October 10, 2008

CNET Blogs: Why the iPod Should Die

A couple of interesting CNET blog posts explaining why the iPod has to die before we'll see any serious innovation in the music player and PMP (portable media player) space:

Why I can't wait for the iPod to die
Posted by Don Reisinger

iPod dying? It's already dead
Posted by Matt Rosoff

From Don Reisinger's post:
When one company makes it big with a product in the tech industry, every other company in the market wants to try its luck in the same space. Because of that, we've seen countless iPod-wannabes like the Zune, the iRiver Clix, and many more. None were able to vanquish the leader, and few were even able to make a dent. And yet, all these companies still try to make their iPod competitors work.

Here's a clue: it'll never happen if you do the same thing Apple does.

[...]

Instead, I think the iPod is the main reason why innovation is at a standstill in the PMP market and why we're not being satisfied nearly enough by the right devices.

As Apple continues to sell millions of iPods, it realizes that it has no reason to change tactics and try something new. And as executives at other companies look at the state of the economy and their company's own financial health, they think it's better to offer a PMP that will appeal to a small percentage of the market than take a risk and try something new.

And therein lies the rub. How can we get out of this vicious cycle if neither the leader nor the others competing in the market want to change anything?

The way I see it, nothing will change until Apple experiences a year of declining iPod sales. Once that happens, its competitors will panic and try to be the first to the market with something innovative and Apple will be forced to make serious changes to the iPod or come up with something new altogether. And once that happens, the market should start booming with innovation once again.

As I said, interesting. I've been eyeing up my next portable entertainment purchase, and have been considering these for the following reasons:

iPod Touch 32GB:
Leader of the iPod pack for me. Finally, a flash storage version that offers more than the Nano, enough for hopefully a somewhat decent collection of music, podcasts, and movies when traveling. The larger screen and App Store -- big pluses. The only reason I didn't mention the iPhone is that it's still tied to AT&T (nee Cingular). I've had Cingular in the past and was very dissatisfied with both their lack of coverage and customer service. If Verizon Wireless offered the iPhone, then it'd be a no-brainer for me, but I'm not going to wait until whenever the iPhone becomes non-exclusive -- 2010? We'll have all new devices by then. Touch's main drawbacks: No camera, and it's flash memory is still lagging behind the hard drive storage of the iPod Classic. Apple, I want to be able to bring along my entire music collection and a decent number of movies! Give me a few hundred Gigs and I'll be happy. (Seriously.)

iPod Classic 120GB:
Purely from the standpoint of the massive storage -- enough to bring along LOTS and LOTS of music and movies, but the screen is still a tad too small for getting into a movie I'm watching on it. The problem with the Classic is that by today's standards, it lacks a wireless connectivity feature, it's too big physically, yet too small of a screen, for what it offers and costs overall. It was great in its heyday, though, but it's been surpassed by the iPhone and iPod Touch. It also just doesn't have the same cachet it held just a few years ago.

iPod Nano (newest redesign -- long and thin):
Not sure what to make of this one as it doesn't offer too much of any one thing, other than a nice pocket size. The revised screen dimensions are a little better. I like the accelerometer sensor so you can just shake it a few times to shuffle songs without pressing buttons. The Genius playlist feature is nice, but I believe that's more a function of the new iTunes software than the player. Definitely not enough storage capacity for a true PMP, but 16GB is enough to take a decent set of music along.

Slacker G2 (2nd Generation Player):
While the original Slacker portable player reminded me a lot of the Amazon Kindle eBook reader (big and boxy), the G2 looks a lot more compelling. Note that Slacker calls it a "Personal Radio Player", not a music or mp3 player. What the Kindle did for books, the Slacker G2 does for music via a Wi-Fi connection. It's clearly not an iPod-killer, and isn't aimed as such. It takes a completely different approach as it's focused on serving you what you want to hear, exploring music you don't own (yet), and serving up lots of background information on the groups and artists as your're listening to them.

In my opinion, despite the lazy-themed name, Slacker Radio is the BIGGEST innovation in internet radio with a great tie-in to a portable music player. Granted, it's not an iPod nor a regular internet radio provider, as Slacker has created their own niche. It's aimed squarely at the die-hard music lovers (no movies). So if you're a music-loving-first kind of consumer who doesn't want to be tied down to just the music you own, you need to check out Slacker's online radio player, downloadable player for your PC, and their redesigned portable player. Stay tuned for a post on how much I really enjoy Slacker Radio, and why it's the biggest innovation in internet radio and portable music that I've seen in a long time.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard