Creative has fired back in its self-avowed war to take sales away from Apple's iPod range, slamming the new iPod shuffle.

Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo said: "I’m delighted Apple joined the flash party but, I’m surprised it’s taken Jobs so long. You have to hand it to him, entering the market with a statement about pioneering the ‘shuffle’ function is certainly a bold move that will grab headlines."

Creative castigates iPod shuffle claims

The combative Creative big cheese castigated the computer company on that assumption: "The problem is it isn’t quite true," he said, "the ‘shuffle’ or ‘random’ function as it was previously know has been around since the inception of portable music players."

Creative is playing hardball: "It will be interesting to see whether Apple takes its lead and learns from us or if it continues to use its million dollar marketing machine to bulldoze its way into the market. Apple's not learned from our experience yet; we’ve been, there, done that and have a story to tell," he claimed.

He continued to question whether Apple's decision to offer no on-screen controls on its entry-level iPod was a wise one.

"In the three years we’ve operated in the flash market we’ve learnt that people want to be in control of their music," he explained.

Creative's first flash music player had no screen, but today's offering boasts a screen, FM radio and voice recording.

Playing for survival

The company's aggressive response to Apple's news is understandable. Apple CEO Steve Jobs described iPod shuffle as part of Apple's strategy to seize the majority of the flash-based music player market. Creative currently holds 21 per cent of the flash-based music player market.

Like many manufacturers who use Microsoft software within their products, Creative's leader continued to preach choice,:"We offer different products to suit different needs and allow our customers to choose between functionality and price."

Apple offers the entry-level iPod flash, the mid-range iPod mini, classic iPods and the iPod photo, all with varying capacities from 512MB to 60GB.

Jupiter research analyst Michael Gartenberg, however, said: "Creative doesn't get it and is going to dismiss Apple to their own peril."

The company has a market to lose. It sold two million of its music players in the Christmas period, and expects sales of $360 million in the quarter. Creative will announce its second quarter 2005 financial results on January 20, and is actively ramping up production.

Sim Wong Hoo said the sales "will come as a surprise to many who underestimated our marketing capability and didn't believe that we could be such a strong contender to the Apple iPod."