In not-so-shocking news, iLounge is reporting that third-party headphones and headphone adapters for the new buttonless iPod Shuffle will require an Apple-licensed authentication chip.
This doesn't come as any great surprise to us because exacting licensing revenue from iPod accessory makers has become a brilliant way for Apple to add to the company's bottom line. But that "Apple tax," so to speak, does get passed on to consumers, and iLounge and others are now assuming that Apple headphone adapters will cost a minimum of $19 and possibly as much as $29. The handful of VoiceOver-compatible headphones that have been announced carry a starting price of $49.99.
The question, of course, is whether Apple has gone too far in requiring you to use only its headphones--or some sort of Apple-approved adapter or headphones for the device. (You can plug third-party headphones into the new Shuffle, and it will play music, but you can't control the volume or navigate songs).
iLounge is calling it a "nightmare scenario" for longtime iPod fans. "Are we entering a world in which Apple controls and taxes literally every piece of the iPod purchase, from headphones to chargers, jacking up their prices, forcing customers to repurchase things they already own, while making only marginal improvements in their functionality?" iLounge Editor in Chief Jeremy Horwitz asks in his review of the new iPod Shuffle. "It's a shame, and one that consumers should feel empowered to fight."
Meanwhile, over at Engadget, Nilay Patel is calling Apple's attempts to "lock down headphones" a sad new low that "makes the lack of physical controls on the Shuffle seem even more ridiculous."
What do you guys think? If the report is correct, is Apple going too far, or is this just a smart business move?
Update: Gizmodo's posted a story going back and forth on whether the chip is an "authentication" chip or a "control" chip that's required for approval as part of Apple's "made for iPod program." It appears "control" is the correct description, but that hasn't been confirmed by Apple.