Understanding the iPod


Staff member
There's a market for digital audio devices. The big names in Audio have not as of yet conquered this market. Sony makes some players, but the Software doesn't run, it crawls and is buggy - and Windows only. Competition has grown amongst new names (Rio for example) and old names that don't belong to consumer audio (Creative for example). The market is still open, because the ultimate digital audio device had just not been created yet.

What features must the ultimate digital audio device have? It must be lightweight, simple to use, must have long battery life, must have enough space. The iPod fits all that. This essentially makes the iPod *the* MP3 player.

Now of course it would be nice to also have USB connectivity (although that's a VERY ugly way to transfer 5 GB of audio data) and we can still dream up features yet unseen in a portable consumer audio device. But right now, the iPod is it.

Apple has the opportunity of being the Bang & Olufsen or the BOSE of digital audio players here. Fact: People pay a premium for luxury articles. Fact: Apple still hasn't lost the image of a company making luxury articles, although they also created the iMac and the iBook.

But where is Apple wrong? It clearly *has* to be wrong somewhere, because so many people are complaining about the iPod. It's the 'i' in iPod. This is not your nephew's (hip hop kid, big trousers) MP3 player. Thus a different name should have been chosen and Apple should clearly target a different level of consumers.

The design of the iPod is about perfect. Elegance, simplicity. It could clearly have been marketed to a better-income group. It's a schizo-thing. The commercial does what I expected Apple to do. The website and the 'i' in iPod do not.

But the iPod is working all the same. People want one badly. But the price tag is where it belongs. Don't expect people to give you a harddisk that alone would cost 399$ (this is a disk *smaller* than a notebook disk, normally used in PC-Cards) for free. Or for 199$. Plus all the features of the greatest MP3 player.

But expect Apple to take over the high end of the market of digital audio devices.

And then, in about half a year, Apple might bring out two new devices. One that clearly is the successor to the iPod (it'll be the same price with more space and more features), one that'll *just* fit the budget of a broader audience. It'll *still* be high priced. Let's say it'll be 299$. But everyone's gonna want one. The second generation will also trigger Windows compatibility and USB connection. And iTunes will be announced for Windows, too.

It's really easy: Create an elite. Everyone's going to say they hate them, everyone really envies them. And then open some gates (not all). And people will pay to belong to the elite group.

This already happened with the iBook:

The TiBook was released, and *everyone* was stunned. I never heard so many PC people say 'I want one of these'. But it was (as every powerbook always has been) high priced. And when the wish for the Ti was there, the iBook was released. It's not *that* elegant. It has a plastic feel. But people buy those lil' monsters, because they really want a TiBook. (Of course, there are also people that really want an iBook, I don't say it's not a great product itself!)

Marketing is difficult. Maybe Apple wins, maybe it loses. But I think they've made the right choices.
I would like to add, many people have commented 'why doesn't this work with PCs ?'

Apple are in the business of making macintosh computers. That means that everything they make should fit with the product line, and should be complimentary to their core product. There is no reason that a peripheral should be compatible with their competing product.

If you want to be cool enough to have one of these then you have to buy mac. The same was true of airport, and excellent product, an excellent price point, but firmly mac only.

Apple should continue in this vein. One day they WILL produce the next killer-app and people in Cupertino will forget about SuperCalc.
Hmm... There was also MacPaint, WYSIWYG text processing, DTP and finally Desktop Movies. Killer apps have been there. Guess the need for a new killer app must first be created (in the user's mind, not the maker's).


Does the Macintosh have the best graphic editing experience? (Yes.)

Does the Mac have the best Internet browsing experience? (No. > Windows does.)

Does the Mac have the best audio features? (Yes.)

Does the Mac have the best 3D authoring experience? (No. PCs are faster at rendering.)

Does the Mac have the best webdesign experience? (Yes.)

The Macintosh *is* a great experience, but in some fields it just lags behind. As the best browser at this time is made by Microsoft (sic!), the browsing experience lags behind XPs. Browsing is just plain faster on Windows, more plugins are supported (and where they ARE supported on Mac, they're slower or buggy, there's no Shockwave on OS X right now...), software's still missing for OS X. And as long as developers of new great software for the 'net make a Windows app first and a bad Macintosh port second, the browsing experience on Mac will always be one or more steps behind.

It can make up for it by being 'better' in the overall experience, but Microsoft is catching up there, too - albeit slowly.

We still have the hardware design advantage, but that's no real threat to Microsoft looking at the vast majority of people who hide a beige tower under the desk and have a nice monitor instead on it.

(Btw. great marketing by Apple: You *can't* hide the G4 towers, because there is no power key on the keyboard anymore. So the Apple logo stays obvious on the desk.) :)