OK, folks, you can stop writing to tell me that I could have bought a replacement for my Apple iPod battery from a third-party vendor. I'm not sure I could have way back when, but what I didn't mention is that I'd already replaced my iPod three times under the warranty and was just disgusted with the thing. I'd also fallen for the Mini.
Reader Jim Bailey writes to note that Apple will in fact replace the batteries. For the low, low price of $105.95, that is. Unless you're really worried about batteries in the landfill, and don't trust third-party vendors, that doesn't strike me as a terribly good deal.
Reader Tom Jackson writes to praise the iPod competition:
I couldn't help writing to you after reading your item on the iPod. My wife, who once bought me an autographed copy of THE FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES, gave me a Dell Jukebox as an anniversary gift last July. (I had noticed that it was cheaper, and the reviews had mentioned that it had a longer battery life than the iPod.) I have been using it it for about nine months now, and it has a really good battery life. I've never run out of power before I recharged it, so I don't know what the maximum battery life is, but I always seem to get many hours of use before I have to recharge it again. Of course, the other test will be how long the battery lasts before it wears out and won't hold a charge anymore. The Dell Jukebox never gets much in the way of praise, but it is reliable and seems to work well.
Unfortunately, Dell has a real problem with aesthetics, which limits the appeal of its products.
I bought mine a few months ago and it is excellent from a hardware perspective... I think just as easy to use as an iPod with a few extra features. The software is not quite as good as iTunes... but the battery is great. I go a couple days between charging, and I have it on all day at work. There is also a smaller Zen very comparable to the iPod mini as well.
There you have it: Plenty of iPod competition, but nobody's got everything. If you're buying an Apple product of any kind, my recommendation from long years of experience, is to always buy the Apple Care extended warranty. You absolutely will need it.