Is the iPod at its peak? Are we watching a long, slow, slide into oblivion and tech history for the ubiquitous music player?
Judging from today’s headlines, yes and no. Is Apple readying a big surprise, or defending their turf?
I don’t mean to be argumentative with my argument just to titillate the sensationalist antenna many Apple watchers have.
It’s a fair question, but for not-so-obvious reasons.
The first glance at today’s headlines reveals a mixed bag of news for the iPod’s longevity.
The New York Times has a story about an 18-year-old college student who plans to wait in line for her Microsoft Zune.
Is the iPod losing its trendiness, its chic hipness, among the youth it inspires?
All this while iPod sales surge heading into a crucial holiday shopping period with a whole stock of new iPods in Apple stores.
Elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal reports that Cingular, the huge wireless phone company, plans their own competition to the iPod, hooking up with Napster, Yahoo, and eMusic for a new line of phones to mimic iPod and iTunes.
What? No Cingular for the Apple iPod iPhone? Uh oh. What’s up with that? I told you the news is a mixed bag.
Assume that Cingular is going its own way because they’re greedy and Apple’s iPod, iTunes, iTunes Store competitors are desperate.
Or not. Sometimes, it’s not what we see that we should be looking at. It’s what we can’t see that needs a closer look.
All this competition against Apple’s iPod is to be expected. Microsoft will lose big money pushing the Zune because they don’t want Apple to succeed (or continue their juggernaut success).
Wireless carriers are just greedy, and want as much of the music pie as they can slice off for themselves, customer be-damned.
How does the iPod die in this scenario of competition from Microsoft, phone companies, and online stores? Slowly, if at all.
There’s little question that getting the iPod’s functionality, iTunes, into a cell phone is important to Apple.
Apple wants a large slice of the cell phone pie, too, and—behind the scenes where we can’t see too much—is working furiously to create “the next great thing” in iPods.
If not, the iPod will slowly wither as similar functionality shows up in cell phones and other players.
Remember, what goes up must come down.
The iPod and iTunes Store’s meteoric rise could come tumbling with just a mild stumble, a softer-than-expected holiday season, for example.
The media and techno pundits will be calling for the hangman’s noose on the iPod when sales begin to slow, as they must.
What’s going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about? Why did Cingular choose the second and third tier also-rans to partner on an iPod competitor?
Because Cingular didn’t get the deal they wanted from Apple on an iPod iPhone device. They didn’t get as big a slice from Apple as they did from Naptster, eMusic, and Yahoo.
A big slice of a very tiny pie does not a complete dessert make.
If Apple doesn’t get the iPod iPhone into Cingular’s network, or manufactured by Motorola or Nokia, what’s next?
Apple’s iPod is purely an Apple product, manufactured according to their specifications and distributed how Apple sees fit.
Not so with an iPod iPhone. Apple requires partners and Apple doesn’t partner well.
Either Apple has a great big deal ready to be launched, soon, one that will rock the world, or they have no magical rabbits in the hat—except more iPods.
I wonder about the former and worry about the latter. If there’s no magic rabbit in the hat, we are witnessing the iPod’s long, slow slide into history.