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Rumored iPod Classic, Shuffle discontinuation

These rumors are certainly plausible.

The iPod Shuffle nicely fills the low-end, rugged, disposable segment. It’s only $49, and it would take a significant breakthrough to offer something like the current Nano ($149) anywhere near that price point.

It’s obvious from the last few revisions that Apple isn’t meaningfully interested in the Shuffle anymore, but it’s also probably selling well enough to keep in the lineup. I don’t think they’ll cancel it until they can sell a Nano at $79 or less, which seems unrealistic today.

The iPod Classic is a different story, though.

It’s 160 GB for $249. Without it, the largest-capacity iPod would be the 64 GB Touch at $399. At this week’s event, an iPod Touch update may increase the top capacity to 128 GB, which would be close enough to the Classic. An update may also decrease the cost of the Touch’s storage, but probably not by enough to approach the Classic’s price per gigabyte.

Like the Shuffle, the Classic has also been kept alive by component economics. The difference is that while there’s probably still large demand for a very small and very cheap audio player, there probably isn’t much demand for a bulky (by today’s standards) audio player with the highest capacity possible that can’t run apps or games.

The Classic is also slightly confusing in the product line, competing with the iPod Touch at the high end. A sale of the Touch is probably worth more to Apple than a sale of the Classic, so eliminating this competition at the high end should slightly boost sales of the Touch.

A lot of people suggest that the Classic sells well to DJs. That may be true. But how many DJs are there, how many of them use iPod Classics instead of laptops, and how many of those are buying new iPods on a regular basis?

Anecdotally, in all of our wedding shoots, we’ve seen a bunch of live bands and a lot of groomsmen with laptops, but very few DJs. Sure, we’re only seeing a small part of the DJ business, but I bet it’s reasonable to conclude that it’s on the decline. How much does Apple really need to care about such a tiny market that’s probably shrinking further?

I bet the Classic will be quietly removed from the lineup on Tuesday.

But I wouldn’t put a lot of money on that. Most of these reasons for its discontinuation have been true for years, and it’s still inexplicably here.