Apple iPod News 2008-09-09

9 09 2008

Apple has updated its iPod lineup.  It’s not earth-shattering.  The biggest news is the redesigned iPod Nano.

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iPod Business Model Analysis

18 07 2006

In my analysis, there are several reasons for Apple’s iPod’s success:

1. Cool. The industrial design and wheel input is first-rate.

2. iTunes Music Store. People want a simple, easy way to buy online music. the iTunes/iPod combo fits well. In contrast to the fragmented Windows Media stores, iTunes just works.

3. Steady Improvements. Apple has regularly updated its iPod design(s) over the years. It’s also been business-wise by making its mp3 players available at every pricepoint.

Challenges.

A. “Video”. The latest iPods w/ video have screens that are just too small to make it worth watching a full-length movie on. 30/60 min. long shows makes sense on these — a sort of “personal VCR/video” device. You can catch up on the latest episodes of your series while commuting on the train.

However, movies on the iPod is a big problem — not technical but business. When people watch a full-length movie on an iPod, they want: a bigger screen and a DVD drive. Videos on the PSP (Sony Portable PlayStation) is a a bomb — movies are too expensive and people would rather buy normal Video DVDs. So making an upcoming iPod that is the size of a PSP is a bad idea.

Portable DVD players are so cheap now — $200 buys you a 7″ widescreen LCD battery-operated DVD player. There’s no way a future “Video iPod” could touch this price/performance ratio. A standard portable DVD player is also easy to use — pop in your DVD and hit Play.

Laptop computers are cheap now. $600/$700 buys you a pretty cool 5 lb. laptop that.. plays DVDs! The current 60GB iPod is $400. An upcoming “Video iPod” at $600 just doesn’t make sense. I think people would rather buy a portable DVD player or laptop computer instead.

The fact of the matter is .. iPod’s success is inextricably linked to music .. only music. Sure, it would be nice to have videos, camera, movies, games, an organizer, etc. etc. on your iPod. But when it comes down to it .. an iPod is made for music.

B. Knock-offs.

Creative Labs came pretty close to imitating the cool iPod wheel with the touch-sensitive strip. But .. it’s not a circle. I personally doubt any company will ever come close to touching Apple’s successful iPod design. Microsoft is going to come out with its own competing MP3 player this fall. I doubt it’ll make any dent.

The only way to beat iPod is to do it differently. This means integrating an easy-to-use MP3 player into a cellphone. Or car manufacturers can integrate an SD card / MP3 reader into car stereo decks. I really wish all MP3 players have an integrated USB port.

C. Form Over Function

When Apple engineers need to choose between form or function, they always choose form. Remember the original Mac Classic (w/o cursor keys), Apple’s mice (no 2nd button), the Newton (nuff said), and the hockey puck mouse. My fear is that Apple will make some kind of brain/iPod interface and eliminate the click wheel entirely. You will think “70s” and and the soundtrack to “Disco Fever” will play.

Okay. I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. Apple’s engineers are all too willing to eliminate buttons in order to make a gadget more “cool”. Gimme a break Apple. Get some “real people” to test your hair-brained ideas before you inflict your extended beta test on the world.

In summary, the iPod is designed for music and it does that job very well. Apple, don’t screw it up!