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Fully Equipped: Apple to shift to voice interface for iPods, iPhones?

Apple's marketing slogan for the new Shuffle is "Small Talk," touting its voice-over feature. But lost in the small talk about the device may be a larger user interface shift.

I recently trashed the third-generation Shuffle in a blog post, saying it was "a disaster." Well, I meant it. A button-less, tiny, entry-level MP3 with special "VoiceOver" features just seems so unnecessary. But then a reader made an interesting point to me. What if the lede got buried in Apple's Shuffle announcement?

Is Apple's small talk really a precursor to big interface changes across its entire line? Apple

While everyone was harping about how the thing's really small (I say too small), requires an adapter for you to use your own headphones, and has a voice-over feature that doesn't seem to really add much (we know what our favorite songs are, right?), the real story may be that Apple's getting ready to launch all this voice stuff across its whole line of mobile products.

The reader, Charles, who e-mailed me, asks this question: "Would you have thought to design a 'voice report' plus device-decentralized 'hard controls' into an $80 music player appliance?"

No. So, why do you do it?

"Well," he goes on, "if you were testing consumer acceptance of a new product'd probably do well not just to tweak but educate your adopter audience on the sensory essentials of your new interface. Technology is best delivered in metered morsels to be digested."

Read the full column.