As readers may know, I was initially very disapointed in the new gen 6 iPod classic I test drove at Best Buy, but I was very happy with the version I tested several weeks later at the Apple Store. I hypothesized that maybe there was an initial software issue that had been patched, but that Best Buy had not gotten its demo models up to date. An engineer associated with Apple wrote me the following:
Regarding the iPod Classic, that sucker was rushed into production.
The hardware was/is just fine. However, the firmware was NOT ready for
prime time. Software resources are very limited at Apple, believe it
or not. If you remember, Apple introduced 3 new models of iPods in
September (Nano, Touch, Classic), which stretched those resources very
thin. Too thin. The Classic firmware is what lagged most. The
sluggishness you noticed was all software, and nothing more. In an
ideal world, the Classic's firmware would have been delayed 2-3 weeks.
However, with Steve Jobs, a scheduled introduction is a scheduled
introduction, so out it went. To Apple's credit, it didn't take long
for a firmware update to correct it. One thing Apple does VERY well is
to issue timely firmware updates.
You may indeed be right in pointing out that store displays are
usually not properly updated, which is the reason that stores like Best
Buy are bad representatives for Apple. If possible in the future,
visit an Apple store for your research. I'm pretty sure they
faithfully do their updates. Apple stores are quite impressively up to
date on everything.
I have reason to believe that this person knows what she or he is talking about, and this explanation certainly matches the facts as I know them. The bottom line is that I can now wholeheartedly recommend the new gen 6 classic iPods. I have had mine for a week and love it, and, contrary to my earlier experience, if anything the menu responsiveness is now better than past generations. By the way, my iPod Touch was amazing on the flight to NY. I played movies for hours and had plenty of battery life. I had brought along this battery pack as a backup, but did not need it.
I am always amazed by the stupid mistakes electronics stores make in demoing products. This iPod mistake at Best Buy is really boneheaded, but even more commonly I see stores making huge mistakes in demoing TVs. I can't tell you how many times I see TV's either 1) displaying a really low quality source on an expensive TV or 2) not adjusting the TV correctly to the source (e.g. stretching a 4:3 image to fit a widescreen TV so that everything looks bloated).
Postscript: I visited the Apple store in Midtown Manhattan, at about 5th and 59th (right by the FAO Schwartz for all you parents out there). First, it was really cool. An all glass cube on the plaza where you enter a glass elevator or glass spiral stairs down to the store itself. Second, the store was an absolute zoo (this was Thanksgiving weekend) with lines just to demo the products. From the looks of it, Apple will have a very nice Christmas. Their entire iPod line is awesome, and for the first time in years they have a desktop that I really like at a nice price point.