iPod nano: Behind the colors

September 19, 2006, 6:49 AM UTC

Greg Joswiak is one of my favorite guys to chat with at Apple. As any journalist who’s covered the company knows, “chatting” with Apple execs is no simple task – they’re minded so closely by the PR folks that they rarely seem to say much that’s spontaneously interesting.

Joz, though, has been around long enough to relax a bit. And in his current post as vice president of worldwide iPod product marketing, he’s got a lot of insights into what’s arguably the most important consumer electronics product of the decade.

I caught up with Joz at the event last week where Apple unveiled the iTV, iTunes 7 and the new iPods.

Though they got the least press because the news was the least surprising, the new lineup of iPod nanos is likely to generate the most revenue for Apple during the holiday quarter. So I tossed Joz a few questions about them.

Mainly, I wondered about the colors. Why bring them back? The last time we had colors like that in an iPod line was the iPod mini, which the nano replaced. I had assumed Apple decided that colors were so three years ago. I mean, I can’t really imagine the clan in Cupertino rolling out another line of jellybean-colored MacBooks anytime soon.

Joz’s answer added a bit to my understanding of how the Apple marketing mind works. The colors came back, he said, because it was time to update the feel of the line. And the updated colors were made possible because Apple’s engineers had figured out how to get the devices thin enough that they looked right in their new vivid new aluminum skins.

He was clear that Apple sees the new color scheme as more than a fashion statement – it’s also a differentiator. Without similarly investing hundreds of millions of dollars into audio player innovation and sophisticated industrial design techniques, competitors aren’t likely to come close to imitating the new nanos.