Analysis: When Apple Waits, Competitors Strike | iLounge Article

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Analysis: When Apple Waits, Competitors Strike

July 2, 2004
By Jeremy Horwitz

Though iLounge’s mission is to cover news of interest to the iPod community, we’d be remiss if we didn’t occasionally glimpse outside to see what Apple’s competitors have been doing. Starting a few months ago, we began to look at new offerings from Microsoft and Sony to see how they might fare against the iPod. Since then, it’s become increasingly apparent that Apple’s officially in every major electronics company’s crosshairs, and even the companies themselves are openly admitting it.

In the absence of news from Apple this past month regarding either a next-generation iPod or price cuts on existing models, competitors have had the mainstream media’s spotlight mostly to themselves. Creative, Dell, and Sony have recently attracted attention - some positive, some negative - with new offers aimed directly at current and prospective iPod buyers.

Since last we looked at competing products, Creative announced its latest device, the Zen Touch, which parrots the iPod’s white casing and touch-sensitive controls. Dell made a few headlines by offering to buy old iPods in exchange for its cheaper Digital Jukebox players. And Sony been on a rolling rampage of product releases in recent weeks, announcing or releasing five separate hard disk-based devices under different brand names and product lines. While none of these companies’ announcements may actually impact the iPod, each raises the same question: if Apple stands still, will its competitors tear it down?

Creative: You’ve Got the Touch (thanks, Stan Bush)

We’ll confess, we have a soft spot when it comes to Creative, makers of the Zen series of iPod-competing hard drive-based players. We really like that the company thinks about things like replacement batteries, longer battery life, integrated FM tuners, remote controls, and real-time speed adjustment of audio files. Sure, we didn’t like squinting at the Zen’s screens, how often they used to crash, the relative complexity of their controls, or their comparatively (not offensively) bulky bodies. But for techies, the Zens can be great players. And they’re cheap.

picA couple of weeks ago, Creative announced that it would update the Zen line with the Zen Touch, a device which clearly (but unimpressively) mimics three features from the iPod: casing, touch-sensitive controls, and general size. Zen Touch drops the prior generation Zen’s all-metal case for a two-tone white and gray plastic shell, and incorporates a single vertical touch strip to navigate through menus. Well, that and ten buttons (just in case you wanted dedicated buttons for “random” and “back”). And it’s almost the size of the iPod - it just looks bulkier because of the oddly shaped case.

Otherwise, the Zen Touch is like its Zen predecessors: same small blue and black screen, interface, and functionality. But it has an attractive price (20GB for $269.99) and boasts 24-hour battery life, which Creative typically actually matches in real-world performance.

We’d like to say that the Zen Touch is Creative’s best shot yet at taking market share, but we would be surprised if it presented a contest for anyone but Dell. Creative excels in value and battery life, but they’ve never won critical acclaim for style, ease of use, or reliability. Hard drive failures are surprisingly common, perhaps a result of the low prices Creative persistently offers for these products. Like its predecessors, the Zen Touch looks like a good alternative for those who are willing to deal with inconveniences, but it’s not a replacement for the iPod.

Dell: Dude, Where’s my Rebate?

Dell had an interesting idea: what if someone offered a deal where you could take your old iPod and trade it in for a discounted 15GB Dell Digital Jukebox? Nevermind that the interfaces are different, your legal downloads for one won’t work with the other, and oh, that one’s an iPod and the other’s a Dell Digital Jukebox (DJ), the device a reporter from Fortune Magazine once called Bizarro to the iPod’s Superman.
pic
If that sounds harsh, sorry: it’s reality. As such, Dell’s announcement was viewed by many as a desperate ploy to attract publicity for the DJ, which has suffered from slow sales despite a price tag and design expressly engineered to undercut the iPod.

Available in two sizes (15GB at $199, 20GB at $279), the DJ is a physically larger and less attractive device than the iPod but tries to emulate its simplicity. With a horizontally mounted scrolling wheel and five face buttons, the DJ also has an iPod-like remote control and a good monochrome screen. Besides price, twenty-hour battery life has been Dell’s main selling point for the product, but unlike so many of Dell’s other offerings (and even the iPod, when the company sold it at incredibly discounted prices), the DJ just hasn’t taken off.

Staunchly convinced that the DJ is a winning design, Dell was most likely unprepared for the response it received after announcing the trade-in program. Analysts laughed off the promotion as a cheap publicity stunt. One person amusingly dubbed Dell’s offer the equivalent of a Porsche for Volkswagen swap. Instead of coming across as a good deal, the offer may have only underscored the considerable differences between the elegant iPod and the cheaper, clumsier Dell product.

iLounge would be more concerned about the mechanics of Dell’s deal than the value it supposedly offers.  In order to get your discounted Digital Jukebox, you have to buy the device at full price, then send your iPod to Dell and wait for a $100 rebate check to arrive. Unfortunately, Dell’s rebate process has historically included plenty of opportunities for rebate submissions to be “lost” or otherwise invalidated for no apparent reason, and so we’re not so sure that Dell’s promised $100 would make it here on time, if at all. Having dealt with these problems ourselves in the past, we would never again take the risk - or trade in our iPods. But then, you knew that already.

Sony: The Shotgun Approach to Anti-iPod Marketing

They did it with digital cameras, now they’re trying it with music players. After sitting on the sidelines of the hard disk-based digital audio player market for three years, Sony is using a familiar approach to gain market share: release a collection of similar products and see which feature differences attract buyers. Since May of this year, Sony has announced not one, not two, but three different hard disk-based portables, each marketed by the company as an iPod beater.

pic
First was the VAIO Pocket, a $500 40GB device with styling and branding reminiscent of Sony’s computer line. Larger than the iPod and equally expensive, the VAIO Pocket’s chief advantage is a color screen, which enables the display of digital photos stored on the unit hard drive. Unfortunately, Sony only guarantees that you can transfer photos directly to the device from Sony digital cameras, or from a computer with the VAIO Pocket’s docking cradle. Similarly, the device only supports native playback of Sony ATRAC3 format music files, not MP3s. An odd control scheme called Grid Sense (G-Sense in Japan) uses a square collection of touch-sensitive dots instead of the iPod’s intuitive wheel controller.

pic

The second announcement was more intriguing: only two weeks later, Sony debuted the HMP-A1, a $570 device featuring a large color screen and the ability to play back both audio and video. Even better, the device - which was not released as either a VAIO product or a Walkman - actually supports MP3 music playback, plus MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 video playback, amongst other formats. Digital photos can also be displayed on the screen. The only hitches: with only 20GB of storage space and 4-6 hours of video playback time (8 hours of audio playback), the HMP-A1 is likely to win over experimental early adopters but underwhelm average consumers for the price. But if we were betting on one Sony technology to win at a lower price tag, this would probably be the one.


picThird but actually not last, Sony unexpectedly showed the NW-HD1, the company’s first hard disk-based product to bear the Walkman name. Though prior flash memory-based generations of the Network Walkman have proved unpopular, the newest 20GB version is launching for $470 in Japan, then in August for $400 in the United States, with a slightly-smaller-than-iPod profile (thanks to Toshiba’s 1.8” hard disk) and a black-on-green screen. Sony’s proprietary Jog Dial will be used to navigate through menus, and battery life is said to be upwards of 25 hours. Yet the problems with the NW-HD1 may sound familiar: it only supports the ATRAC3 audio format, and it’s very expensive considering that it doesn’t do anything the iPod can’t do (it actually does less).

Lest you think that Sony’s products only sell for $400 and up, the company announced plans in January to have its lower-end subsidiary Aiwa release two hard disk-based devices called the HZ-WS2000 and HZ-DS2000. The WS version was set to become a direct (albeit screenless) competitor to the iPod mini, using an impressive business card-sized footprint and newly developed 2GB drives, while the DS version was bulkier, shock resistant, and had a built-in screen. Sony’s only problem was that they couldn’t actually manufacture them: both devices were postponed until May because the hard drives were failing, and the company actually had to downgrade the devices to a different 1.5GB hard disk model as a result. There’s a little good news: these devices support the MP3 format rather than ATRAC3. But the bad news: they sell for around US$307 in Japan. Who would have guessed that the iPod mini could ever look like a bargain?

picWill any of Sony’s new hard disk-based products out-iPod the iPod? It’s hard to imagine. High prices are consistent across Sony’s line, and the company’s use of ATRAC3 in certain devices has dramatically limited their appeal. But there are other concerns, as well.

The company’s once legendary reputation for manufacturing quality has nosedived in recent years. (Try a Google search for Sony Recall.) Defects in products ranging from inexpensive PlayStations to its most expensive Qualia digital cameras have left Sony with black eyes, and the company is starting to develop a reputation for showing products it does not actually deliver on time or with the originally promised features. Sony has also developed a spotty history when it comes to measuring actual battery life, such that it’s now somewhat hard to believe any of the company’s bare claims without independent verification.

More troubling is that Sony has recently devolved to downright misleading marketing of the ATRAC3-based devices, telling people that their 40GB device can hold 26,000 songs by comparison to the 40GB iPod’s 10,000 because of “advanced compression technology.” But as experienced digital music listeners will attest, songs compressed with Sony’s low bitrate “26,000 song” ATRAC3 just sound poor compared to the 128kbps MP3 compression that safely stores 10,000 songs on the iPod. It goes without saying that the iPod could store 26,000 comparatively awful-sounding songs if it wanted to stoop to that level.

For now, we’re taking a “wait and see” attitude on these Sony devices. Given their prices and the questions they raise, they’re certainly not going to be at the top of our impulse buy lists, but if Sony can just convince a million people to buy one of their new players, maybe they’ll merit another look.

Parting Thoughts

Though this article may seem partisan, we’re certainly not closed-minded to the possibility that something could come along and really blow away the iPod. At the moment, however, we can’t help but be surprised that such major competitors have been embarrassing themselves with cheap knockoffs, weak promotions, and scatterbrained product designs.

Apple’s been more than lucky to date. It designed so well and acted so fast that the iPod was clearly ahead of the pack for two years. And we know that Apple has fantastic new things just waiting in its labs to be unveiled.

But as we’ve suggested before, even if the war over digital music players has already ended - which isn’t entirely certain - there are still important battles yet to be fought over other features, from photos to video and games. This past month hasn’t brought any serious challenges to the iPod, but who knows what this next month will hold? As always, we look forward to seeing what Apple has in store, and expect that exciting new announcements aren’t too far off.

Jeremy Horwitz is Senior Editor of iLounge and practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school - ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.

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Comments

1

If only sony would give up on ATRAC, then maybe their products would attract more attention.

Edit by Jeremy Horwitz, March 2005: iPodlounge has deleted a collection of negative and derogatory comments from “audiogeek” on our site, which we discovered have been posted by a writer for competing publications. As he has trolled and posted obnoxious comments in a number of threads, picking fights with our readers and editors, he has been banned from the site, and we strongly oppose his repeated mischaracterizations of various products and our editorial opinions. This comments thread was affected by his posts, and has therefore been modestly edited. If any of the other comments below do not make sense in the context of these deletions, we apologize.

Posted by Richie E in Australia on July 1, 2004 at 10:33 PM (PDT)

2

I used to a big sony head until the last few years… there produt quality has been going down for a while now.

You can’t beat teh iPod!

Posted by illo on July 1, 2004 at 11:06 PM (PDT)

3

Cant wait to see iPod fall just like Macs. iPod is so overpriced. Most Non-iPod HDD players are only $270 for 20GB. Thats w whooping $130 less. And more often thay have more features.

Posted by BagramaniPodZealot on July 2, 2004 at 12:09 AM (PDT)

4

Apple needs to release gen 4 before its too late. it needs to be amazing. If they don’t announce something within 2 months then people will just look for alternatives with more features and lower prices

Posted by unknownsoldier on July 2, 2004 at 1:19 AM (PDT)

5

The Sony HMP-A1 looks great and has alot of great features. If they continue down this line they very well might produce an ipod killer.

Posted by JA on July 2, 2004 at 1:23 AM (PDT)

6

The iPod has one enormous advantage over ALL competitors that, surprisingly, isn’t mentioned here: an extensive (and growing) collection of Apple and third-party add-ons that extend the functionality of the player.

Regardless of what other manufacturers do player-wise, I chose iPod with the add-on catalogue in mind. That catalogue will hopefully guarantee the iPod’s dominance for some time.

Posted by Jonathan Hollin on July 2, 2004 at 1:50 AM (PDT)

7

Well, my brother got himself a 40 gb iRiver.
and I have had many discissions with him about iRiver contra iPod.

And he always refers to it’s multi codec features, yes I can see the good in that.

If e.g. sony made something similar, then maybe they’d whoops some more a’‘.

Posted by Esben on July 2, 2004 at 2:17 AM (PDT)

8

Sony have put in a good effort here, but I’m quite sure they don’t have an iPod killer on their hands.  People complain about the iPod being expensive (BagramaniPodZealot for one), yet look at the prices of the Sony products! 
There may be cheaper music players, like the DJ and Creative models, but there is one thing that all these players don’t have - the status symbol, except perhaps some of the Creative players. 
The iPod is so cool and is exactly what todays generation want from a music player - its small, light, stylish and holds lots of music.  Who cares about price?  +3 million people don’t.

One more thing…‘What’s that in your pocket?  An iPod?’
‘No, its an Aiwa HZ-WS2000.’ smile

Posted by jamesd in Australia on July 2, 2004 at 2:32 AM (PDT)

9

I would much rather have a device with built in features than having to buy add ons.  Unfortunately, nobody has been able to make something with those features in a comparable size to the iPod.  The other feature I really wish the iPod has was the ability to play back either SHN or FLAC files.  I would easily trade in my 20gb for a 40gb to be able to play my live shows.  If the iPod had a built in FM transmitter and had 10+ hours of battery life (unlike the 2.5 that I get), I would say it would be unbeatable as a portable audio device.

Posted by mvillier on July 2, 2004 at 3:20 AM (PDT)

10

Sounds like Sony is trying to repeat the BetaMax fiasco without the advantage of a better format.

Posted by JeffW on July 2, 2004 at 3:25 AM (PDT)

11

Exactly right James, apple have done their marketing and design brilliantly, good form, function, white headphones.

Posted by Ian on July 2, 2004 at 3:27 AM (PDT)

12

Why wasn’t IRiver discussed, from what I have heard they have released some very good players.

Posted by funnyperson1 on July 2, 2004 at 3:50 AM (PDT)

13

iRiver does have excellent players, and is the top competition for the iPod. If you visit Cnet.com, the most popular (top 5) players aren’t iPod and iHP-120 is on top. I am rather surprised that the H-300 isn’t pictured here or discussed.

Posted by SolidGun on July 2, 2004 at 4:16 AM (PDT)

14

Of course IRiver is not discussed here as it is the only one that can really compete. I had a a hard time choosing between my ipod 40g and the Iriver ihp-140. I took the Ipod but Iriver is technically better. But it is not an Ipod. Iriver’s one have much longer battery life , better sound quality, more features but it is still not an ipod.

Posted by Ziggy on July 2, 2004 at 4:24 AM (PDT)

15

mvillier, sounds like you’re running the backlight continuously or something…
Honestly, you see ‘8 hours’ and think ‘what the hell, that’s 16 hours less than [blah]’, but I’ve *never* had my iPod run out of juice, and I’ve played it almost all day at times.
I think Apple judged the amount of time people would listen to music, without being able to recharge, quite well. Of course, for camping trips and such you might have problems, but that’s what the extra battery packs are for grin

Posted by aeromusek on July 2, 2004 at 4:45 AM (PDT)

16

I think that fact that Sony’s new player will only be compatible with the Sony Connect format will marks it’s premature death.

Imagine if iPod only read AAC!

Posted by Trunk Guy in London on July 2, 2004 at 5:15 AM (PDT)

17

“The iPod has one enormous advantage over ALL competitors that, surprisingly, isn’t mentioned here: an extensive (and growing) collection of Apple and third-party add-ons that extend the functionality of the player.”

Sadly iPod needs all these add-ons because the basic unit lacks so much else that competing players have built-in: recording, FM reception and transmission, media card reading, extended battery life, and soon.

Now if you want to talk about software add-ons, I think the Archos Rockbox has iPod beat hands down.

Open-source, video playback, plug-in architecture, text notes, hundreds of games, pitch control, voice prompt menus, unlimited bookmarking and playlist generation, several dozen languages. It’s amazing what a few dedicated hackers can do to a device once it’s cracked open. I await iPod Linux 1.0 with great anticipation…

http://rockbox.haxx.se/docs/features.html

Posted by Clunky on July 2, 2004 at 5:57 AM (PDT)

18

The only reason iRiver wasn’t discussed is that the company hasn’t released or made a new announcement of anything specifically iPod-related in the last month. We referenced the company’s PMC (Portable Windows Media Center) device in an earlier article, Heir to Walkman’s Throne. The H320/H340 series were announced overseas back in May; there’s still no release date for U.S. customers.

I personally like iRiver’s products (having purchased a SlimX 350 for myself right when they were released, and a IFP-190T for my girlfriend), and occasionally reference the latter device in comparative product reviews. If iRiver wanted to contact us, I don’t think we’d turn away the opportunity to at least informally evaluate their products.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on July 2, 2004 at 7:11 AM (PDT)

19

Great review of the hardware features, but where’s the in-depth comparison on the entire experience.  I love my iPod only partially because of the hardware, I love it even more because of iTunes, the iTunes store, smart playlists, ratings and great reliable sync of all of the above.  I’d love to see a similar comparison rundown on the software feature set on both the devices and the desktop software that they come with.  Also, a comparison on basic experiences, what’s the first sync experience like?  What’s the process to buy a new song and get it on my device?  How reliable is sync?  What do they sync?  For me its the software that will keep iPod in the lead just as much or more so than the hardware.

Posted by Tadd Giles on July 2, 2004 at 7:28 AM (PDT)

20

uh, hello?? anyone there? why has no one mentioned the iTunes music store?

wasn’t it key to the whole experience? organize, buy, connect? it’s not just the hardware, people, it’s the software.

plus, simplicity of usage. the iPod is a music player that does not try to do too much which most people don’t need. how many people listening to music also need to record crappy audio? how many people with 1000 songs also need radio? remote? bluetooth? pda? phone? anything else you care to complain about? honestly, i have not missed the usage of any of these things with the iPod. when i’m jogging, at the gym or the car, i don’t want any of those. i just want my music. sure, i can check contacts, calendar, and notes, but that’s on my phone. would it make sense for apple to complicate the interface or increase the bulk just to include any of those things? third parties can make them, and people can add them as they wish - exactly what they need, not what apple thinks they need. iPod is the core, and you attach what you might need.

it’s so easy for people to diss the iPod. but remember, it’s been out for so long, and whatever it does is enough for most people. you people complaining about video, recording, battery, etc. don’t seem to get that. sure, you can spend a while trying to learn interfaces, multiple buttons, functions, features, blah blah blah, but the iPod sells because it just works intuitively. you go to the store, you check it out, and it makes sense to you. if you want cut rate, well, it feels that way even at Best Buy. At this end of the price scale, people find it easier to spend a little more for ease and quality. and the hipness factor? hell, do you buy dorky sunglasses? of course not! you buy cool glasses because that’s the intention, the same way you buy an iPod for your music because music is an expression of hipness. why else do people blast their music from cars? it’s a very personal expression, and one person’s music is another’s hell. that’s why it’s hip - because it’s a way to express individuality (away from the ‘cut rate’ or corporate sonys, iriver, etc) and towards a clique.

trunk guy - you make me laugh. you almost described a laptop. yeah, really, i want all those features right at the gym when i’m trying to listen to my music. how much time do you spend playing with your rockbox? do you even listen to your music? do you even have any music? do you work on your car every weekend?

Posted by michael on July 2, 2004 at 7:28 AM (PDT)

21

^ Michael, I completely agree with you abouut the intuitive factorof the ipod. no other player has it. also, no other mp3 player looks as chic and sophisticated or is as simple as the ipod.

Posted by Jessie on July 2, 2004 at 9:07 AM (PDT)

22

I agree with Jessie ^; regardless of features and battery life, the iPod’s most distinctive selling point is its looks.  Let’s face it, when it comes to music players people tend look for aesthetic quality first, then look at the specs.
A lot of people I know (still at school here) wanted iPod minis ‘cos they’re so cute’ and I was like, ‘Yeah - as though we’re gonna use up all 4gb of the memory, I don’t have 1000 songs!’ and the jaws dropped.

Especially since I dug out my old 21Mb Apple Mac Performa 650 from Christmas of 1994.  21Mb!  Still works.

Posted by Laura on July 2, 2004 at 9:29 AM (PDT)

23

You have to wonder what Apple thinks about the mixed response they get to the iPod line.

On one hand, they have users, competitors and reviewers constantly challenging Apple’s prices and saying that unless they start lowering them, they’ll be killed.

On the other, they have people continuing to turn their bnack on alternatives in favor of paying the premium for iPods, including people willing to endure huge wait-lists for the mini.

So who would you believe?  The “price is killing them” crowd, or the “market will continue to endure the premium price” crowd?  I don’t know the answer, but I bet the folks at Apple are very worried they’ll make the wrong choice.

Posted by DaveS on July 2, 2004 at 9:50 AM (PDT)

24

“why has no one mentioned the iTunes music store?”

Dude, allofmp3,com is plenty simple for me. See a song I like and hit download. Then sync with iPod.

Or if I want to customize, select a preferred quality setting, select a preferred codec, then download.

All for around 1/100th the price of the iTunes store. What could be simpler or greater?

Personally I think the iPod is causing some major loss of focus in Apple. The total potential revenue from this small, pretty box is peanuts compared to their margins from selling large volumes of high-end computer kit. Steve Jobs seems to have forgotton this.

The iPod is good for Steve’s ego and gets him invited to music parties, but it is never going generate anything like the same revenues Apple could get from a successful computer business. In the long run, it’s a boutique product suitable for a much smaller company. Apple would do well to spin off Ipod as soon as possible, much as 3Com did with Palm.

I think in this regard Apple resembles Gateway - unable to devise a way to compete well selling PCs it tried to “reform” itself into a consumer products company. We all know how well that turned out.

Apple Discontinues iMacs Because Of Supply Chain Malfunction
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1619674,00.asp
According to the company’s financial statements, in the second quarter of 2004, ended March 31, it sold only 217,000 iMacs and eMacs combined, down from a peak of 703,000 in the first quarter of 2001. However, this still meant the iMac and eMac accounted for close to 29 percent of Apple’s unit Mac sales last quarter. Without the iMac, it would have sold only 532,000 Macsless than half the number it has hit in its most recent peak of the first quarter of 2000.

Posted by Simplicity Itself on July 2, 2004 at 9:56 AM (PDT)

25

“Anyone using allofmp3.com is being duped. You may as well use Kazaa or LimeWire, because you’re simply stealing music”

How is that again? What are you, an expert in international IP law?

Music on Kazaa or Limewire has not been licensed according to national laws.

Music on allofmp3.com has.

Just because it’s cheaper to buy music in Russia than the US doesn’t make it illegal.

Corporations go overseas to buy cheap labour all the time - now finally consumers in expensive countries can take their business overseas and arbitrage differences in pricing parity. and you have a problem with this?

If allofmp3.com was illegal then it would have been shut down. It’s been operating for 2 years now. Obviously something is missing in your definition of illegality.

What about the Spanish WebListen site? That was sued by the RIAA and the IFPI several times and is still selling downloads because all those court cases lost. Just because some countries choose not to exactly copy US pricing and licensing characteristics, you term them illegal. That’s economic imperialism mate!

———————————————————


The most important factor is that one US dollar is worth lots of rubles. In Russia CDs cost about 100 rubles ($3). So to Russians Allofmp3 is in fact almost as expensive as iTunes to Americans.


“They’re currently being sued and investigated by many countries and companies.”

Where are your facts? Point me to some links, some case law, some press releases.

http://www.museekster.com/allofmp3faq.htm

Allofmp3 has signed agreements for this with Russian Organization for Multimedia & Digital Systems (ROMS).

ROMS is a member of CISAC (http://www.cisac.org) - the International confederation of authors and composers societies. ROMS manages intellectual rights in the Russian Federation.

We have received this confirmation from ROMS:


I can confirm the legality of allofmp3.com
You can legally buy/download mp3-songs from this site if it does not breaks the law the national legislation of the country in which you will be during that moment.
Sorry for my english.

Yours faithfully, the assistant to the lawyer
of the Russian society on multimedia and to digital networks (ROMS) [url=http://www.roms.ru]http://www.roms.ru[/url]

Posted by wannabe IP lawyer on July 2, 2004 at 11:23 AM (PDT)

26

I hear a lot about the shortcomings of the ipod and how its competitors are breathing down it’s neck.  I live near the U of Michigan campus and I’ve been in Austin, Boston, Chicago, NYC, and Raleigh NC in the last several months.  Everywhere I go I see many, many people with those trendy white headphones.  (In NYC it’s ridiculous…..everywhere you look.)

My three sons all have ipods and wouldn’t consider an alternative.  One is a dedicated Mac user, the other two are PC Linux geeks.  There is nothing else that even comes close to the ipod in the coolness factor for any of the college kids that I know or see and I see hundreds each day. 

The ipod will continue to dominate because for 500$ or less people can get their hands on something that is aesthetically pleasing, intuitve and functional, all hallmarks of Apple design genius.  Apple is simply one the best companies in the USA or the world, the closest Americans have come to Braun, BMW or the Bahaus.

Posted by annarborboy on July 2, 2004 at 11:37 AM (PDT)

27

I would much rather have a device with built in features than having to buy add ons. Unfortunately, nobody has been able to make something with those features in a comparable size to the iPod.

By mvillier on Jul 02, 04 5:20 am

—————

Apple needs to release gen 4 before its too late. it needs to be amazing. If they don’t announce something within 2 months then people will just look for alternatives with more features and lower prices

By unknownsoldier on Jul 02, 04 3:19 am

—————-

Perhaps you forgot Apple released a new iPod just four months ago? Remember the iPod Mini? what do you want from them - a new product line every 2 months?

Also, I for one am glad the iPod doesn’t have built-in recording and FM radio and flapjack flipper. The iPod works because it’s simple and reliable. Put all that crap in there and it wouldn’t be.

Posted by BKH on July 2, 2004 at 11:45 AM (PDT)

28

Great Article.
Stop debating the decline of the iPod or the lack of sales of the imac as one-so-put it…
FIRST OFF: The iMac was popular early on because it was a groundbreaking machine (the whole color idea really got to people)  HOW CAN YOU BLAME APPLE FOR CHASING AFTER THE IPOD? have you SEEN the sales reports? Ill admit Apple has a dismal show at WWDC 2004,  But I did not expect much;  Apple has always been a “closed-doors” company and with the way they’ve been going, expect to see something innovative that will leave iPod behind within the next three years. those are my two cents you dont like them thats great because i wont be reading your comments anyways.

Posted by Ipooddinatah on July 2, 2004 at 12:17 PM (PDT)

29

iPod > everything out there.

There is no competition. It is simply the best player out there. Granted, it’s a best pricey, but well worth it. Probably the best purchase decision of my life. Worth every penny for sure.

Posted by Amit on July 2, 2004 at 12:48 PM (PDT)

30

Why do these companies make 3,4,5,6 different products that all suck? Why not make ONE really good product.

And it’s not like SOny is making different players for different markets. They are all over $400.What about the 19 year old who makes 900 a month? Why not make good reliable mp3 player for around $200 that he can buy? 

These companies think they need to wow everybody and they end up making a mess.  Sony has a really good mp3 player..problem is it’s spread out over 3 different devices.

Get one product right then expand.

We didn’t see Apple come out with 5 different styles of ipod. They got it right and then expanded (mini).

All these companies end up doing is confusing the customer and wasting recources by having so many items and each one is flawed.

Posted by ATG10gb in Wisconsin on July 2, 2004 at 12:48 PM (PDT)

31

hahaha i am still reeling from the comment about Stan Bush.

Closet Transformers fan :D

Posted by Chibimiffy on July 2, 2004 at 2:16 PM (PDT)

32

“Why do these companies make 3,4,5,6 different products that all suck?”

Depends on your point of view.

If what you want is digital output for high-end audio fiedelity then the iPod really sucks.

Or if what you want is high-fidelity recording then the iPod really, really sucks.

Or if what you want is really long battery life then the iPod really, truely sucks.

Or if what you want is a media reader and storage, then the iPod pretty much sucks.

Or if what you want is video playback/record, then the iPod definitely sucks.

Or if what you want is built-in FM reception/transmission, then the iPod sucks unless you add silly ugly things to it.

Apple doesn’t release many differentiated products because Steve Jobs is a wannabe monopolist and thinks like Henry Ford - give em any colour as long as it’s black (or white!). Also, Apple’s supply chain execution has been historically ###### and they have trouble getting the demand right for just a single product, never mind many variations of it.

Witness the debacle with the iMacs - it’s unheard of for a major PC company to *run out* of its most popular model and leave the retail market dry for several months. That’s just brain damaged beyond belief. And yet that’s happened with the Mac and the iPod over and over. Lost sales, lost opportunities, lost mindshare.

Posted by Suckage on July 2, 2004 at 2:33 PM (PDT)

33

Another minus about the Ipod is no WMA support. Most all of the competing Mp3 players support it but not the Ipod. The bulk of the legal music download sites use the WMA format while only Itunes uses the AAC format.  Since the market prefers the WMA format over AAC, this may eventually be the demise of Itunes and the Ipod.

Posted by JT on July 2, 2004 at 3:06 PM (PDT)

34

Look people, simplicity is key.  Apple is targetting the iPod at the average person not some tech geek.  Thats why they are doing so well… They are just plain simpler. This is also why thats why my stocks in apple have doubled in the past year.  Apple worked their marketing for the average slob.

Posted by Nick on July 2, 2004 at 3:10 PM (PDT)

35

I read everything on this posting and have several ideas.  One is that I did not have any good ipod experiences.  Not only did I have 3 fail within a month of purchase, I for one do not like the Itune experience. I already have 8,000 + MP3 formatted songs. 

I spoke with Dell about the rebate and they were very happy with the response over 1,000 takers in a day including my old piece of #### Ipod that died withering in month. 

Apple people are like religion / politics all emotion and very little actual intelligence showing.

Apple is such a small little thing as a company when they make something that is finally almost viable they brag like Liberals, in fact I think it must be Liberals that use these things and think they are good.

Posted by Glen on July 2, 2004 at 3:28 PM (PDT)

36

Apple people are like religion / politics all emotion and very little actual intelligence showing.

Apple is such a small little thing as a company when they make something that is finally almost viable they brag like Liberals, in fact I think it must be Liberals that use these things and think they are good.


Well Glen, you’ve certainly demonstrated some stellar intelligence here.  What an adroit and piercing insult!  Liberals!  Oh my!

Posted by annarborboy on July 2, 2004 at 3:37 PM (PDT)

37

Good article, but the part about the Dell DJ is a little biased. It may have been a publicity stunt sure, but what about all those 1st gen iPod users who’s batteries aren’t lasting longer than an hour. They are looking to upgrade, but to what? Another $300-$500 iPod that will only give them 5-6 more hours of battery life than what they already have? This would be a good deal for them. Upgrade to a slightly larger player for only $100 and get 19 extra hours of battery life.

As far as I’m concerned, the ONLY thing the iPod has going for it compared to the DJ is the sleek, slim size. Everything else the DJ owns.

Posted by Dell DJ User on July 2, 2004 at 5:23 PM (PDT)

38

“This is also why thats why my stocks in apple have doubled in the past year.”

You’ve done well because your Apple stock has run up from pathetic lows.

However, my advice is to sell. Apple stock has been one of the worst performers over the past 15 years or so compared to other tech stocks.

Posted by Stock on July 2, 2004 at 5:24 PM (PDT)

39

Oh, sorry for the double post, but I had to mention the fact that I did buy a 3rd gen iPod, only to have the hard-drive fail within 3 days. I returned it for a refund and bought the Dell instead. With the extra $200 I saved on it I bought a ton of songs from Wal-Mart, Napster and MusicMatch. smile

Posted by Dell DJ User on July 2, 2004 at 5:26 PM (PDT)

40

“The iPod has one enormous advantage over ALL competitors that, surprisingly, isn’t mentioned here: an extensive (and growing) collection of Apple and third-party add-ons that extend the functionality of the player”

I would agree with you, but the majority of it’s third party add ons add features that competing players already have, like radio, recording, transmitters…

Posted by Lone on July 2, 2004 at 8:01 PM (PDT)

41

What I like the most about the IPod is that is well known and simple name “IPod” that is.  It plays music like supposed to and it is user friendly. 

Posted by Oliver on July 2, 2004 at 9:48 PM (PDT)

42

“I read everything on this posting and have several ideas. One is that I did not have any good ipod experiences. Not only did I have 3 fail within a month of purchase, I for one do not like the Itune experience. I already have 8,000 + MP3 formatted songs.

I spoke with Dell about the rebate and they were very happy with the response over 1,000 takers in a day including my old piece of s*** Ipod that died withering in month.”

So Glen, you are aware that iPod has a year guarantee right? Why the hell would you send an iPod that was a month old to Dell in exchange for $99-off a DJ? You either have too much money (if that’s the case why would you try to save $99?) or no brain.

Posted by King Davidos on July 3, 2004 at 1:24 AM (PDT)

43

“Since the market prefers the WMA format over AAC, this may eventually be the demise of Itunes and the Ipod.”

JT, please let me know what you are smoking & where to get it wink

The *market* prefers WMA? Nonononono, the industry, namely MICROSOFT prefers WMA, MS also likes to force WMA upon the consumer, and everybody likes to to suck up to them and happily pay their fees & be enslaved & everything. The *market* prefers AAC as the *market* prefers the iTMS, the *market* prefers the iPod.
iPod & iTMS are market leaders because Apple combines the best for most products with the best marketing. In contrast to the PC market it is a market that is NOT ruled by bugdet-strained teenagers, beancounters or cost-cutters. It is ruled by people who want the best and most fashionable music player they can get, are willing and able to pay for it and therefore are not willing to put up with the mediocrity of the rest or any kind of WMA-bs being forced upon them.

I have little confidence for some individuals here to understand these basic principles though. I wonder why nobody complains that the iPod features no 6.1 surround, 3D video projection, and still has to be carried instead of hovering next to you.  The only serious flaw the iPod has at this moment is the battery life, and with the number of complaints about it you can be sure that this flaw will be gone in 4G.

Posted by Oliver :) on July 3, 2004 at 3:09 AM (PDT)

44

I’m sure apple will counter. They now hiave that cool BMW car kit and they’re making a video cam attachment for the ipod right? sounds cool.

Posted by huggiekins on July 3, 2004 at 3:26 AM (PDT)

45

“...The only serious flaw the iPod has at this moment is the battery life, and with the number of complaints about it you can be sure that this flaw will be gone in 4G.”

True. But on the other hand, the only real advantage the Ipod has is it’s interface. Everywhere else (Sound, features, price, size, remote, ...) there are players which are equally good or beat the Ipod hands down.
If my cat would eat my 2nd Gen Ipod so I would have to get myself a new HD-Player it would be a Iriver with the current models swarming around.

Beause, contrary what the author said, “the iPod was clearly ahead of the pack for two years” is simply not true. Ipod developement is stagnating since (including) the 3rd Gen ones. The Ipod Minis are no new prouct line, but simply a marketing ploy. Technically there is absolutly nothing new there.

Posted by Shrike on July 3, 2004 at 7:54 AM (PDT)

46

Since when has sound quality mattered to the masses? Whilst on sound quality, any good comparison sites?

Posted by Anil on July 3, 2004 at 8:38 AM (PDT)

47

Shrike, what makes the iPod so unique besides the interface is the seamless integration with iTunes and iSync (on the Mac). It also does not matter whether there are players that each are better than the iPod in a single area as there is no one that is better overall/in a significant number of areas, and I know of none that integrates as seemlessly.
The mini is made to appeal to a different target group, marketing, you are right. Technically it sports a physically smaller HD and a new clickwheel (I hope to see it on the 4G), which is both new. Otherwise it does what iPods do, it plays music. So what is your point?

Posted by Oliver :) on July 3, 2004 at 8:57 AM (PDT)

48

“What I like the most about the IPod is that is well known and simple name “IPod”  “


I’ve noticed none of the iPod haters have noticed that a lot of the competition have tried to sponge off the iPod’s legacy using one method which doesn’t take a lot of work.  And that is the name.  I mean the iRiver…a lot of hd based players these days are sticking a small ‘i’ before the name to sponge off the iPod’s reputation.

And to the people who’ve had hd failures with iPod’s.  I have a 3G 40gb iPod and over the past 6 months i’ve only had one hd fail, and that was because my neice thought it was a throw toy.  Apple replaced the entire iPod (Not just repair it) for free with no problems.  There’s only two real flaws with the iPod, they are the battery life, and the design of the remote jack (i’ve had 6 replacement remotes so far).

Posted by hutchy on July 3, 2004 at 10:03 AM (PDT)

49

@ Oliver smile
Personally I find iTunes and iSync more of a bother, I rather like to handpick the things myself. Seems to be a quirk of PC-users - which are the maiority of the Ipod-Users now.
But that “easy-to-go” feature has definatly a hold on the mainstream, I agree here.

About my point - your own comment illustrates it very well:
“Otherwise it does what iPods do, it plays music.”

There has been no developement. “Keep it simple” is fine enough. But, tell me, why when having more features won’t hurt? Irivers players have the same size and price as Apples, but have a fm-tuner (from which you can even record!) and a sound recorder (among other things). Both things I could use very well, one when I’m sick ofmy playlists and want to listen tosomething new, the other to get a better hold on lectures.

For the same price - would you rather get a car which you can use to drive or one which can do that to and in addition has electric windows, climate control and a radio?

@hutchy:
Problem is that IRiver existed before the first IPod was even planned. if anything Apple “imitated” IRiver. Better research next time wink

Posted by Shrike on July 3, 2004 at 10:43 AM (PDT)

50

Oh, and I am no “Ipod hater”. I own a 2nd gen one myself. And am very happy with it.

From a objective viewpoint apple doesn’t make the best HD-mp3 players ATM, though (IMO). That has nothing to do with “hating Ipods”, but with something called “realismn”.

Posted by Shrike on July 3, 2004 at 10:48 AM (PDT)

51

I love my ipod.  I hate itunes.

That program is extremely slow and buggy for me. 

Will anything replace my ipod?  Maybe in a few years.

Will anything replace itunes?  If I could copy and paste the stuff to work on my machine, and another store comes up with the same selection and maybe some music from other countries.  Then I wait patiently for that day.

I’m annoyed that I have to sync itunes with my pod.  I’m not a fan of music match either.

I like my ipod.  I love my ipod.  I wish I wasn’t poor so I can spoil the hell out of it.

Posted by Earl on July 3, 2004 at 12:22 PM (PDT)

52

Try xplay. With it you can just copy-paste songs on the ipod.

Posted by Shrike on July 3, 2004 at 1:13 PM (PDT)

53

“Will anything replace itunes?”

Media Center did that very well for me. YMMV.

Posted by options on July 3, 2004 at 2:49 PM (PDT)

54

why do any of you care who gets more competition

whatever happens happens, and usually for a reason

Posted by who cares on July 3, 2004 at 7:00 PM (PDT)

55

If you’re gonna buy sony prodcuts particularly the MiniDiscs and Discmans, buy only japanese made, cuz malaysian and china based sony products stink to the heavens…..

Posted by Den on July 3, 2004 at 7:25 PM (PDT)

56

Once you hold an iPod you know the others are pretenders. There simply isn’t anything else like it. It doesn’t really matter about the battery life, format, size, durability, yada yada yada. It’s simply the best portable music player out there. Read that again: it’s a portable music player. If you’re really worried about that other stuff, spend the extra bucks and buy Applecare. I did because I know this player will still be cool and ultra-useful three years from now. These other players are falling all over themselves to be number 2.

Posted by eztider on July 4, 2004 at 12:01 AM (PDT)

57

I find the most of these posts quite amusing.  You guys/gals are thinking way too hard about what a music player must do.  All a music player has to do is play music.  That’s it, nothing more, nothing less.  I bet you weren’t complaining that the WalkMan didn’t do hifi, didn’t play video, didn’t act as a external backup drive, didn’t have a voice recorder, and probably weren’t too bummed when you had to replace the AA batteries every other week.

People, please, the ipod allows you to listen to your music where ever and when ever you’d like, all while holding every alblum you own.  It does this with the very little thought.  And this is exactly what it should do.

Other companies don’t have the simplicity of the ipod controls, the intergration of the super easy-to-use itunes/music store, or the good looks of the ipod.  These are the reasons why people buy ipods.

As for battery life.  8 hours is plenty.  Where are going to go that you need to listen to your music for more than 8 hours?  Camping?  If so, you should be camping more than listening to music.  Also, unless your camping, you have access to power every where.  To those about batteries dying out over time.  You can easily replace your ipod battery for $30 by yourself.

The ipod is a great player.  It will not be dethrowned anytime soon.  Companies are trying to copy what Apple did two years ago.  Apple, will be releasing the next ipod version this fall.  The you guys can come back and talk about the exhusted “next ipod killer” story once again.

Sorry for the long post that tried to simplify all this.

Posted by Garup on July 4, 2004 at 12:27 AM (PDT)

58

Love my iPod mini.  No battery problems. Great sound. Great idea. Once again, Apple came up with the idea that others are now copying. For all of those who have had bad iPod experiences, good luck with your iPod inspired units. Just thank Apple for the original idea.

Posted by surfermac on July 4, 2004 at 4:37 AM (PDT)

59

“There simply isn’t anything else like it. It doesn’t really matter about the battery life, format, size, durability, yada yada yada. It’s simply the best portable music player out there.”

So, any reasons as to why it is the best?

I think many people would agree it’s a solid audio player, but the reason it’s ‘the best’ in terms of sales is because of smart marketing.

Posted by Lone on July 4, 2004 at 6:33 AM (PDT)

60

“Love my iPod mini. No battery problems. Great sound. Great idea. Once again, Apple came up with the idea that others are now copying.”

If the idea was for a super-small HD player, then the Rio Nitrus was out six months before the iPod Mini, and uses the even smaller 1” Cornice drives. It is smaller than a Mini but does hold only 1.5GB. It is, however, cheaper. If you want it in an all-metal case you can get the Rio Eigen instead, which is slightly heavier.

Posted by Mini on July 4, 2004 at 8:22 AM (PDT)

61

“I bet you weren’t complaining that the WalkMan didn’t do hifi, didn’t play video, didn’t act as a external backup drive, didn’t have a voice recorder, and probably weren’t too bummed when you had to replace the AA batteries every other week.”

THat’s because the Walkman couldn’t hope to do all of those things.

But that was a generation ago. We are living in the future now, and convergence means we have digital devices with open-ended functionalities and rapid evolutionary tendencies.

Their capabilities are increasingly circumscribed only by the imagination and dedication of their engineers, designers, and users. Staying as “just a music player” is a recipe for accelerated obsolescence and a slide into obscurity.

Posted by Future Perfect on July 4, 2004 at 8:26 AM (PDT)

62

“the reason it’s ‘the best’ in terms of sales is because of smart marketing.”

I was struck by this when I read this New York Times article complaining about the no-choice low quality encoding offered by Apple in the iTunes Music Store:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/04/business/yourmoney/04digi.html

When speaking of Apple, it’s heretical to suggest a problem with quality. The company’s aura of technical leadership was enhanced with the recent announcement that BMW would offer a built-in adapter expressly for the iPod. But Jon Iverson, online editor at Stereophile.com, says compressed iTunes in the Beamer means “audio quality that’s third rate, wrapped in the latest automotive technology - that’s brilliant marketing.”

Posted by Marketing on July 4, 2004 at 8:46 AM (PDT)

63

You all are silly.  Argue argue argue about toys.  I swear I’ve heard the 4 year olds talk just like the lot of you at my day care facility.  It’s interesting to note that most of you are males.  From a linguistic standpoint, women typically use language as a form of support, men use it as a way to compete.  So my comment is this: we can keep talking about what’s going to do better, or what product will soon ‘die’ but what I see is a campus full of them.  I don’t see a campus full of non-iPod users, and when I do see a non-iPod user… I don’t particularly care.

Posted by Bret Benziger on July 4, 2004 at 9:26 PM (PDT)

64

I Like the Ipod but i hate any device that uses internal batteries. I cant for the life of me understand why didnt they just make so it uses AAA batteries. I will pick one up prob the next gen if it has ability to use AAA. I’m also cosidering the Sony net md

Posted by bobby orellano on July 5, 2004 at 3:29 AM (PDT)

65

Everytime one of these articles come up, I always hope to read about the user experience of these other players. Yeah, the specs and price are easy to compare, but what about the peripheral features. How does one deal with music organization using the Dell? Playlists? Song tags? Playlist navigation and browsing on both the player and its supporting software? etc.

Right now, one of the reason I’m sticking with the iPod is because I know it will be easy to use. I’m not about to spend a couple of hundred dollars to find out if the iRiver or the Dell is easy to use or not.

Jeremy does touch on one really good point with his comments about Creative’s rate of hard drive failure and Sony’s problems with recalls. Compaing 20gig to 20gig isn’t necessarily comparing the same thing. Each company use different quality of components. Yes the iPod has some failures, but on the whole, their players have had less problems. With this point though, battery issue is the iPod’s Achilles heel.

Posted by Starboard on July 5, 2004 at 10:33 PM (PDT)

66

Looking at pics of all the players, I see where other companies are skimping and thus may be comtributing to their failure. The Zen is the best example as it is similar in size to the iPod. Despite being comparable in size, it looks like it larger and heavier. The reason is the ticker bevel around the screen, or better stated the screen is smaller. I’m sure that this saves on component cost and allow for less drain on the battery than the iPod. This is also the case with Dell’s and Rio’s players. iRiver’s and Sony’s are getting better. The larger amount of plastic around the screen area just makes the players look heavy. In addition, the small screens are difficult to read. These companies decisions to go with smaller screen really killed them in aesthetics and usability.

Posted by Starboard on July 5, 2004 at 10:56 PM (PDT)

67

aeromusek - i get about 2.5, maybe 3 hours max with regular usage.  I use shuffle, backlight on for 2 secs.  Possibly just a bad battery,  but it’s still something that Apple should properly address ($100 battery replacement is ridiculous).

Posted by mvillier on July 6, 2004 at 3:51 AM (PDT)

68

It also depends heavily on the average bitrate of your mp3s.
The biggest energy eater of the Ipod is it’s hard drive - if you have 256 kbs mp3s it has to work twice as much for the same music time as with 128 kbs mp3s. Meaning you efficient battery life is almost halved.

Also, switching often between songs is reducing the battery life, since it increases the HD work as well.

Lastly, there’s a quite noticeable performance drop in battery life between 2nd Gen and 3rd Gen Ipods. Apple is using another (cheaper?) battery type in 3rd gens.

Posted by Shrike on July 6, 2004 at 5:11 AM (PDT)

69

“These companies decisions to go with smaller screen really killed them in aesthetics and usability.”

And yet there are some players that have nice, big, juicy screens and it doesn’t seem to help them at all!

The combined photo/mp3 Archos Gmini 220 comes to mind. A very small player with a nice big bright screen, media card, pretty cheap ($270 for 20GB). Not a big seller…
http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B0000UJH36.01.PT01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg

Posted by Big Screens on July 6, 2004 at 6:33 AM (PDT)

70

Apple took the chance with the iPod and in return it has become the standard to beat. Each and every other MP3 unit in one way or the other compares itself to or tries to beat out the iPod with the same results. More iPods sell than any other MP3 player…...period. Of cousre, as times go on, new technology emerges and that is what others base their strengths upon but in the end, the iPod stands alone and its only competitor is the mini iPod. Don’t worry, Apple will surprise us once again when it releases whatever update to the iPod that it has in store and the story will read the same.

Posted by ezflyer on July 6, 2004 at 6:57 AM (PDT)

71

>> “And yet there are some players that have nice, big, juicy screens and it doesn’t seem to help them at all!”

that is true. I think ease of use if probably the biggest factor for most people. A saving of $100 isn’t much of a saving if they can’t easily figure out how to use the device. The iPod is just known for being intuitive. Other players boast battery life and cheaper price, but that isn’t much consolation to people who end up stuffing in the drawer because they can’t easily manage and access their music.

Posted by Starboard on July 6, 2004 at 7:14 AM (PDT)

72

“Apple took the chance with the iPod”

What chance did Apple take? I am not following the logic.

Posted by Chancy? on July 6, 2004 at 8:36 AM (PDT)

73

>>“What chance did Apple take? I am not following the logic”

when Apple intoduced the first iPod, it was taking a big chance. Up to then, people only paying $100 - $150 for flash players. The mp3 format was still not all that established. Most people agree that it didn’t measure up to CD quality in sound. There was no guarantee that people would be will in fork out $400 for a portable music player that only played mp3’s. Even within the first few months of its introduction, even mac fans were criticizing the iPod and predicting its failure. That’s why it was such a risk for Apple.

Now do you follow the logic?

Posted by Starboard on July 6, 2004 at 11:02 AM (PDT)

74

“when Apple intoduced the first iPod, it was taking a big chance. Up to then, people only paying $100 - $150 for flash players.”

You’re half right. There had been hard disk-based players, some with 20GB, that cost around $300-$400. They had been available since late 1999/early 2000.

But where Apple scored 18 months later than this was in releasing a smaller capacity 5GB player for around the same price. Thus, Apple’s price/MB of music was way higher than others available then, such as the Nomad, Jukebox Studio, or PJB.

That higher Apple relative sticker price enabled Apple, of course, to add extra trimmings, design features, and packaging to their product. Most especially, they used their extra retial margin to go for the 1.8” drive over the older players’ 2.5” drives. This meant a smaller component size.

Of course, once Creative noticed that people were willing to spend an “extra” $100-$150 per unit on design and aesthetics, they developed and released the Zen. Other high-end designed players, such as the iRiver, the Philips, and now the Sony are similarly priced to compete at a higher end with superior finishings. Many have even adopted Apple’s formerly exclusive 1.8” drives…

Posted by First Mover on July 6, 2004 at 11:48 AM (PDT)

75

the NW-HD1 walkman WILL PLAY MP3s, not just the ATRAK format. I read this fact in the WSJ and confirmed it through the Sony website. Even though they promote the ATRAK format heavily, the fine print says it will play most other formats….

Go here:
http://news.sel.sony.com/pressrelease/5018

and click on the spec sheet for NW-HD1 link and read page 2, column 1. thanks,
Paul

Posted by paul on July 6, 2004 at 12:25 PM (PDT)

76

I’m no Steve Jobs idolizer, but I agree with his reacent response to a shareholders question regarding the speculated video iPod:  “It’s the music, stupid.”

The iPod was designed to do one thing with quality and style: play music.  And I bought it to do one thing with quality and style: play music.  All of you that want to play music, take e-notes, look at your calendar, play Splinter Cell, recieve crappy top 40 FM, record crappy top 40 FM, make spinach quiche, remotely unlock your car, and call your grandmother to tell her how much money you saved by buying an ugly swiss army knife portable instead of an iPod can die happy now that the suits at the tech companies have listened to your cries and flooded the market with the crap of your dreams.

Posted by Yheti on July 6, 2004 at 1:53 PM (PDT)

77

>> “You’re half right. There had been hard disk-based players, some with 20GB, that cost around $300-$400. They had been available since late 1999/early 2000.”

Yes, you’re right, but notice I didn’t say the the iPod was the 1st of its kind; only that people were only willing to pay for flash based players at that point. The iPod predecessors were not making much headlines nor sales. I remember them using USB connections to transfer those gigs of music was the reason nobody bothered with them. They still underscore the fact that Apple took a big risk, when the market was not even slightly interested in the hard drive players at that time.

Posted by Starboard on July 6, 2004 at 4:04 PM (PDT)

78

Not really. Sure it took ages to transfer all your music on them - but you had only to do it once. For updates it doesn’t really matter if you leave it for 1 or 20 minutes besides your PC - it’s not like you have to watch it the whole time. It limited their use as mobile HDs, though.

The main reason they were not *as* popular was their size. They were named “mobile jukeboxes” for a cause. While portable they were not really something you wanted to put into your pocket - not unlike the first “mobile” phones. The Ipod was the first HD-Player in a far more accessible “walkman” size.
The jukeboxes still sold, though - companys made profit with them. A market was definatly there, it’s not like apple went into complete unknown territory there.

——

For the “Ipod has the biggest marketshare, so it has to be the best hd-player” people:

Quality is only of tertiary importance for the marketshare. First and foremost cause is a good marketing - and that of the ipod is clearly very good.
There are numerous examples for this, just look at windows and macs. There are vastly more windows than mac (or unix, linux, ...) pcs. This means the windows os is clearly superior?
Secondary cause is usually timing - the ipod (and windows, for that matter) was introduced just at the right time when interest was rising, but no other compareable productswere available.

Posted by Shrike on July 6, 2004 at 11:55 PM (PDT)

79

E-Z is his name and the boy’s comin’ STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

Posted by Laurence on July 7, 2004 at 7:12 AM (PDT)

80

The ipod has a lot of advantages over the competition.

1) Brand recognition -Status symbol for portable music players.
2) Form and function- It just works. Excellent design and controls
3) iTunes-a great music service and application.
4) Third-party add ons-iTrip,iTalk, etc.
5) Maturity-iPod has been around for several years now and is evolving.

Posted by ipod4life on July 7, 2004 at 8:42 AM (PDT)

81

Apple wasnt the first to profit from putting a lowercase i before the name of the product.  Anyone remember iDrive (one of the first subscribe-able internet storage companies), for example?  Or iMark, one of the first mousepad/notepad hybrids?

Anyways, this article is still very partisan.  No where in this article does it mention the mutitude of formats supported by the creative (some not supported by apple) and the dell.  Nor does it mention either player’s scratch RESISTANT screen.  Also, these players come with the much more common USB connections instead of firewire. 

And you can actually turn them off

Not everyone likes the ipod’s scroll wheel or its navigation, so why do you persist in claiming its the best? Personally, I’d rather have the creative/dell interface with home and back buttons (At least they wont be activated when they touch the side of my pocket).  I have a feeling I wont like the creative’s touch either - I’d much rather have the old clickwheel.

While Im sure many will disagree, I think the iPod’s only true advantage is its beautiful (yet scratch-tastic) case.  The battery life wouldnt be a problem if you could actually turn off the ipod.  True the ipod has a lot of 3rd party support, but nothing you couldnt find in a universal kit.  I hope they will let us trade up our mk3s for the 4th gen.

Also, correct me if im wrong but doesnt the ipod do the same thing as sony?  Instead of converting to actrac3 its AAC.  itunes isn’t the only mp3 seller out there after all - i have no need for aac files.

Posted by Justin on July 7, 2004 at 11:06 AM (PDT)

82

iRiver’s name does not ‘sponge’ off of iPod. As a company iRiver has been around longer than the iPod has been made. The “i” is no different than the “e” many companies also use.( Ie. eBay, eTrade… I think you get the idea.)

Posted by sorry but NO on July 7, 2004 at 2:01 PM (PDT)

83

sorry paul, network walkman doesn’t play mp3s… you must use sony software to convert your mp3s into their ATRAC format, that is why sony says mp3 is “supported” but can’t be “played”.

Posted by sorry paul on July 7, 2004 at 3:52 PM (PDT)

84

“ipod4life”

Ah such enthusiasm.

I am old enough to remember when Apple encouraged the slogan

Apple][Forever

Well, “forever” lasted until around the time of the Macintosh.

One day Apple will dump the iPod into its unsupported ghetto where old Apple products go to die a slow, lingering death. Hopefully that day is a long time away…

Posted by Optimism on July 7, 2004 at 3:57 PM (PDT)

85

Uh, Justin, I sure hope you’ve never used an iPod before, because that would be your only excuse for the “You can’t turn off the iPod” comments.  Just pause the iPod, and in less than 2 minutes, it turns off by itself.  Why do you need a separate button crowding the design when this works just fine?  Or are you concerned about the 2 minutes of wasted battery life?

And regarding your comment saying Sony’s ACTRAC3-only devices is like Apples AAC-supported iPod:  Last time I used my iPod (on my way to work tonight), it played mp3s just fine.  And it plays AAC files.  And it plays Audible files.  And it plays AIFF files.  But most of Sony’s devices only play ACTRAC3 files.  Meaning you have to purchase another piece of software to convert all your files to ACTRAC3.  So… how is that like iPod again?

Posted by Yheti on July 7, 2004 at 5:40 PM (PDT)

86

The iPod is for NORMAL people, not for tech geeks that want their MP3 player do everything, people just want a stylish and easy to use device that plays their music fine and the iPod does it really nice, NORMAL People dont want some bulky shi**y and hard to use device.
  But if you are a geek and want a music player that does everything (all wrong), there are other solutions, simply the iPod is not for you.
I can even bet some of you will be complaining in a few years that the iRiver wipes your butt and the iPod doesnt. 

Cheers.

Posted by Mike on July 7, 2004 at 8:01 PM (PDT)

87

ipod 4eva

Posted by ipod lover on July 7, 2004 at 9:48 PM (PDT)

88

Mike - happy as rabid fanboy?

Just FYI, Irivers players are just as big as the Ipod, exept their thinkness. There they are 1.9 vs the Ipods 1.6 cm. But they have twice the battery life for that. Weight is the same.

Your “normal people don’t need the extras” defeats itself - why do you think the Ipod addons like iTrip, iJog, iSomething are so popular? Because “normal” people DO want those things.

iRiver provides them. Along with a better support philosophy (imagine, new firmware works actually on older iRivers, too!), a remote which actually earns that name, TWICE the battery power,..

And for 330$ compared for the Ipods 400$ (20 gig modell both times)

Posted by Shrike on July 7, 2004 at 11:51 PM (PDT)

89

What is a “hd fail” i quote hutchy is it when the ipod freezes ?

Posted by Jake on July 8, 2004 at 1:16 AM (PDT)

90

i like ipods.
they are white on one side, and shiny on the other.
ipods are cool.
the 4g will kick [insert body part of choice here]
and you know it!
happy

Posted by happy on July 8, 2004 at 5:12 AM (PDT)

91

I’ve tried several different mp3 players, lastly the Zen xtra (which also died 3 times in 4 months, having to get it fixed twice and a brand new player once).  I’ve briefly tried the Dell DJ, and the interface feels to me much like the Creative line, which I now absolutely hate.  With any hard drive based mp3 player, you’re going to have people who have bad experiences and hate it.  Some people posting may feel the ipod and Itunes aren’t worth anyones time, but the ipod is still the worlds most popular mp3 player (by quite a bit) and likewise the itunes music store is the most popular (at least in the us) place for legal music downloads. 

The allure of the ipod is it’s image.  Simple, small, and just plain cool.  The ipod came at the time where mp3 players were starting to become mainstream, with an image that people could flaunt, rather than hide.  The mainstream user could pick one up without looking like a total geek, turning the ipod into a status symbol.  This is why you’ve probably seen it in music videos (50 Cent’s P.I.M.P., D12’s my band), movies and TV shows.  In conjunction with itunes, all you have to do is plug your ipod in, and it will automatically sync your files.  For the average user, this simplicity is a definate draw. 

The ipod is my 4th hard disk based mp3 player, and by far my favorite.  Not only do I love the look and size, but I prefer the interface and layout over anything creative has put out in the hard drive based player, as well as my brief experience with the dell dj.  I don’t miss the lack of voice recording or fm tuner, because I would never use either, and most average users want to listen to their mp3 collection, not record their voice.  As to an fm tuner, you can get a pocket sized one at any electronics store for around 20 bucks.  If a few thousand mp3’s or aac files isn’t enough, then the extra money won’t matter.  I like the fact that they aren’t included, because I wouldn’t use the extra crap, and I certainly don’t want to have to pay even more money.  Certainly the ipod is expensive, but it has proven to be more than a “boutique” item.  The price is worth it to some people, and not to others.  Clearly, by sales, more people than not are willing to swallow the price tag.  And a final point, without the ipod, you wouldn’t have things like the irivers or the dell dj’s.  Love it or hate it, the ipod changed hard drive mp3 players for the better.

Posted by Tim on July 8, 2004 at 9:50 AM (PDT)

92

I aggree with you exept your last sentence - the Ipod was not the first HD mp3 player, players from creative and archos have this honor. And iRiver was already a established brand with mp3 flash and cd players and before the ipod.

Dell is a late arriver in this business, but Creative and iRiver were there already before apple - they would have released a walkman-type hd-mp3 player without the ipod, too.

Posted by Shrike on July 8, 2004 at 11:43 AM (PDT)

93

“the Ipod was not the first HD mp3 player, players from creative and archos have this honor.”

The Compaq/HanGo PJB was first, way back in 1999.

Of course, now Compaq/HP is licensing the iPod and not developing the PJB any further.

Posted by First! on July 8, 2004 at 1:17 PM (PDT)

94

I bought a 3G 40gb iPod in October of last year and have been in love with it ever since.  I agree that other players have more fucntions, but I DON’T use them.  I don’t listen to the radio, I don’t need to record live music, I don’t have a digital camera to plug into it.  I think it is the simplist music player out there.  It’s SO easy to use.  I think that Apple needs to stick to something simple, and have the accessories to allow consumers to add features to the iPod that that individual wants.  The only features I will ever need is the iTrip and a digital camera adapter later on when I get a camera.  As far as “not the best sounding player” that’s BS.  A lot of that perspective is in the ear of the beholder and sometimes that ear is of a person who couldn’t tell the difference when they think they can.  And to those who hate it for it’s short battery life…WHATEVER.  I never listen to the iPod more then the 7-8 hours my battery lasts without being able to charge it somewhere.  The ONLY bad experience was this past month when my iPod wouldn’t mount my powerbook.  I had to wait a week to take it to the Carlotte, NC store to get it looked at.  Apple checked it out and replaced it for FREE.  To whoever trys to make the argument that “the battery replacement is $200-300”, read a newspaper, the replacement is less then $70 now.  And for the whole “no WMA support”, you can convert any WMA file into an ACC file in the new iTunes.  Last but not least I agree with “hutchy” in that it’s funny that the competition trys to imitate the iPod.  Sony’s like a plane trying to take off with one engine out, and not enough fuel to get off the ground.

Posted by brian on July 8, 2004 at 6:08 PM (PDT)

95

>> “What is a “hd fail” i quote hutchy is it when the ipod freezes ? “

No. a freezes is just an OS crash. This is simple to deal with, since you just reset the iPod.

A HD failure is when the player completely dies and won’t play anything, what ever you do. That’s when you have to take it back or buy a new one.

Posted by Starboard on July 9, 2004 at 7:45 AM (PDT)

96

We can argue specs and features, but the one thing the competitors have not been able to design into their players is “the magic.” Owners will tell you how much they “love” their iPods. People freak out when they get their first scratch, while others proudly brag about the “battle scars.” When you first saw it on the counter of an Apple Store, you lust for it. When you finally own it, holding it in your hand, you feel like it is worth every penny you earned and saved up for and finally spent on it. As many have mimiced in whispers “my precioussss.” In the end, the iPod’s success comes from Apple’s ability to make you “feel.”

Owners of other players don’t have the same emotional connection with their devices. Owners pay $300+ and they get a device that seems like disposable electronics, which often end up in the back of the drawer.

I think iRive is probably the closest at getting the magic. iRiver owners do really like their players. Sony is another competitor that you’d expect to get it. They understood it in the 80’s and early 90’s, when their gadgets were sexy. Hopefully with practice, competitors will begin to get better. Competition is good for us all in the end.

Posted by Starboard on July 9, 2004 at 8:05 AM (PDT)

97

Jeremy Horowitz is missing perhaps the best alternative and competitor to the iPod. It beats it in every feature, except that you can’t play iTunes files.

This player, are the iRiver iHP series. Featuring a MSRP price difference of 70 dollars, this player features everything the iPod has, and more. It has a Digital In/Out, Line In/Out, Internal Mic, an External Mic (which is included, and might I say works very well. I was able to hear someone shooting pool in my basement from upstairs). It is only 1mm longer and about 1mm wider than the iPod.  It features the SRS Surround Codec, used in TV shows like Monday Night Football and others to simulate surround sound from a stereo source. It requires no software, as it just plugs in through USB 2.0 and Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux all detect it as an external hard drive with simple drag and drop. You organize, you do what you want. Nothing that renames somethign for you.  The battery life, for me, has lasted 17 hours, which is one more than the advertised 16. Features an FM Tuner. Comes with a LCD backlight remote, which is much better than the iPods. It supports Ogg Vorbis. The only thing it doesn’t have that the iPod does is on-the-fly-playlist, which is being added in a Firmware Upgrade this month.

However, ilike with my brother, it all comes down to how much you use iTunes. If you use iTunes a lot to buy your music, by all means spend the extra 70 dollars and go with the iPod. You could burn your CDs from your existing iPod library, and then rip them into mp3, but the sound quality just drops dramatically.

Huge iTunes user = iPod
Everything Else = iRiver ihP series

Posted by Mike on July 9, 2004 at 9:31 AM (PDT)

98

Sorry, the thickness is a 3 cm difference. And I think the height is the same.

Posted by Mike on July 9, 2004 at 9:33 AM (PDT)

99

3 mm you mean.

For the sake of completeness:
iRiver: 60(W) X 19(D) X 105(H)mm
iPod: 61 x 15,7 x 104 mm

Posted by Shrike on July 9, 2004 at 10:07 AM (PDT)

100

“Owners will tell you how much they “love” their iPods. People freak out when they get their first scratch, while others proudly brag about the “battle scars ... Owners of other players don’t have the same emotional connection with their devices. Owners pay $300+”

Maybe it’s because Apple charges so damn much for the iPod that people feel “connected” to it - it does, after all, represent a lot of value. And if you have spent several hundred dollars renting AAC tracks from Apple and your iPod breaks, then you will have to spend more money to get another iPod to playback those licensed tracks.

I feel little “connection” to my 80GB Archos - it’s just a useful device for in-car playback and recording live shows and lectures. When it breaks I will get another. Or maybe not.

Then again, it did only cost me $70 for the 20GB player and $100 for an 80GB upgrade. If I had spent $500 in one shot on it I’m sure I might feel more “connected”.

Posted by Unscarred on July 9, 2004 at 12:13 PM (PDT)

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