Editorial: Ex-Microsofties, Time to Join the Pod | iLounge Article

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Editorial: Ex-Microsofties, Time to Join the Pod

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Articles Categories: Editorials

If your company is currently selling iPod-competitive hardware, the editors of iLounge would like to say a few things to you. First, welcome, and please read on.

Nearly five years have passed since Apple introduced the first-generation iPod - the one from that crazy, 3% market share company everyone knew would never win over mainstream consumers. Since then, a few things have happened. The iPod became popular, and hundreds of competitors have been released, many by companies working with Microsoft under programs such as Windows Media and PlaysForSure. Today, over 120 devices are now PlaysForSure-certified, but none has made a dent in the iPod’s sales: even during a lull in its incredibly aggressive rollout of new iPod models, the company has sold more iPod units than all of its portable competitors put together. There are now between 60 or 70 million iPods out there, and by 2007, the number will be much higher.

So we’d like to make a friendly suggestion to Creative Labs, iRiver, and other iPod rivals, but it’s not the one they’re expecting: you don’t have to quit making portable media hardware. Just follow Philips’ lead and make a few products that are iPod-compatible.

Let’s be frank: the world knows that you guys are talented hardware developers, but most people just aren’t buying what you’re selling in this space, and it’s hurting you. In addition to the costs you’re incurring by developing, advertising, and manufacturing your players, you’re suffering in the public eye. Repeatedly telling the world that you’re ready to beat the iPod, then failing, has left people wondering how much money you’re going to burn before circling the drain. Fighting an uphill battle for this long hasn’t helped your customers, your stock, or your future.

Now one of your biggest partners, Microsoft, has decided to put its resources behind developing yet another iPod killer - sound familiar? - that will apparently pull the rug out from the standards you’ve been working to support for years. Within six months, Microsoft’s marketing dollars are going to stop focusing on PlaysForSure devices and start going towards its own competing Zune products. In the process, analysts believe that the company won’t hurt Apple, but it will hurt its bank account - sizable, but depleting by literally billions with every release from the Zune’s developer, the Xbox team - and you.

Philips saw the writing on the wall back in June. Even though it’s still developing its own music players - it has seven PlaysForSure devices that most people have never heard of - Philips unexpectedly announced that its new speaker system accessories would also be iPod-compatible. This is a win-win situation for Philips, which gets to continue creating and marketing novel products, but without tying them to unpopular devices or formats. It’s no surprise that other iPod hardware competitors, such as Samsung and Toshiba, have made hundreds of millions of dollars providing critical iPod hardware components directly to Apple - memory chips, hard disks, and more. Of course, some of these parts wind up in both iPods and their own devices; you can guess which ones sell better.

Despite all the apparent acrimony between Apple and its numerous rivals, iPod owners still know and respect your brands, and would love to see you competing with the “iPod economy’s” current players in all sorts of categories - iPod-targeted speakers, headphones, car accessories, wireless devices, sports gear, and more. Consider Bose. It opted to join the iPod bandwagon rather than compete with it, and single-handedly released the iPod’s top-selling speaker. We’re pretty sure that a Sony-branded iPod speaker dock would light the world on fire faster than a Sony-branded Walkman speaker dock, and the same goes for once-notable speaker and web camera maker Creative, which could be leveraging its technologies to tens of millions of iPod owners instead of the handfuls of Zen owners. And imagine an iRiver-developed line- and mic-audio recording accessory for 5G iPods. The possibilities are endless.

Readers, what do you think? Would you buy a Creative, iRiver, or Sony-branded accessory for the iPod? Or has the rhetoric and ill will of the last five years discouraged you from buying products from iPod competitors? We look forward to reading your opinions and comments below.

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Comments

1

I’d definitely be okay with buying an iRiver-branded accessory (provided it was any good), but I hate everything Sony makes, and I’ll never buy anything from SanDisk cos of that obnoxious iDon’t campaign.

Posted by eiscir in cork, ireland on July 26, 2006 at 11:48 AM (PDT)

2

Speakers created by Sony or Creative sound impressive.  I’d bite.

Posted by Gordy. in Atlanta, GA on July 26, 2006 at 12:34 PM (PDT)

3

I already own a set of portable Creative speakers that I use for my iPods. I would love to have a set I could dock my Nano and 5G with.

Posted by rockbox on July 26, 2006 at 3:00 PM (PDT)

4

Honestly, I would not mind buying a non-Apple accessory for my iPod.  As long as they are designed well I would definitely buy it.  However, the same does not go for other non-iPod portable mp3 players.  Apple is my most trusted mp3 and computer company and I can not wait until next year when I buy my first Mac computer!

Posted by pitchmyquidditch on July 26, 2006 at 4:11 PM (PDT)

5

Absolutely. The bigger the iPod ‘ecosystem’ is, the better for Apple and the iPod.

I wouldn’t mind buying a Sony branded iPod accessory. I like Sony a lot (just not their TVs which suck). And people already buy Sony earphones to use with their iPods so it’s just an extension of that.

Posted by Pikemann_Urge on July 26, 2006 at 4:13 PM (PDT)

6

I don’t think anyone cares what brand makes accessories. They just want quality. You certainly show that there is quality in a diverse selection of brands.

But you do point out how foolish it is for many of these companies to ignore the player that has more than 75% of overall market share merely to placate Microsoft. Now that it seems possible that MS is going to screw them, perhaps they’ll learn that such partnerships are always temporary, and that a big company like MS has no concern for the long-term results of its “partners”.

Posted by Kirk McElhearn on July 27, 2006 at 1:29 AM (PDT)

7

Bottom line:  Quality and Price usually triumph.  Give me quality products and a good price and I’ll consider them.

Posted by Doctor Geek on July 27, 2006 at 6:16 AM (PDT)

8

I’d buy any accessory that’s built with quality, fits my needs and priced right.  That’s what comes first, I could care less who made it.  I didn’t buy an iPod just because it was made by Apple.  As a matter of fact it’s the ONLY Apple product I own. Now that I think about it, most of my electronics are Sony.  My entire Audio/Video system is Sony minus speakers and iPod. I bought an iPod cause if fit all of my needs.

So to Sony, Creative and the likes… Bring it On!

Posted by 3rdEye on July 27, 2006 at 6:37 AM (PDT)

9

I’m more likely to buy a product with a big well-known name - known to the general public, not early adopters or people who read tech blogs.  So, I would buy a Sony or Bose product over an iRiver on SanDisk product.

Having said that I’ve been burned by a short-lived DVD-player by Sony, so now am reading Consumer Reports reviews for my next electronic purchase.

As for iPod accessories, I’ve already bought too many and need to stop before I drain my bank account.  If a product looks tight and clean like the iPod, I will more than likely buy it; that’s why I continue to have my eye on the Bose Soundock.  Too me, every other speaker system looks clunky.

Posted by alexarch in Dallas, TX on July 27, 2006 at 7:06 AM (PDT)

10

Even if i didnt previously own an iPod, i would choose it because of 2 main reasons. 1) All those compatible accessories out there and there’s even more coming. and 2) my friends have one.

Posted by Jaeboy on July 27, 2006 at 9:11 PM (PDT)

11

I’ve got nothing against buying a Sony or whatever speakers, but there are a lot of players already in this space. I’m not sure they are used to competing down in the gutter like this.

Posted by Countach on July 28, 2006 at 5:21 AM (PDT)

12

Every company has the right to make their own decisions.
I don’t like the scorn ‘Microsofties’, don’t forget that probably 90% of iPod users are ‘Microsofties’ - so, please, you can be an Apple fan, but don’t force others to be.

This call sounds like telling Apple to stop making Mac OS and start making Windows, hey 95% of the people cannot be wrong, can they?

Posted by nyalien in New York on July 28, 2006 at 6:42 AM (PDT)

13

Nyalien,
Sony and the other companies don’t have to stop competing with the ipod, but they mind as well cash out while the ipod is #1 on the market by building accessories for it.  For example look at sony in the digital camera market (being a photographer, I’ve researched this), Sony makes the imaging sensor for most of the major camera makers out there to inlcude Nikon’s PRO SLR’s and Canon’s prosumer gear.  Some of these sensors they put in their own cameras as well.  And even though the last 2-3 Pro and semi Pro camera bodies released by Nikon have Sony imaging sensors in them Sony has recently launch their first SLR Camera and have publicly stated they are after Nikon’s #2 position.  A little sidetracked I know but I’m just saying you can compete and do business with a company at the same time, something sony has done for ages but for some reason it seems every company wants to be the “iPod Killer”.

Posted by 3rdEye on July 28, 2006 at 8:29 AM (PDT)

14

nyalien: Please read before commenting. “Microsofties” wasn’t scorn, and it wasn’t referring to Microsoft’s customers - it was, as was made patently obvious, referring to Microsoft’s digital media partners. It also was clear that the editorial was not calling for companies to stop making competing products (“you don’t have to quit making portable media hardware. Just follow Philips’ lead and make a few products that are iPod-compatible.”).

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 28, 2006 at 8:50 AM (PDT)

15

I already bought a Sony Car estereo simply because I can plug my ipod to it, even in the TV ads they show a guy connecting a white cable to the system…

Posted by Fake on July 28, 2006 at 3:35 PM (PDT)

16

Sony partnering with Apple’s iPod franchise? That’ll be the day…it’ll be as if they’ve admitted THEY LOST and on their own turf, losing out in the music reproduction business to a computer company.

Heck, they probably still haven’t figured out why ATRAC hasn’t caught on. THIS is what you want partnering with Apple? I think Apple would be wise to see how BluRay goes first.

Posted by flatline response on July 29, 2006 at 11:53 AM (PDT)

17

Anything that doesn’t play AAC is nothing but a brick to me.  No AAC support = no sale.

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on July 30, 2006 at 1:20 PM (PDT)

18

And we (Apple) *promise* we won’t do to you what we’re doing to Motorola with the ROKR - with you it *will* be different.

Posted by kokketiel on August 1, 2006 at 5:07 AM (PDT)

19

Jeremy,

I find your comments most amusing.  As you encourage other companies to do things the “Apple” way, I encourage companies to stop making so many iPod products.  It seems the mantra of every die hard iPod owner is to make their iPod the electronic swiss army knife for all of their needs.  While novel, do any of these products do any one thing really well? Hardly.  You rave about the Bose Sounddock, which without the ipod is more or less useless because of its propriatary ipod dock. Further, it’s neat tidy package provides miniscule stereo imaging and the minimal depth of the cabinet cannot provide real bass without some serious electronic equalization. Most funny is the remote control, which really is not necessary if you are sitting a foot away, the only place you will detect any stereo imaging. Up until several years ago, Bose made a product called the Roommate powered speaker.  They came in a very durable plastic cabinets with a single bose 901 driver, a simple 1/8” stereo jack input and best of all no power brick.  These sound quite good, offer as much stereo separation as you have speaker wire and have rich bass for their size.  I would pit these against the Apple Hifi any day of the week.  Creative makes a cordura, padded travel bag for their 2.1 soundworks speakers that includes a rechargeable battery pack to use on the go.  With speakers, this creative product will cost you $150.  Again, a cheaper, better sounding solution.  I opted to have a 1/8” mini stereo input installed on my car via disk changer port so I could plug any stereo output device into my car stereo.  You give the Tivoli Pal radio a mediocre review because it does not include an ipod charging unit.  It has both a stereo line in and out, a fantastic am/fm tuner and water-resistant cabinet. In addition to its fantastic sound and rechargeable battery, the best thing about the Pal is that you don’t need an ipod to use it.  You further criticize it because it is not stereo, however you praise the Sounddock for being a stereo product.

I know this argument will fall back on the fact that these products do not have a remote control or a battery charging docking station.  Well gee, any 12’ mini stereo to rca cable can work in place of a remote.  And, if Apple didn’t charge so damn much for a wall charger and cable (what $30 or more?) there would not be such a demand for these marginal products that sacrifice sound quality for features. 

The best part of the ipod is its simplicity and the ease with which it allows people to listen to many varieties of music at any place or time.  This plethora of ipod products makes enjoying music way too complicated. 

P.S. Isn’t the ipod already compatible with the usb ports on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 usb ports?

Posted by coolbreeze on August 1, 2006 at 2:15 PM (PDT)

20

Coolbreeze: (1) The Sounddock and Tivoli PAL received identical ratings, yet you claim we “raved” about one and gave a “mediocre review” to the other one. They’re both B+ (very good) products, at two totally different price levels, offering totally different advantages and disadvantages.

(2) “Any 12’ mini stereo to RCA cable can work in place of a remote.” This sort of suggestion really indicates that there’s no realistic response that will satisfy your needs - by this logic, a bicycle works as well as an airplane because they both take you places, a wired network is as good as or better than a wireless network because it serves the same purpose and is cheaper, etc.

We’re not talking about black and white concepts here - these are shades of gray products, reviews, etc.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 29, 2006 at 9:43 PM (PDT)

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