A team of tech journalists found a mysterious chip inside the headphones of the new Apple iPod Shuffle and believe that it might be the company's first step towards a more strict marketing drive.
Following iLounge analysis of the new device, reviewers at gadget site Boingboing isolated a tiny piece of PCB that was placed inside the headphone module of the iPod Shuffle with a chip labelled 8A83E3.
The headphone is essential to play music as it controls the player itself and without it, one would only be able to control the Shuffle, leaving it on continuous mode and at constant volume.
iLounge had already mentioned that the existence of an authentication chip which would make other non-approved Apple headphones useless. In their own words, "This is, in short, a nightmare scenario for long-time iPod fans: are we entering a world in which Apple controls and taxes literally every piece of the iPod purchase from headphones to chargers, jacking up their prices, forcing customers to re-purchase things they already own, while making only marginal improvements in their functionality?"
This would, to a certain extent, allow Apple to exert a greater control on the booming accessories ecosystem by extracting a license (otherwise known as tax or a levy from accessories manufacturers).
By combining the controls with the headphones, Apple makes it very difficult for manufacturers to come up with their own knocked down headphones and artificially inflates the price of Apple accessories.
Thje newly released Scosche iPod Shuffle earbuds for example cost up to $99.99, which cynics have said, is more than the price of the Shuffle itself (ed: at this point, the words "Gillette" and "razor blades" spring to mind).
Other companies will not be able to reverse-engineer the chip as Apple's lawyers will sue them under the Digital Copyright Millennium Act. Ironically, Apple has announced that it was removing DRM from its audio tracks, but it seems only to apply them elsewhere.
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Apple controls 70 percent of the portable audio market and is more or less able to do whatever it wants without having to think about marketshare. As we mentioned last week, Apple wil be looking to milk the iPod brand as the market for such products matures and melts away into the iPhone family.