Clarification to This Article
An article in the Oct. 22 Sunday Business section on Creative MP3 players failed to disclose that the writer, Neal Mueller, received a free player from the company to use on his 2005 expedition to Mount Everest. He is not officially sponsored by Creative. He received that player after writing to the company to say that he is a fan of its products.
iPod Jeers

Van Halen Fell Silent On Top of the World

By Neal Mueller
Special to the Washington Post
Sunday, October 22, 2006

Last year my team on Mount Everest witnessed firsthand how lousy the iPod is.

On our expedition, we brought enough electronic gadgetry to outfit an army. What broke first? The iPods. The batteries croaked, the cases scratched and the hard drives seized from the rarified air.

After that, we began to look askance on pretty iPods. I like gadgets, but I also like simple. As a mountaineer, I can't put up with the iPod because it's too high-maintenance.

That makes me a big fan of the Creative MuVo, because it has what I want: battery life, light weight and rugged reliability. It might lack pizazz, but it delivers substance. The tiny MuVo had no problem cranking out Van Halen when I stood on the summit of Mount Everest.

To expound a little more on the things I like about MuVo over iPod: My device is extremely light, ruggedly durable and it takes AAA batteries. It doesn't need a case because it won't scratch.

The MuVo is an open system and can accept music from a variety of sources. By comparison, iPods live in their own little world. They only work with custom cords and other special accessories. They only work with their own music format. Basically, the iPod perpetuates its own exclusive clique. It's no team player.

Watching my fellow climbers lug their broken iPods up and down Mount Everest gave me some strong opinions. I'd go as far as to say I think Paris Hilton is to Hollywood what the iPod is to portable music players. Both are radiant, glossy and coveted, and like any flash-in-the-pan they are overpriced and cantankerous.

When a device is priced at a considerable premium and derives the majority of its sales from chic mystique or verve, I say it's a fad. My climbing friends agree, making our team 100 percent anti-iPod. Buying an iPod for its musical value is like buying a BMW for its high-speed cornering. The iPod is conspicuous gadget consumption. It's bling.

For all the incremental benefits that the iPod offers -- like its beauty and its ease of use -- it is still just a portable music player. Compare the $250 30 gigabyte iPod price tag to the $80 launch price of the Sony Walkman in the 1980s. Perhaps we have gotten just a bit frothy for portable music, or maybe it's just the sexy case and finger wheel.

Neal Mueller, 28, is a first-year graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

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