Slashdot has a pretty humourous article entitled Microsoft's Tips for Buying an MP3 Player. Here a clip from /.'s description of MS's article:

In another extension of Microsoft's 'Plays for Sure' campaign, the company has launched a web page with six tips to help consumers purchase the 'correct' MP3 Player for them. Among the insights of the article hard drive-based players suck and a stopwatch is a useful feature to have on your player.

Ha. That is pretty funny. Guess I should paste a clockwatch onto an iPod shufle, b/c heavens knows the 30 lap Ironman I've got won't do the trick.

I've seen a few people backhandedly slap the iPod shuffle for being an overpriced version of yesterday's technology that's legitimized only by virtue of having that Apple style. I believe they miss the point. What the iPod shufffle does that nobody else's USB memory stick does is allow you to listen to iTunes Music Store purchases [without the de-DRM steps of being F/OSS-Linux l33t]. I was using the ITMS before I had an iPod to purchase CDs (at least until I figured out anything that'd been on the market for than a year could be had for a lower price, usually used, on Amazon), and I still use it to bag newly released, relatively popular singles. Of course the ITMS also has a number of songs you're not likely to find on the used market easily.

All this plays into the iPod shuffle costing you a little extra to access content that you're already buying more easily. Sure you can turn ITMS songs into mp3s, but, as I've covered in some depth before, if $99 buys me an mp3 player and kills the reason I need to bother with the conversions, well, I'm getting an iPod shuffle.

(That said, I am beginning to see why people might light to listen to FM on the iPod -- and, in my case, even AM. It's ITMS or FM, I suppose, when it comes to mp3 players. Course with Ambrosia's Wiretap, you can grab NPR archives, say, and stick 'em on the 'pod.)