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September 18, 2006

This just in: The iPod's doomed

Commentary: Requiem for the iPod - MarketWatch

I thought the Apple bashers on the stock page had moved on to other companies, but it looks like they're still around. In this essay from Friday, Robert Cyran suggests Apple needs to let “songs stored on its iTunes software” (whatever that means) be played on “other gadgets. A similar strategy nearly killed off the company a decade ago.”

He admits that the company's soup-to-nuts iPod division, which sells the players, downloadable music, and accessories, has been a success. So far.

But watch out, Apple: “Microsoft's newly released 'Zune' player may become a credible rival.” And if not the Zune, then some future phone with better music capabilities “may one day crush the iPod.” And in 10 years, we may be listening to our music through a stud piercing our tongue. (Okay, I made that one up.)

Aaaaarrrrggghhh. First off, holding the Zune up as a better business model because you want Apple's songs to play on more players is hilarious. The Zune is going to require not only people with iPods, but people with previous-gen Microsoft players (the PlaysForSure initiative), to buy their music again, or re-rip their CDs. Microsoft is considering a scheme to provide purchasers with all the music they had when they bought their Zune, but that means double libraries, and catalog issues.

Secondly, and more importantly, what makes Apple such a juggernaut in this space is that they develop the software that bridges the store and the players. If iPod market penetration were ever to dip to alarming levels, Apple could easily release an updated iTunes that supported players from other companies.

Let's say the Zune outsells the iPod 8-to-1 this Christmas season, an extremely unlikely scenario. Apple could turn around and license their DRM to the PlaysForSure contingent. If you had one of their players, you would be one firmware update and one iTunes upgrade away from sharing purchased music between your iPod and your SanDisk or Creative player.

If you're not interested in purchased music, I bet this already works. I know that my old Creative Rio 500 showed as a source in iTunes the last time I tried (iTunes 5?). I'll be curious to see if Microsoft's new software for the Zune can mount the iPod.

September 18, 2006 in Apple - iPod | Permalink


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Zune looks nice, but I'll stick with my iPod.

Posted by: Eric at Sep 18, 2006 6:05:20 AM