year-old's Lawsuit Threatens iPod Shutdown" running through his mind. So I really couldn't blame him for acknowledging my e-mail and moving on. When I got home that night Madison was already in bed, and as I said goodnight to her I mentioned that I had sent her idea to the people at Apple who make the iPod and, smiling ear-to-ear, she immediately responded that "they should put the words on the computer, too, on iTunes." The idea that this little girl, the product of my genes, knew the term iTunes and could properly use it in a sentence - let alone advance the product - was a point of some personal pride.

The next morning I sent my PR contact this additional wrinkle and never heard back. I'm sure the follow-up had this guy lamenting ever indulging this e-mail maniac in the first place. It is a good idea though.