Is The iPod On A Death March?

Cell phone or iPod? Will the iPod become a cell phone or die? Apple sits on top of the portable music industry, and on top of the online music industry. The iPod is king of players. The iTunes Music Store is king of online music, music videos, TV shows, and maybe movies. Is the king on a death march? Will your cell phone become the new iPod?

The answer is a resounding yes. Cell phone miniaturization is quickly gobbling up functions and features once reserved for standalone products.

PDA’s, cheap cameras, cheap music players (with expensive music). They’re all bowing to the convenience of the cell phone in your purse or pocket.

Apple’s iPod is on a death march.

Think about it. If you could have everything that your iPod nano has, but inside your cell phone, would you still carry an iPod nano?

“I might be wrong, but it seems to me the ability to easily buy a single, new episode of a TV show (and repeats), as well as single songs, albums, movies and music videos in a form that is easy to watch or listen, will change everything.”Carry it a step further. If you could have everything that your iPod with video has, including screen and storage, and get it all inside your cell phone, would you buy an iPod?

One more step. If your cell phone would synchronize to your Mac or PC as effortlessly as your iPod and iTunes does now, yet does everything the iPod does, and carries AddressBooks and iCal data, would you still buy a standalone iPod.

The answer is yes. If you don’t have a cell phone. The answer is ‘probably not’ if you could get a cell phone that does all that and more.

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Make no mistake. The iPod is on a death march. That is, the iPod as we know it.

I know this. You may suspect it, others have said so, including Alan Kohler of The Age. In a very round about way, with a number of logical gaffes in between, without fully realizing his argument, Kohler hit the nail on the head.

To be fair to the reader of his rubbish, and much of it is, most tech pundits get it wrong when it comes to Apple, the Mac, the iPod, and the future of technology.

There’s the standard article about the Mac’s closed system, how Microsoft won because Apple didn’t license the Mac. Other articles warned of Microsoft’s impending entry into portable music.

Others prognosticate about how Apple will become a niche player in portable music, too. It’s just a matter of time.

Many of the arguments are plausible though wrong, most are laughable, and few recognize what’s happening in technology.

What’s happening? Change. Change is what is inevitable (besides woodwork tech pundits with another new argument and flashy headline). Not only is the iPod on a death march, so is pretty much everything else, including cell phones.

How so, Miss Tera? Cell phones get ditched every year or two, as users switch from one phone to another, one carrier to another. That’s change.

Cell phones now combine digital camera functions and PDA features. Poor quality in the former, better on the latter. That’s change.

Convenience and quality and style don’t always go hand in hand, especially in technology. PCs are cheap, convenient, but lack style, and except for a few brands and the Mac, lack quality.

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A good digital camera loses on convenience, but carries a strong market on quality, perhaps style. PDAs? Take mine, please. These are relegated to a small niche, and Apple was wise to avoid competiton with Palm and PocketPC in favor of synchronization (such as it is).

The iPod wins on convenience, for now, wins on quality and style. For now. Convenience is a big plus for the iPod as it synchronizes wonderfully with Mac and PC, a critical element that cell phone manufacturers still haven’t figured out.

But Tera, don’t people go through iPods about the same as they go through cell phones? The answer is yes. iPod customers trade up, and then hand-me-down their iPods. It’s a natural evolution.

Change is also a natural evolution. The standalone iPod may continue to exist for many years but remains on a death march. The iPod will change. I’m sure of this because Apple continues to change the iPod, improve the iPod, keep the iPod competitive despite fierce competition from all corners and comers.

“All the pieces are there already. The Apple of 2006 is not the Apple of 1985, or 1992, or 1996. This Apple knows that managing change is a requirement for success today and tomorrow. Previous Apple incarnations did not, or could not manage required changes.”What happend to the PDA? It’s a niche, and that’s what many tech pundits say will happen to Apple’s iPod efforts; relegated to a footnote and a miniscule market share, just like the Mac vs. Windows.

I understand the argument. If we don’t learn from history, we’re relegated to repeating it, right? But that was then, and this is now. Apple is a much different company than 20 years ago, when Steve Jobs left.

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Apple is competing successfully again against Microsoft and Windows. Apple is competing successfully against portable music player manufacturers and Microsoft.

Apple is about to compete against a different team in a different league. Survival and prosperity of the iPod is at stake. The iPod is on a death march and it is Apple making it happen.

Remember the Treo? It’s the PDA that became a cell phone. Apple will make the iPod become a cell phone. The technology is there. Miniaturization. Battery life. Hard drive size. Flash memory. Video screens. Virtual cell phone networks.

All the pieces are there already. The Apple of 2006 is not the Apple of 1985, or 1992, or 1996. This Apple knows that managing change is a requirement for success today and tomorrow. Previous Apple incarnations did not, or could not manage required changes.

This isn’t even the same Apple that kicked out the clones, that mothballed the Newton, that stomped on Copland. Will the iPod, as we know it today, die?

Yes. Long live the iPod. Hail, to the new iPod, the next iPod. Here’s to the future. The new iPod, the iPod phone, the iPad wireless, and the products that Apple must roll out this year and next year.

Why? Because this year and next year the average cell phone will do music, movies, video conferencing, and much more. Apple cannot afford not to play in another league. Apple doesn’t have the luxury of choosing the competition; the team or the league.

Otherwise, there will be more to the death march than the most recent iPod. Will the iPod in your pocket be replaced by your next cell phone? I’d rather replace my cell phone with a new iPod.