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iPod, therefore I am 

The seniors are bummed. They're so, gulp, over, so ... "past."

Miffy and Sandy Jr. arrive green on campus and are promptly given iPods as party favors. All Brett got was a Final Four towel.

Duke's decision to give members of the freshman class (a group they've feted as "the class of the future") cool digital music devices is causing teen-angst-envy and cash-machine ripples felt from Durham to Palo Alto. The Duke Computer Store opened their Bryan Center doors with a huge iPod iStuff accessories sale ("leather holsters, armbands, and $50 off on portable speakers!").

One wise Chronicle op-ed writer imagined this scenario: Hot shot high school senior is choosing between two colleges. The word is out--not only does Duke let the kids sleep in, they get a techie gift bag.

"Slam dunk. I'm there! I'm a Cameron Crazy."

It's only just begun, however. What happens next year?

The ante is raised. Can't you see it? All the college guides start listing a new info category for each school. Enrollment, average SATs, and ... signing bonus.

So next summer the 24/7 Duke publicity machine issues a press release granting all incoming freshman an entire fall Abercrombie & Fitch wardrobe and the Duke Stores offer special deals on A&F fine wood cabinetry.

Next day The New York Times announces that Harvard is giving each member of its freshman class a new PT Cruiser and 10 shares of Google to play with.

An evil empire scenario is even plausible. A technology survey last month revealed that only 5 percent of United States households had handheld digital music players. High tech entrepreneurs are salivating, remembering the glory days when only 5 percent of the households had PCs.

IPods are the tip of the next big frontier, after the PC, wireless and search booms. The Apple/Duke alliance is not unlike the Nike/Duke juggernaut. Soon enough look for the Real Player/Rhapsody/Harmony gang to hook up with Carolina, blocking an iTunes invasion into Chapel Hill.

Hey, buddy, can you spare a FireWire cable?

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