I love my iPod Classic. Use it every day. I've had it since... well, I don't know when. I'm amazed it's still working, but I know one day it won't. I managed to find a replacement (at a considerable mark-up since it's discontinued), but I know one day it will go, too.
The big problem with the death of the iPod Classic is that there's no suitable alternative for it. Apple doesn't sell enough of them to be profitable, and they corner the market so no one's bothered to make a killer for it. Now the companies are focusing on always-connected phones and apps because that's where the money is. And that's fine for them, I understand. But what about the people like me who like having a dedicated music device?
I found a site online called ifixit.com which has instructions on how to replace the screen, the battery, the hard drive, what have you on the iPod... which is good, and I'll probably be forced to use that in the future to maintain my music-lovin' lifestyle, but the repairs are a hassle. Half the instructions are just on how to pry the case open, it's like a mussel. And even if you repair it, you're sort of at the limit of where that device will go. There is a seller on eBay who puts bigger hard drives in there, but I don't know if he still operates, and you still need an iPod to give to him to perform the upgrades. Even if it's used, those prices are going to continue to go up.
And really, it's the little parts that will need replacing, and you can get all those parts, you can probably get them cheap (the iPod was always cheap to build, and was always made from surplus parts, just like the original Game Boy. It's called lateral thinking through obsolete technology).
People make their own computers, they have for ages. People even mod their laptops, and those are tight fits as well. The biggest problem with homebrew portables, though, are the cases. It's not like you can get stock iPod cases like you can NZXT towers, right?
Well, maybe you can. Now we have 3D printers. They're not entirely ubiquitous or more than 300dpi accurate, but they're on their way. If you open sourced the design for an MP3 player that uses stock parts that can be easily assembled and upgraded, then we'd be sitting pretty. You could get a guide on how to build it, order the parts from various vendors (based on what you want/need). There could be tons of custom printed cases, maybe you could order one from someone who makes them out of steel or plastic or wood or whatever. You get the parts, put it together yourself, load and sync, and there you go. Heck, modders could offer to do the assembly for you (at a cost, of course).
There's already open source software for MP3 players called Rockbox, so that's not an issue... though if you were designing an MP3 player from the ground up, you'd need to decide which operating system you were going to be basing yourself off of. I think since it's a replacement for Classic, it would be Classic, although I can imagine touchscreens becoming ubiquitous enough in spare parts to be the new standard. Besides, what else would be a suitable replacement for the clickwheel?
And as long as we're building our own iPods, here's something I always wanted on mine: the ability to record. Why don't we add a microphone to it? That might require some read/write capability in the operating system, so if we add that in, how about the ability to manage playlists as we listen? Maybe just make it a little command that doesn't get executed until the player syncs back up with the computer?
There's tons of things we could do with these new players... they just have to be built. And I hope they will be. For all the stuff I don't know about building tech, there are folks out there who do, and they're the kind of people who like tech like the iPod Classic. So start brainstorming, guys! Make it a big project, make a subreddit, make a website, set goals, make a declaration, start building! Who knows how long our iPods will last?