How Apple can weather mounting iPod threats | iLounge Article

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How Apple can weather mounting iPod threats

If you’ve ever worked hard on something and watched someone else brazenly copy it, you probably have some idea how Apple Computer must be feeling right now. Throughout 2004, at least five different major companies tried to knock off the iPod’s interface, business model, and/or marketing strategies, but none had the gusto or product that could derail Apple’s bullet train.

pic In recent days, however, legitimate threats to the iPod’s momentum have appeared: knock-offs and clones on the low-end, aggressive new multimedia challengers on the high-end. So now more than ever, Apple needs to take actions - some quiet, some loud - to prepare itself both for what’s happening today and about to happen over the next several months. To that end, iLounge humbly offers the following suggestions as to how the next stage of the iPod’s evolution to ubiquity could best be managed.

Stay on Message, Call Sony Out as a Pretender: The single strongest theme Apple enunciated in 2004 was one we editorialized on twice during the year (1, 2): the iPod is the de facto successor to Sony’s Walkman. It’s a powerful message, and a winning one - so much in fact that we hear it’s now basically taken for granted even on the streets of Sony’s native Japan, which would have seemed impossible only three years ago.

We continue to believe that this theme is Apple’s single best rhetorical weapon, as it has a simplicity that has resonated in popular and media circles. Now it bears further repetition and emphasis - with a new twist: even if you pack hundreds or thousands of songs onto another device, you can’t get the iPod’s awesome user interface anywhere else. Period.

pic The reason this is necessary, of course, is that Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) is rapidly gaining popular mindshare as a multi-function device that plays games, music, movies, and photographs - and Apple really hasn’t responded. We have numerous guesses as to why, but none of the explanations (including, most improbably, hopes of a post-Kunitake Ando Sony/Apple alliance) are compelling enough to justify Apple’s silence at a critical juncture in the iPod’s history. And all Apple has to say is one thing that most PSP owners (and critics) already know: other than games, the PSP doesn’t do anything, particularly music or photo organization, especially well. You can buy a memory card and put a bunch of music or pictures on it, but sifting through and enjoying anything is a surprising chore for a device with two joysticks and a screen.

Sony’s trying very hard to look like an iPod competitor. In late 2004 and early 2005, the company showed itself willing to buy the respect from fashion designers and reporters that Apple had built from grass roots with the iPod. Like so many of the company’s ham-handed PR efforts, Sony’s embarrassingly brazen Pret-a-PSP fashion show in March tried to create out of whole cloth a PSP fashion buzz resembling the spontaneous development of iPod fashion cases by top designers over the past few years. Similarly, Sony has done everything short of inventing a fake critic to build media praise for the PSP, delivering boxes full of free PSPs and software to well-read critics and offering to fly the best-known of them on expenses-paid junkets to test upcoming products.

That’s why we weren’t at all surprised to see all the media excitement over the $249.99 PSP - even when its music, movie, and photo functionality are so weakly implemented. It’s easy not to mind paying $120 for a Memory Stick to store 1GB of your music or movies when you didn’t have to cough up $250 for the PSP, and even easier to overlook the $40-50 game and $20 movie price tags when you get them for free. That might even explain why virtually no one has commented on the absurdity of buying $20 UMD movies (instead of, say, $20 DVDs) that can’t be viewed on televisions. But it doesn’t explain why Apple hasn’t said anything - and we think now’s the time to speak up.

Thanks to its pricing decisions, Sony didn’t achieve the PSP sell-outs it expected and boldly promised, and thanks to its use of proprietary memory cards and discs, it hasn’t yet won over the skeptical masses it needs in order to sell tens of millions of anything. In other words, Apple has an absolutely prime opportunity right now to deliver the message that millions of people want to hear them say:

pic “We have something coming. It’s going to use a hard disk, not proprietary memory cards or discs. It’s going to integrate with your computer and the rest of your home A/V equipment. And for 90% of the population, it’s going to be better than the PSP. Save your money.”

And someone has to call Sony out for what it is: a well-financed but perpetually confused pretender that is already preparing to antiquate the PSP with something better, just like it did with three different models of the Network Walkman HD in the last 12 months. That someone should be Apple. At this point, no one else has the incentive or the cohones to do it.

Apple’s Public Relations, Re-thought: Marketing and public relations should be two of the most critical aspects of any growing business’s strategy. They’re separate, but heavily intertwined. Marketing is how you make your product appealing on a macro level - to the masses. Public relations is how you get the word out on your product at a micro level - to individual journalists, local and regional level events, and generally “to the streets.”

pic You need both in order to have mass-market success, but most companies go heavy on the marketing while ignoring the equally important PR side - and its sometimes overworked, underappreciated human resources. Any company with cash can blanket the airwaves with catchy commercials, but if the word on the streets isn’t positive, you’ll have problems. The public relations department is a company’s front line for generating and maintaining positive word of mouth. That’s exactly what happens when you have good relationships with journalists and the public at large.

It’s easy to scale marketing efforts upwards; Apple has done this extraordinarily well, and it has clearly yielded sales dividends. However, while it’s obvious that the company is also making efforts to reorganize its public relations efforts, more is needed here: specifically, more PR personnel and a different attitude as to who and what is “important” for PR purposes. iLounge’s editors frequently hear stories from journalists - including some very noteworthy ones - who can’t get Apple to respond or provide assets they need for iPod-related articles. Some decide not to write those articles. Others offer their editors stories about other (competing) devices. Who benefits? The iPod’s competitors. And for no good reason.

As one last comment on marketing: though Apple doesn’t need this reminder, we underscore (for those readers who missed the company’s days of management-by-sugar-water-salesman) that great technology companies go rotten when they are driven by marketing concerns rather than making great products and using marketers to figure out how to sell them. The brilliant technologist should always be the master - or at least, the truly equal partner - of the marketer, rather than the servant.

Finally, Re-invigorate Your Fans (and Refocus Your Legal Efforts): At the end of the day, the single biggest key to the iPod’s past success - and Apple’s continued survival in a PC industry full of laser-equipped sharks - has been fans; individual people who have in recent months spent $99 to $599 of their own money to buy iPods. These are people who feel as if they have a stake in the iPod’s success, and we dare assume that most of them love their iPods. Their positive feelings help give life to the Mac-selling “halo effect” that we don’t just believe to be true - we know it’s true - and the street-level word-of-mouth that turns new people every day into iPod owners.

pic Releasing new iPods keeps journalists excited and is great to attract new people to the party, but the existing huge iPod userbase now has a life of its own. Keeping these 15 million or so people happy - whether through iTunes Music/iPod giveaways, frequent software updates, or progressive customer service policies - is the key to creating sales of the next 15+ million iPods, all of which could easily take place in the next 12 months. There aren’t 15 million people singing the praises of the PlayStation Portable or any competitor - yet - so leveraging this base will yield commensurate rewards.

As a final note on this point, it should be blatantly obvious by this point that there’s a buzzkill effect in both journalistic and public circles whenever Apple has mounted legal threats against any of its fans - even ones the company thinks are deserving. More than any other company, Apple has benefitted tremendously from the passion, support, and - yes - occasional overenthusiasm of its fans. They should be appreciated, and never scorned. Fans aren’t parasites; they’re the ones who pump cash and optimism into your products and stock prices, turning your ideas into history book-class icons and your executives into multi-multi-millionaires. Love your fans and they’ll love you back.

There are much smarter ways to use the budget you’ve allocated for legal resources. Go after the people who are cloning iPod shuffles. Draw up the contracts for a worldwide iTunes Music Store where American customers can buy Japanese music and Chinese customers can buy American music. (At the moment, Japanese customers might be satisfied with an iTunes store where they can buy Japanese music.) Better yet, create the first iTV Store where people can download any TV show they want at 99 cents per half hour. Wasting your time and energy on comparatively trivial lawsuits and threats is beneath such a great company, especially when there’s a world waiting to be conquered.

Agree with this editorial? Disagree? As always, we love to hear your opinions. Post them in the comments box below.

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Comments

1

“We have something coming. It’s going to use a hard disk, not proprietary memory cards or discs. It’s going to integrate with your computer and the rest of your home A/V equipment. And for 90% of the population, it’s going to be better than the PSP. Save your money.”

such an announcement would be huge.  apple is not the type of company to just open up and let the public know about what theyre working on.

” Better yet, create the first iTV Store where people can download any TV show they want at 99 cents per half hour. “

YES!  i would absolutely LOVE an iTV store.  DRM would be much less of an issue with TV shows than it is with music.  and 99 cents an episode… wow.

Jeremy, I hope your predictions are correct :)

Posted by StinkieDMB in Pittsburgh, PA on April 8, 2005 at 12:21 AM (CDT)

2

In a piece that begins with “If you’ve ever worked hard on something and watched someone else brazenly copy it, you probably have some idea how Apple Computer must be feeling right now,” I find it hard to understand your blithe dismissal of Apple’s legal defense of its intellectual property and trade secrets as ‘comparatively trivial.’

Do you really believe it’s okay for a developer, who signed a nondisclosure agreement, to sell or give away his developer copies of Tiger? Is it really acceptable to post internal Apple Computer documents, with only the ‘need to know confidential’ stamp removed, on the internet?

Those guys aren’t ‘bloggers’ and they aren’t ‘fans’ and they aren’t ‘journalists.’ They’re encouraging Apple employees and contractors to violate NDAs with Apple so they and their buddies can profit from it. Apple lost untold amounts of money because they didn’t have the market surprise of ‘just one more thing’ that they got from previous product introductions (i.e. the G4 iMac and the iPod itself). How much buzz (and sales) would Apple have received if the Mac mini had been a true surprise instead of a ‘yawn, already saw that, and it’s not even as good as I heard it was going to be.’

These crooks stole Apple’s property, profited from it, and now want a license to keep doing the same thing. If Apple can’t make money, and has to keep defending its rights to have trade secrets (and Apple is a company protected by laws just like other companies are), there aren’t going to be any iPods, or any Macs for that matter. If that’s not a ‘legitimate threat,’ I don’t know what is.

If the PowerPage/ThinkSecret suits aren’t what you’re talking about here, I apologize for the misunderstanding. But if you honestly do think that the defendants in those lawsuits are just ‘fans,’ that theft of trade secrets is trivial, and if you really think this is simple bluster on Apple’s part against a few poor, innocent waifs, I don’t think you have any idea what threatens Apple and what doesn’t.

Posted by pumpkin1 in Oklahoma on April 8, 2005 at 3:40 AM (CDT)

3

The best thing Apple can do to assure dominance is work on the iTunes store and software.  It’s not so much the iPod hardware which is so attractive (although that is important), as the functional seamlessness of easily finding and downloading the music you want.

There are, what, 4 million songs now on iTunes—that is not nearly enough, and the impressive number belies the fact that there are huge gaps in the collection (e.g. no Beatles, no Led Zepellin, etc). 

And spare a thought for the Japanese music fans: because of legal issues with Japanese record labels, there is no Japanese iTunes store and virtually no J-pop (the second-biggest music market after the US) available to download.  Apple hasn’t broken down the Japanese labels resistence to allowing their music to sell for 99 yen—they want something more like 300 or 400 yen.  And while iPod remains dominant in Japan (even despite the lack of music for it), Sony probably prefers it that way..!

Posted by adrianT on April 8, 2005 at 6:03 AM (CDT)

4

Having both an iPod and a PSP I find that each is great, but for different things. The iPod is nearly a perfect music playing machine, tho when I paid $400 for its 20gig size I felt it cost too much but was still able to justify it. The PSP at first felt too expensive at $250, but since buying it I realize that with the amazing screen, built-in WiFi, and a more than decent gaming system I’m actually getting more for my $250 than I did for my $400. The PSP software is awkward to use, but it does a passable job displaying photos and slideshows, and once past the tedium of converting video clips it does an amazing job of playing them. The PSP is no iPod killer, but the iPod is definitely no PSP killer. There’s a need for both of these wonderful and very different devices.

Posted by davermont in Vermont USA on April 8, 2005 at 6:29 AM (CDT)

5

Remember, for ever PSP sold, it could mean 1 less iPod sold.  Afterall, if you were to decide between an iPod and a PSP (most people wont get both), a LOT of people will most likely settle for the PSP as their primary device.  Afterall, it can do everything and it is cheaper.

This is something that is very interesting, even though the PSP is not the iPod’s direct competitor, it is adversly affecting its sales in the short run.

Posted by William Chen on April 8, 2005 at 7:28 AM (CDT)

6

“More than any other company, Apple has benefited tremendously from the passion, support, and—yes - occasional overenthusiasm of its fans. They should be appreciated, and never scorned. Fans aren’t parasites; they’re the ones who pump cash and optimism into your products and stock prices, turning your ideas into history book-class icons and your executives into multi-multi-millionaires. Love your fans and they’ll love you back.”

One cannot lump all “fans” into one category. Hollywood personalities often have a large fan base, but they also have fans that have turned stalkers.  Stalkers have been known to do great harm to the person they idolize. Juvenile rumor sites who compete with one another to get the latest scoop, whether factual or not, publish harmful words that serve no purpose whatsoever.  I put them in the same category at the scandal sheets that populate the supermarket checkout lines.  These folks get sued all of the time and I do not see a cry from the legitimate press to leave them alone because they are only enthusiastic “fans.”

Posted by Bill Bird in NY on April 8, 2005 at 8:53 AM (CDT)

7

Pumpkin1 writes:

“Do you really believe it’s okay for a developer, who signed a nondisclosure agreement, to sell or give away his developer copies of Tiger?”

No, unless the agreement permits either of the two, in which case there’s nothing wrong with it. I haven’t read the agreement, but my assumption is that neither selling nor giving away copies of Tiger is permitted under it. These alleged acts of piracy aren’t what I was referring to.

“Is it really acceptable to post internal Apple Computer documents, with only the ‘need to know confidential’ stamp removed, on the internet? Those guys aren’t ‘bloggers’ and they aren’t ‘fans’ and they aren’t ‘journalists.’”

It’s patently obvious that they’re both journalists and fans - the former because they produce original reporting on Apple products based on information provided by sources, the latter because they have expressed and demonstrated a specific interest in Apple products. Even if you deny the former, it’s pretty hard to deny the latter.

On the question of whether they’re merely posting “Apple Computer documents, with only the ‘need to know confidential’ stamp removed” and doing nothing more, I would ask the responding question: “how did they get those documents? Did the documents bear those stamps when the journalists received them? Were the journalists under any obligation to honor such stamps, once the documents got out?”

Having been a journalist myself for more than a dozen years, I have been handed all sorts of fascinating and confidential things, and different rules have applied to each of them: some I’ve seen under NDA, some I’ve seen under a gentleman’s agreement, and the vast majority I’ve received under no agreement whatsoever. People leak things - sometimes with permission, sometimes without permission. You never know for sure.

(continued)

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 8, 2005 at 10:31 AM (CDT)

8

But the rule generally is that if it’s out there, and it’s accurate, it’s fair game to report. It’s not the journalist’s responsibility to stand watch at a company’s gates and prevent pieces of paper from flying out. To the contrary, it’s the company’s. And if the company fails to prevent information from getting out, they cannot rightfully sue the journalist for writing about it.

The journalist’s responsibility is to write about subjects of interest to her/his target audience. For the journalist not to do this out of fear of -corporate- prosecution is what’s known as a “chilling effect” that damages the free flow of public information in society - a highly negative, long-lasting consequence that is far more important than the specifics of any trivial disclosure about a breakout box for Garageband.

And by the way, there’s not a shred of evidence to suggest that sales of the Mac mini were in any way damaged by discussions of an inexpensive Macintosh computer. To the contrary, they were selling out within hours or days of release, and have been supported with no real advertising to speak of by comparison with the blanket campaigns Apple runs for its premium computers.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 8, 2005 at 10:31 AM (CDT)

9

I just read this article - or better had it read by me by a softwar - and I was like: wow!

What would apple be if it listened to their fans…. Apple has allways depended on fans… designers rolling their eyes about windows-users… knowing that the triuph is theirs…. wow how dramatic!

Ease of use… allways the advantage of apple… unlike any other product the iPod offers nearly unlimited opportunites!

I sooo like the iTV-idea!
But having been an X-Phile for years I know it won’t be that easy - Big tv-stations (Fox !!! grrr) block the spreading of tv-series over the internet. Also a case of: don’t waste lawsuits on your fans!
But admit: the time of the VCR is gone… how great would a tv-ipod be… how great would it be carring around 60GB of movies and TV!

3” isn’t to small… I’ve seen a radio with a 3” monitor that plays dvds and its wonderfull… how much does a psp have?

Portablity is the future and the iPod has been “the” portable entertainment… and should remain it!

Posted by JumpingBlueberry in Germany on April 8, 2005 at 11:13 AM (CDT)

10

As far as Apple coming out and making some vague announcement to try and head off Sony psp sales, I would have thought that Jeremy for one should be more than familiar with Apple’s / Steve Jobs preference for announcing a product and having it instore or on the website for sale the next day.  That was after all one of the snags with the relationship with Motorola.

Also, as far as Sony throwing gifts, free merch the way of editors / reviewers, I had at least read in places like pcworld and nytimes that they cannot accept such gifts and thus not all reviews are going to be biased by the cheap hooks.  I read consistent reviews of the PSP that for games it rocks, for all else, don’t expect much.

Posted by snappy on April 8, 2005 at 11:24 AM (CDT)

11

In my opinion Apple will survive the “mounting iPod threats” by doing what they’ve always done:  innovate and release superior products.  They WON’T win the game by simply responding to each new development like the PSP or NAPSTER as if it is a mortal threat.  Apple actually has had a “vision” for the iPod that has resulted in amazingly well designed products and user experiences.  Yes there will be a “video iPod” someday but when this happens you can bet it won’t simply be a white-colored knock-off of the PSP.  It will be the user experience that will allow it to dominate. The PSP is a complete joke when it comes to video. User’s don’t want to go thru multiple steps to get their content onto portable devices.  Only the “geeks” and fanboys will do this.  Apple will make it as easy as syncing up with iTunesVideo or hooking it to your Tivo.  In any case, they won’t release anything until they’ve boiled it down and it has reached a state of “elegance”.

SO—personally I’m not worried for iPod’s future.  There is plenty of competition out there, but very very few are playing at the level of Apple, or frankly even playing the same game.

Posted by bruce m in los angeles on April 8, 2005 at 11:24 AM (CDT)

12

Snappy: I’m familiar with that statement, but it’s not borne out by reality, and was most likely just an excuse on Motorola’s part. Apple has shown and announced plenty of products months before they are available (take a look at our review of the iPod shuffle Battery Pack, announced and shown in early January, released last week of March, amongst others), and even teased the iPod photo a bit before announcement by knocking competing products that didn’t include TV display functionality.

Bruce: I agree generally with your sentiments, except for one: there are some developments worth responding to (PSP) and others (Creative/Rio/iRiver/Napster posturing) that aren’t. The PSP is a full frontal assault on the iPod, and if not dealt with as such, all media momentum is already in place for it to be crowned “the iPod of holiday season 2005.” (That exact sentiment is already being tossed around.) Waiting until the minute of release to announce something better ain’t gonna work with this one - unless that minute is, well, May.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 8, 2005 at 11:51 AM (CDT)

13

William Chen writes of the PSP:

“Afterall, it can do everything and it is cheaper.”

Um, no. It can’t hold my 11,000 song library like my 60 GB iPod Photo. That is VERY important to me and, I imagine, millions of others.

I own both the iPod and the PSP. The iPod is a killer music machine. The PSP is a killer game machine. There’s room in my life for both, especially since there’s no product that comes close to being a “do everything” machine (yet). The PSP could have come close, but without a hard drive (which I suspect Sony left out so they could sell overpriced Memory Stick Duos) it will NEVER be the “do everything” device that some are claiming it is.

Jeremy, great editorial. I especially was pleased to see you exhort Apple to take care of their existing customer base. Gapless playback, anyone???

And the iTV Store - brilliant idea!!! I can’t imagine why the networks wouldn’t get behind this like they have TV on DVD. It’s another way to make money off a product they’ve been used to giving away free.

Posted by Fangorn in Texas on April 8, 2005 at 11:53 AM (CDT)

14

PART ONE:

It is clear that the iPod is the undisputed rightful champion in the Portable MP3 player catagory. Sales and it’s iconic stature speaks for itself. There is no argument there, currently.

But let me point out that the PSP is an INDIRECT, and serious competitor to the iPod even though they are like Apples to Oranges. Why you ask? I’ll explain…

Although there is some overlap in each of the devices ability, example: the iPod plays music and displays pictures, the PSP plays music and displays pictures, they are two different beasts… but the consumer at large can’t afford both a new iPod AND a new PSP. So people will have to choose: go for a $299 iPod that can play music without peer or go for a $250 PSP that can play games without peer as well as play music, movies, pictures, WiFi, etc.

The average consumer that makes up the back-bone of all consumer electronics is a cash-conscience lot. They don’t have tons of disposable income, in gerneral, set aside just to buy $1,000 worth of iPod and PSP goodness so they will be forced to DECIDE which is the most “bang” for their buck and which better suits their needs at their given price-point.

I can easily see parents in a Best Buy wanting to get little Johnny a Xmas preset but they only have $300 to spend. Little Johnny asked for BOTH an iPod and a PSP for his presents but the average parents can’t absorb both. They will have to choose and from a mulitmedia stand point, sorry to say, the PSP can do more for LESS money than a full-sized iPod. Even though I do believe the PSP doesn’t do music and pictures as well as the iPod, it CAN play 3D, full color, amazing games and almost HDTV-like video and movies, WiFi… the winner would be clear to most parents or people strapped for cash or simply cash-conscience.

(Continued….)

Posted by FallN in New York, NY on April 8, 2005 at 12:17 PM (CDT)

15

PART TWO:

The PSP is a threat but not a direct one. As I stated above, the clear winner in the Music and Picture playback and ease of use is the iPod but the iPod can’t hold a candle to the full multimedia spectrum that the PSP can handle.

Sure, you have your cheaper iPod Shuffles what would allow a person with a little more money to have an iPod AND a PSP, but most people will say they don’t want to carry around ANOTHER music player when they have a PSP AND they might think the $99+ Shuffle is a waste, they have the PSP to listen to music on now, and they could use that $99 to buy two more games for the PSP.

It’s a very delicate dance. Consumers are conscience of price tags and their budget. People might lean toward the PSP simply because it can do so many things the iPod has yet to realize or materialize.

The coming Fall and Xmas season will be the barometer in which we measure the “winner”. Apple needs to reinvigorate it’s iPod lineup with something more profound than a cheap looking, screenless flash player if it wants to seriously slay the PSP competition and cripple it’s foes.

The battle for the consumer’s small piece of disposable income is at stake and the winner will take all.

Posted by FallN in New York, NY on April 8, 2005 at 12:18 PM (CDT)

16

“But the rule generally is that if it’s out there, and it’s accurate, it’s fair game to report. It’s not the journalist’s responsibility to stand watch at a company’s gates and prevent pieces of paper from flying out. To the contrary, it’s the company’s. And if the company fails to prevent information from getting out, they cannot rightfully sue the journalist for writing about it.”

Apple is not suing these rumor mongers for publishing information that was leaked illegally to them, they are suing to find the lawbreakers that did the illegal leaking.  Let’s us say that a journalist was given information that outlined a terrorist nuclear attack and published such information.  Would they be within their rights to shield the source?  What about a plot to burgle your house?  Would the perpetrators be shielded if they gave that information to a person publishing on the net after the fact?  The key here is that a crime has been committed.  Read the judge’s words carefully.  The first amendment gives the press certain rights, but victims of crimes also have rights, in this case Apple.  A person that blogs does not have the same shield as a priest or attorney although many reporters feel that their rights trump all others.

Posted by Bill Bird in NY on April 8, 2005 at 12:32 PM (CDT)

17

I never said it could do everything well.  It can DO everything.

Posted by William Chen on April 8, 2005 at 2:14 PM (CDT)

18

I feel that apple addicts will stay true no matter what comes out on the market. Why would anyone get a PSP if they already have a laptop? It just doesnt make sense to me.

I have a laptop and two ipods. I’m happy with my purchase. I think video games just rot the mind anyways. I can’t see myself stuck on a screen for hours at a time.

I’m a true-blue apple addict. I admit that the PSP features caught my eye, but you can’t beat apple quality control. You don’t hear much about apple things breaking down. I can’t wait to hear about some PSPs breaking.

Posted by imike09 in Hawaii on April 8, 2005 at 2:31 PM (CDT)

19

Jesus. Your arguments are simplistic, naive and amateurish. It’s just as well these kind of “open letters” where internet fan sites instruct professional companies on where they are going wrong have no leverage. I can’t even bring myself to spend the time to pick your argument apart. But, for example, it is up to Apple to say the PSP can’t do other things well, or that the iPod is the Walkman’s sucessor? Not only would that be in poor taste, but it would be completely ineffective. Just like it is not your job to tell Apple how to maintain its iPod market share, it is equally not their job to review theirs and their competitor’s products. Thank God *they* understand this relationship.

Posted by rossb on April 10, 2005 at 3:08 PM (CDT)

20

Apple needs to fight Sony back!  Make it loud an clear that if you want integration with the best software iTunes, and you wanna listen to music, you’ve got to have an iPod.  The iPod is infinitely better at playing music and is a lot cheaper.  A PSP and 1 gig PSP memory stick will already cost you more than an iPod and still not even come close the iPod’s mainstream appeal and simplicity.  Be like Napster and start an aggressive campaign.  MAKE THESE FACTS KNOW!  START A CAMPAIGN APPLE!

Posted by petew432 on April 10, 2005 at 3:14 PM (CDT)

21

Ross: Yeah, it actually is Apple’s job to aggressively market its products and distinguish them from competing offerings. That’s called “competition.” As we noted in the article, Apple already -has- called the iPod the next Walkman, so it looks like you’re saying they shouldn’t be doing what they’ve already done. And it’s our job to render outside opinions on how they’re doing. That’s called “criticism.” If you’re looking only for news and facts rather than opinions, stick to our news section - it’ll be easier for you to deal with.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2005 at 4:24 PM (CDT)

22

Apple themselves have stated that this is the year of HD. By implementing HD screens (16:9) in the iPod, and possibly introducing a 10GB iPod photo at the same price point of the PSP, Apple will be able to reassert itself as a the market media dominator.

Posted by Vishalca1 on April 10, 2005 at 4:27 PM (CDT)

23

No big deal.  Apple has to strggle just to keep six months ahead in the computer industry as Dell, et al copy virtually every innovation.  Apple may win all the style and design (which iincludes functionality) awards for their computers but six months later you’ll see all the dumb, brown box PC manufacturers trying to imitate something they’ve done.

The iPod has just proven a bit more difficult.  But sooner or later the bigger companies will catch up or pass Apple unless they can continue to innovate the iPod.  Sometimes they can do this with a product line but sometimes they can’t.

NO PC company has ever come close to winning the awards that Apple wins (and I’m not talking about pretty looks) for their computer designs.  But fame when you’re up against the likes of Dell & Co. or Microsoft is a fleeting thing.  Heck, Microsoft stole “Windows” from the Macintosh in the first place.  That’s the easiest example to see.  And now they’re trying to make Longhorn as good as OSX, an OS that’‘s now getting ready to move into its fifth major revision.  Good luck Microsoft.  It’s going to take you years to cach up again.

Did anyone reading his actually ever use Windows 3.1.1 or Windows 95 at the time of comparable Mac OS systems?  Enough said.

Posted by glockster in U.S. on April 10, 2005 at 4:29 PM (CDT)

24

I think most people realize that iPod & PSP are completely different beasts.  Sony is not marketing the PSP as an “iPod killer”.  You are.  Last I checked, Sony had an entire line of <sarcasm>“iPod killers” </sarcasm> with their Network Walkman crap.  No need to head this one off at the pass.  Apple will continue to be just fine.

Posted by Quoth_the_Raven in Herndon, VA on April 10, 2005 at 4:38 PM (CDT)

25

now where would apple be without the lounge haha

i really dont see the psp as a big competitor to the ipod. its like saying tissues are a competitor to cold medicine. ok thats the best i had at the moment. anyways…tissues are meant for one purpose medicine for another just like the psp and ipod. the psp no matter what sony says i focused on gaming. if it was focused more on general entertainment it would have much better battery life for watching movies. the fact that they packaged the spiderman two umd with i think a million of the first psps sold in the us is evidence that they want the psp to be more of a multifunctional device enen though it doesnt seem that way much at all to me. gaming is simple on the psp nothing else is and nothing else works well. to hold a movie of your own you have to have the movie and a 130 dollar duo stick. wheres the value there? i think the psp is just a hype in the entertainment market but is intended for gaming. the ipod is intended for audio entertainment and its perfected that. the psp shouldnt be considered a threat.

Posted by ruel on April 10, 2005 at 4:56 PM (CDT)

26

Jeremy: Do you recognise the difference between critising and advising? It’s in the address. Yours is patronising and constantly gives the impression that you think Apple has simply overlooked your ideas. And when inevitably some of your arguments are misplaced or even debatable, that address becomes insulting and arrogant.

The links to your “editorials” are broken at the moment, incidentally, but I assume you referred to Steve Jobs making comments at keynotes to the iPod as the Walkman of the 21st century. This is not Apple marketing the iPod as the “new walkman”, and probably, was in fact a reference to what a journalist had to say about it. Have you ever seen reference to the Walkman in an Apple ad? For Apple to make such overt reference would to the Walkman would be a massive boon and compliment for Sony, and perhaps even to rejuvenate the Walkman brandname.

And for Apple to go “AH! Let’s release a press statement telling everyone not to buy PSP’s because we’re going to scrap together an Apple version.” All I’m saying Jeremy, is that if you were in control of Apple, certain sugar-water salesmen would have never looked so good. Not that I could do better - and hence, the reason I don’t try to “put Steve straight” on where he’s going wrong.

Posted by rossb on April 10, 2005 at 6:05 PM (CDT)

27

Introducing the new iTissue.
Holds over 100 boogers at near-nasal quality*.
Only 5x5 inches and .002 inch thin
Comes in standard white.
Blow your nose wirelessly via Bluenose technology**.
Reusable tissue capable of up to 2 hours continuous blowing***

*Capacity based on .02 oz per snot and 128 kilomucus/cm encoding.
**Requires iBlow or compatible third party acessory.
***Reusable tissues have a limited number of de-snot cycles and may eventually need to be replaced. Tissue life and number of de-snot cycles vary by use and settings. see http://www.apple.com/tissues.

Posted by renofett on April 10, 2005 at 6:12 PM (CDT)

28

Ross: “Have you ever seen reference to the Walkman in an Apple ad?” No. And the editorial never said “take out an ad and say this.”

As you might realize, there are different ways that Apple and its executives can (and do) communicate with the public outside of advertising; they give fully quotable interviews, provide off-the-record comments to journalists, hold press conferences, put on shows, and so forth. We’re not encouraging an advertisement, but rather one of these other options (particularly the first or second).

That said, Apple did exactly what you’re saying they’d never do (“in poor taste”) in its Japanese promotion of the iPod against Sony’s MiniDisc player. Perhaps you’ve seen the “Hello, iPod. Goodbye, MD.” campaign? I’m guessing you haven’t. Here’s the link. Check it out, then come back and tell us all again how you think Apple should be doing things - and why we’re the naive ones, not you.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2005 at 6:35 PM (CDT)

29

very nice
i said it was the first thing that came to my mind but well done

Posted by ruel on April 10, 2005 at 7:32 PM (CDT)

30

glockster, if OS X is so great, then why do 97% of computer users use Windows?

Posted by TommyTheCat in Washington on April 10, 2005 at 9:43 PM (CDT)

31

If Apple ends up creating a product with capabilities similar (albiet better) to the PSP, one can only hope it mantains the simplicity and quality of current iPods.

Posted by petew432 on April 10, 2005 at 10:38 PM (CDT)

32

thank you jeremy for writing this editorial.  i’m a public relations major and i wondered why i had to take so many marketing classes.  i’m doing a research assignment all about iPods and Apple, and your editorial helped me focus it so much better.  thanx!

Posted by jPod523 in Ohio, USA on April 10, 2005 at 11:16 PM (CDT)

33

I think Apple and Sony should collaborate to create some sort of “iPSP” - something with an easy interface for using and syncing to everything A/V and be a kick-ass game syste (as we all know of how Apple is when it comes to gaming). Sony gives the Windows area development and game support and Apple gives the incorporation into one’s life, Mac interface, and a sleek, lightweight hard drive device that is easy to use.

Apple = aesthetics; Sony = games/distribution, which will help spread the name of Apple as an awesome game device creator.


If only dreams were true…

Posted by DoTheChew on April 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM (CDT)

34

rossb: I just want to say, reading your comments just makes me think that you dont fully understand the way the world works.  Part of a journalist’s job is to critisize a company/product.  It’s called freedom of speech.  If you dont like it, or think that his opinions are irrelevant or not on topic, say that, but dont complain about him preaching to the company.  That’s his job.  If it weren’t for journalist’s critisising companies, they wouldnt know what the public wants.  Given, this is an Apple biased site, the information here is going to be slanted in a pro Apple view.  I know that, and everytime I read an article or review I remember that.  That’s my job, as the interested member of the public, to take in information and construct my own opinion.  In this case, the author, who I might add wrote a decent article, is providing a point of view for the public to ingest and take what they want from.  Take this article witha grain of salt, maybe do a little ACTUAL RESEARCH, and make your own opinions.  Then come back and post an inteligent resopnse.

Posted by psi++ on April 11, 2005 at 12:54 AM (CDT)

35

Hey Jeremy. Interesting take on Apple moving forward – can’t say I agree on most of it though so thought I would join the discussion.
When you bolded that “Apple should stay on message

Posted by garethw on April 11, 2005 at 9:05 AM (CDT)

36

...Cont:
The technologists should be the masters of the marketers call was also a very odd one – that goes against all well-established and received business wisdom. You suggest that great companies go rotten when driven by marketing – I guarantee that more companies have gone ass-up by focussing on the product rather than the markets desire. You design, build and distribute what people want. You don’t come up with a product and then try and sell it to the market. I completely agree that the technology teams shouldn’t be regarded as second-rate members and they need to suggest great technological concepts to the marketing team. But if the market-facing team find that those concepts aren’t what the market wants then bye-bye Apple.
Finally, going after small-fry individuals with your legal team does seem a bit heavy-handed – but to not do it and set precedent is a bit dangerous. If you let lots of little players do it, when the time comes to go after a big player for it, it’s a bit late – the market and even in some cases the courts can take the view that it’s a standard part of the competitive landscape and that it should be allowed. You’re right though – when weighed up against the negative view of the company, what delivers the most worth? Cautious aggressive old lawyers though, huh!

Posted by garethw on April 11, 2005 at 9:06 AM (CDT)

37

I’m a bit confused about how you feel about the PSP and weather or not it is a threat to the iPod.  You claim that “Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) is rapidly gaining popular mindshare

Posted by esquared on April 11, 2005 at 3:25 PM (CDT)

38

“glockster, if OS X is so great, then why do 97% of computer users use Windows?”

Take your pick:

1) Because Windows is what comes bundled with their PC.
2) Because 97% of computer users are idiots.

Since when does having a large percentage of users = great product?

Posted by Quoth_the_Raven in Herndon, VA on April 12, 2005 at 7:59 AM (CDT)

39

Jeremy—

To keep it brief—the best thing Apple can do is to stop focusing so much on marketing and instead make sure their products work as advertised.  Otherwise, the millions of PC users attracted by the iPod will not become new Apple fans, but rather will become embittered enemies. 

Raven—you left out 1(a): Because Windows has widespread support, terrific wealth of choice in software and hardware, and it runs on the easily upgradeable PC platform which offers first-rate performance at bargain-basement prices.  (For many—maybe most?—users it is an informed choice based on reason rather than emotion.)

Posted by Sparky the wonderdog on April 12, 2005 at 12:30 PM (CDT)

40

Whoa there, Jeremy, let’s keep things consistent, shall we?

“. . .there are some developments worth responding to (PSP) and others (Creative/Rio/iRiver/Napster posturing) that aren’t.”

Uh, no, not really. To “stay on message,” as you so rightly put it, Apple should exactly respond to the threats that endanger the iPod’s core competency: music playing. This is where the iPod is beginning to lose some credibility; its “sterling” audio quality is now being (rightly) called into question. Do a search and you’ll now find more than a few sonic examinations and comparisons of the iPod armada against various other DAPs. (Start with Bill Machrone’s excellent analysis of the iPod shuttle. http://machrone.home.comcast.net/playertest/playertest.htm)
The excellent iTunes interface and the incredible clickwheel can’t be the only bulwarks against the audio competition.

Further innovation is the only road to travel if Apple wants to cement the iPod as a “near perfect killer audio machine.” Right now, the iPod is a good device, but nowhere near perfection. Perfection lies in making the audio experience second to none, and Apple just can’t claim that distinction right now. MP3s that I’ve encoded (with LAME) and compared on a Zen Micro and mini with the same headphones reveal what plagues the iPods: a very perceptible lack of bass and bottom-end. The mini does fine in the mid-range and treble, but gives it up down under; the ZM sounds fuller and acquits itself rather nicely. (And gapless playback… hello??)

And yet. . .I shudder about giving up iTunes. Although, that’s another area where Apple needs to pay attention. Make the ripping function more robust with better error correction. Support more codecs. Cut a deal with XM/Sirius.

There’s a lot that Apple can do with the iPod line to keep it at the top as the Walkman’s successor. It just can’t all be marketing.

Posted by wuchmee on April 12, 2005 at 2:59 PM (CDT)

41

“Take your pick:

1) Because Windows is what comes bundled with their PC.
2) Because 97% of computer users are idiots.”

Or how about because windows has literally millions of pieces of software applications? Have you ever heard of a mac gamer?

Posted by TommyTheCat in Washington on April 12, 2005 at 3:29 PM (CDT)

42

“Or how about because windows has literally millions of pieces of software applications? Have you ever heard of a mac gamer?”

How many of those “millions” of pieces of software are actually any good?  Most of it is pure crap.

Tell me this:  Can you get Final Cut Pro for your POS Windows machine?  No! Or, how about iLife?  No! Logic? No!

Ever tried using the Windows version of ProTools?  I’m sure you haven’t, because, apparently all you do with your Windows PC is play games. Well, let me tell you, it’s a nightmare.

I don’t play games.  I’ve got much better things to do with my computer.

Posted by Quoth_the_Raven in Herndon, VA on April 12, 2005 at 6:40 PM (CDT)

43

How about price? an $800 PC is better than a $3000 Mac in all areas.

Posted by TommyTheCat in Washington on April 12, 2005 at 9:27 PM (CDT)

44

“Since when does having a large percentage of users = great product?”
The iPod, for one.

Posted by TommyTheCat in Washington on April 12, 2005 at 9:28 PM (CDT)

45

“How about price? an $800 PC is better than a $3000 Mac in all areas.”

Yeah, and a $499.00 Mac mini is better than an $800.00 PC in all areas.

Besides, for your $800.00 you won’t even come close to the increased usability, stability and bundled software value that Apple provides.  There is much more to a computer than hardware, Bucko!

Posted by Quoth_the_Raven in Herndon, VA on April 13, 2005 at 9:01 AM (CDT)

46

My PC:
1 gig of high speed ram
Serial ATA 250GB hard drive
Sony 16X CD/DVD burner
Radeon 9800 XT graphics card (128mb video ram)
Intel 2.8GHZ Northwood processor (overclocked to 3.4GHZ)
Asus motherboard
Total cost: $800

Mac Mini:
256mb low speed ram
40GB hard drive
“combo drive”
Radeon 9200 (32mb video ram)
PowerPC G4 1.25GHZ
Total cost: $499

So how exactly is the mac better?

Posted by TommyTheCat in Washington on April 13, 2005 at 12:14 PM (CDT)

47

“Price point” will make or break Apple’s dominance in the market and that holds true for all of Apple’s hardware. Even Harley-Davidson, as iconic as it is, has reduced production because of projected slowing sales. The masses always follow price point, unless it is trendy—just a small percentage follow design and quality.

Posted by FahrenheiPod 451 on April 13, 2005 at 2:14 PM (CDT)

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