iPod tutorials: Music for iDiots

Who would pay £65 for iPod tuition? A sceptical Ed Caesar went to Selfridges in London to find out
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When the announcement was made, a little over a week ago, that a company based in the Selfridges store in central London was to offer "iPod survival" tutorials at £65 a session, many raised a sceptical eyebrow. The iPod is acknowledged, after all, as the most user-friendly of gadgets - a design classic so idiot-proof that even George W Bush has owned one for more than a year without any serious mishaps.

When all an iPod virgin needs to get started is a nephew, or, as a last resort, the instruction manual, who would pay £65 for a one-on-one tutorial?

Quite a few people, as it turns out. Over the Christmas period, the staff at Selfridges Speedpod - a company that offers a CD downloading service for time-poor customers - have been overloaded with questions about their iPods from confused punters. The inquiries were mostly from under-12s and over-40s. Speedpod saw a pot of gold.

"We thought there was demand for a service that would teach people everything they need to know about their iPods," explains managing director Kristina Rate. "After 40 minutes they can take away that knowledge and they will be as good as a specialist."

It sounds like bad news for Manoj Gohil, 24, an iPod specialist who has been given the task of delivering London's first £65 iPod lesson. In front of a sleek monitor in the basement of Selfridges, Gohil speaks slowly and clearly, giving the impression that he is used to dealing with the baffled.

He starts with the basics - "this is a cable; it goes into the USB port; this is the USB port", etc - and progresses through to managing iTunes, Apple's music software, and creating playlists. Most of the 40 minutes is spent on iTunes, "because if you know how that works, you're pretty much sorted". It is possible to see why the seriously computer-illiterate might be troubled by this aspect of the technology. But when it comes to the iPod itself, Gohil can't quite bring himself to tell me to turn the wheel and use the menu.

"Now you have a try," he says, pointing to the screen displaying iTunes. I get it right first time. Hey, this iPod malarkey really is as easy as I thought!

There are, however, some nuances to iPodology that are new on me: the "on-the-go" playlist, which Gohil shows can be programmed on the iPod itself, is cute, as are the genre-specific equalising controls. But I am confident that if I had wanted to master these niche functions, it would not have been too much of a trial for me to do so.

At the end of the tutorial, Gohil admits quietly that he is not confident that Speedpod will be deluged with punters willing to stump up the cash for his "iPod survival" service. But his boss defends her product, as well as its price.

"If you have 500 or 600 CDs," says Rate, "that is over £5,000 worth of music. Paying an extra £65 so you have 100 per cent satisfaction from your iPod is not so much when you have already spent so much."

Or you could just spend £69 and buy the cheapest type of iPod. Or you could walk 10 minutes to the Apple Store on Regent Street where tutorials are offered for free.

Even then, one suspects that Speedpod might be able to offer some assistance - remunerated at the appropriate level, naturally: "Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot...."