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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Music player takes on new guises
You can hear Jon Wurtzel every week on the BBC's Go Digital
BBC Go Digital's Jon Wurtzel casts a wry eye over developments in the world of technology

Since its release in autumn 2001 as a device for listening to digital music, Apple's iPod has achieved widespread popularity.

By extending the functions of their iPods beyond what it was designed to do, some enthusiastic users are showing off a humorous, sometimes illegal, and telling consumer trend in hi-tech gadgetry.

It reflects how the ways people use technology products can even be at odds with manufacturers' intentions.

The iPod contains huge memory capacity for storing lots of tunes. With a simple, stylish interface of a shiny white case, small screen and a round toggle button, the player performs this audio playback function quite well.

Remote control

These very features, the simple interface and lots of memory, have enabled some users to create new uses for the music player.

The iPod can carry large amounts of data
The iPod is proving to be a versatile gadget
By adding an infrared chip and some computer code, the iPod can be transformed into a TV remote control.

One talented 14 year old has figured out a way for an iPod to grab and display the latest news headlines when it is connected to the net.

Another programmer has it synchronized with his web-based e-mail account and address books, turning it into a personal digital assistant.

Software transfer

Perhaps the most furtive use to which the device has been put involves software theft.

It is a simple matter to walk into a computer store, connect the player to an Apple computer and quickly transfer software from the computer to the iPod.

Back home, the user can transfer the stolen software to their home computer and use it.

By publishing and sharing their iPod enhancements on the internet, these Apple users have formed a virtual showroom and testing lab for the features that may be officially added to the player in the future.

Cult of the Mac

For some time now, consumers of Apple products have been infamous for their cult-like devotion to things Apple, a brand devotion that other companies can only dream about.

Apple iBook
Apple Macs: Objects of desire
By monitoring how these people adopt and adapt its products, Apple has a loyal and dedicated group of users virtually functioning as their research and development department, previewing directions the company may take with future devices.

As a digital music player, the iPod is a useful, clever device.

With the all the hacks its devoted fans have developed for it, it is practically morphing into a personal digital assistant.

If only the iPod had mobile phone functions, it could become an all-in-one device - a hand sized computer, a music player and a mobile phone.

Given the loyalty this product has inspired, iPod users are pointing out the ways in which this functionality could materialise.

You can hear Jon Wurtzel on Go Digital, which is webcast on BBC News Online every Monday at 1500 GMT. Or you can listen to the programme on BBC World Service radio on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
See also:

24 Oct 01 | New Media
Apple unveils digital music device
08 Jan 02 | Business
Apple's flat-screen hopes
21 Jul 00 | Business
The cult of the Mac
19 May 01 | Business
Apple unveils its offline strategy
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