Microsoft chairman Bill Gates sees consumers moving to mobile phones for listening to music on the go, and expects the iPod’s popularity to wane.
“As good as Apple may be, I don’t believe the success of the iPod is sustainable in the long run,” he said in an interview published Thursday in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “You can make parallels with computers: Apple was very strong in this field before, with its Macintosh and its graphics user interface—like the iPod today—and then lost its position.”
“If you were to ask me which mobile device will take top place for listening to music, I’d bet on the mobile phone for sure,” Gates said.
Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster said today that he does not think sales of the iPod will be affected by Yahoo’s new subscription-based music service offerings. “We do not anticipate the market share of the iPod will be meaningfully impacted by the emergence of Yahoo! and other music subscription services,” Munster said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “In addition, if subscription services become more successful, we believe that by year end Apple will introduce its own version of a subscription based music service.”
“We have seen over the last two years that the success of online music services is driven by compatible devices,” Munster said. “As a datapoint, despite new music services in the past year, Apple has maintained its ~80% market share in the portable audio device market. In other words, the risk to Apple is a killer new MP3 player, not a new online music service.” Munster also reiterated his that by the end of 2005 more than 35 million iPods will have shipped.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster notes that various iPod models account for 8 of the top 10 MP3 players in Amazon.com’s Top Sellers list for the devices. “We believe this exhibits Apple’s dominance in the portable MP3 market and shows that the initial exploratory phase of other MP3 players has lightened,” Munster said in a research note to clients provided to iLounge.
Munster also commented on Apple product availability. “We believe that Apple is improving production efficiency as evidenced by the majority of its products being shipped on the same business day,” Munster said. “This is critical to the Apple story as Apple products continue to experience strong demand as supported by the solid overall performance of Apple products on Amazon.com’s Top Seller Lists.”
In an interesting article for PBS, tech pundit Robert X. Cringely says the iTunes Music Store is Apple’s future — not the iPod. He says Apple will license out the iPod technology at the right time to become a software-only company when it comes to digital music.
“Ultimately, what Apple wants to do is make its money through iTunes, where the profit margins are better in the long term and the system is easily scalable,” Cringely says. “It was necessary to create the iPod platform to make this happen. But downward price pressures will eventually hurt iPod profit margins and affect Apple’s stock price, so the trick is to know when to switch the business from being a mix of hardware and software to one that is software-only. That switch, which I believe to be inevitable, will happen shortly after Apple begins to license iPod clones.”
“As Apple’s profit drops on each iPod it makes, eventually the per-CPU figure will approach what Apple might receive from licensees,” he says. “At that moment it makes more sense for Apple to license clones than it does to make more iPods. Licensing clones at the right time would lead to huge clone sales, effectively killing any significant iTunes competitor. And in the long run, iTunes is where the money is.”
Cringely also notes that (previously mentioned) unused icons in the version of iTunes included with Mac OS X v10.4 hint that new audio format support and a video iPod are just around the corner. “And 10.4 gives us a peek at another evolution of iTunes, which is the inevitable expansion of the system to carry additional audio file formats,” he says. “Looking at the unused iTunes icons that shipped with your new version of 10.4, you’ll notice icons for currently-not-supported ogg vorbis and Windows Media Audio (wma), as well as several others including a variety of video formats, too.”
Apple debuted a new iPod and iTunes television commercial during tonight’s Saturday Night Live on NBC. It featured the new single “Feel Good Inc” by the Gorillaz. Like the previous ads, the spot features silhouetted iPod-toting dancers in front of colorful backgrounds — only this time they’re all on roller skates. This is the first new iPod commercial since January’s iPod shuffle ad, and the first for full-size iPods since October’s ad featuring U2. Apple has yet to post the new commercial. Update: The ad is now available on Apple’s website.
To say that Hollywood actor Bruce Willis loves his iPod would be an understatement. On his official website, he says that “iTunes has re-energized the singles market, iPod has revolutionized how you can enjoy music and I for one am a convert.”
“The Internet has turned me on to amazing music that I might otherwise have never heard of,” he says. “As a Mac enthusiast I have taken the iTunes playlist concept to a new level. My friends will turn me on to a new (or old) musical influence and before you know it I’ve purchased the whole catalog and downloaded it to one my trusty little iPods, played it in all of my classic cars through the cassette players (what a re-invention of the cassette/car radio) although now they offer special attachments for the USB cable. Whether on the set or in the car an iPod is always near.”
Third-party iPod developer Engineered Audio, maker of the RemoteRemote 2 RF remote control system, has provided to iLounge an excellent explanation of the radio frequency (RF) interference issue affecting certain iPod photo hardware. The company’s findings follow up on iLounge’s exclusive March 31, 2005 report, “Yes, the new iPod photo -is- different,” in which we detailed an interference issue that prevents current RF-based remote controls from fully working with “first-generation” (pre-February 2005) 40/60GB iPod photos. As a result of the interference, the RF remotes work at only one-sixth to one-twelveth of their performance ranges with all other iPods.
“The current crop of RF remote controls for the iPod operate at or near 433.92 Mhz,” explains Engineered Audio. “The reasons for this frequency choice are not particularly relevant, except to say that this particular frequency is usable (or certifiable) in the US and in Europe. Further, most of the receivers for these remote control systems are simple super-heterodyne or super-regenerative. And without very careful filtering at the antenna, both types may suffer a degradation in performance when there is a nearby noise source.
“In this case the iPod photo is generating an undesirable RF noise source at 432.00 Mhz (see plot 1). Some might consider the difference between the two frequencies to be enough to not cause interference, however, this is simply not the case. Most of these simple receivers have a fairly wide bandwidth with relatively high gain, and so are easily swamped by an interferer that is within a few megahertz of desired signal. What’s inside the iPod that is generating this signal we can only guess at (perhaps an harmonic of the primary clock for the processor…) At any rate, it would appear that Apple has since modified the iPod photo to either reduce or eliminate this particular signal.” A spectrum analysis photo (“Plot 1”) and additional details are available by clicking on Read More below. We thank Engineered Audio for explaining the interference, and all iPod RF remote manufacturers for being forthright with consumers about the incompatibility.
Apple’s iPod shuffle has now captured 58 percent of the flash memory-based audio player market, according to NPD data cited by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer in a meeting with Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich. The number is up from 43 percent share in February.
In a research note to clients obtained by iLounge, Milunovich said Apple isn’t concerned about mobile phones gaining more music capabilities. “Management argued that iPod will remain the best way to manage and listen to music with MP3 capability in handsets more complementary than a replacement,” he said. “The negatives of music on a handset include a worse user interface and limited battery life. Mr. Oppenheimer said he ‘doesn’t foresee problems working with carriers,’ implying that negotiating shared economics wouldn’t be a deal killer.”
Interestingly, Milunovich also said he expects wireless and video features in iPods for the holidays. “Our guess is that iPod will run short video clips, such as Britney Spears gyrating while ‘Toxic’ plays,” he said.
Following last month’s news that Hewlett-Packard has added the iPod photo to its lineup, Engadget reports that the company will soon start selling branded versions of the iPod mini and iPod shuffle. The gadget site says to expect both models on June 12.
While Froogle searches show HP product numbers of PW753AA (iPod mini), PX765AA (iPod shuffle 512MB) and PX766AA (iPod shuffle 1GB), the company would not confirm that it will offer the iPod models when contacted. “HP has not made any such announcements, and we do not comment on plans for future (or potential) products,” an HP representative told iLounge.
Party-Pod Pro 2.0 is the latest version of the software that “gives your iPod a database of partygoer necessities.” According to the developer, Party-Pod Pro is the most comprehensive party companion for your iPod. It includes 650 drink recipes, 55 drinking games, a Bar & Club database for every major U.S. city, and 100 pick-up lines for men and women. Version 2.0 adds photos (iPod photo required) to the top rated and most popular drinks, and information for 10 additional cities.
Emerils.com, the website of famous chef Emeril LaGasse, has now made ReciPods and ReciPods Too available for download. The free recipe collections can be transferred to and read on your iPod.
“We tried to cram 1000 recipes into one iPod app, then discovered that we had 20+ related recipes (sauces, etc) that crashed the app,” says an Emeril representative. “So we divided the app into two equal halves. ReciPods has 510+ recipes and ReciPods Too has 510+ recipes.”
As noted in February, Emerils.com also offers two other free iPod software titles: mFinder (information about Emeril’s 9 restaurants) and PodMeals (weekly menu provided on Emerils.com that comes from the cooking section).
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says that PortalPlayer’s upbeat second quarter guidance is a positive sign for sales of hard drive-based iPods. He also notes a new trend that he calls iPod mini up-selling.
PortalPlayer, which supplies the chips that power the iPod, iPod mini and iPod photo, yesterday reported first quarter earnings of $7.8 million, or 33 cents a share, on revenue of $44.5 million. The company forecast second quarter earnings of 21-27 cents a share on $41.6 million to $47.6 million versus street estimates of 17 cents on $37.3 million in revenue.
“We believe that PortalPlayer’s Q2 guidance is positive for Apple’s HD based iPods and may be consistent with a trend that we have been picking up on in the channel related to iPod shuffle to 4GB iPod mini up-selling,” Munster said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “Specifically, we have been hearing from Apple retail stores and independent Apple VARs that customers are consistently being up-sold to 4GB iPod minis ($200) when intending to buy the 1GB iPod shuffle ($149), given the minimal ($50) difference in price.”
Munster said that more than 85 percent of PortalPlayer’s first quarter revenue was from sales to Apple.
In addition to expanding its Rhapsody subscription service today, RealNetworks also quietly restored iPod support for songs purchased from its online music store with an update to its Harmony technology. A RealNetworks executive confirmed the move to CNET News.com. “Harmony now supports all shipping iPods, including iPod photo,” said RealNetworks Chief Strategy Officer Richard Wolpert.
RealNetworks released Harmony without Apple’s blessing last year making the company’s online store the first to offer copy-protected digital music (other than the iTunes Music Store) that could play on the iPod. Apple said at the time it was “stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod,” and updated the iPod firmware a few months later to break compatibility.
It should be noted that songs downloaded from RealNetworks’ new subscription services do not work with the iPod and are only compatible with a small number of Windows-based MP3 players.
The iPod is featured prominently in a radio broadcast by BBC Radio 2’s Steve Lamacq, who explores the boom in digital music and its impact on the music industry.
“In this one hour authored documentary, Steve Lamacq investigates how we have arrived at this point and what impact the ‘digital technology revolution’ will have on the future of the music industry as we know it: we talk to the record labels, retailers, consumers, artists and the kids who get music in a different sort of way to how we used to.”
The role of the iPod is among topics discussed, and comments are included from Apple’s Greg Joswiak, Vice President of Hardware Marketing, and Eddie Cue, VP of Applications. To hear the program on BBC Radio 2 Replay service, visit Listen Again. The broadcast is available until Saturday, April 30, 2005.
Synaptics, which supplies touchpad components used in Apple’s iPod, said last week that its fourth quarter earnings are expected to be less than Wall Street estimates because of “softness in its music player business.”
In a research note obtained by iLounge on Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said iPod demand remains strong and gave his thoughts on the cautious guidance from Synaptics.
“On Friday, Synaptics provided guidance slightly below Street estimates for the June quarter based on expectations for softness in its portable music player business. From a headline perspective, Synaptics comments are negative, but it is important to keep in mind: 1) we do not believe there have been any significant changes to Apple’s dominant market share, and 2) while not a positive, it is reasonable to assume that due to seasonality, June quarter iPod unit shipments would fall from December and March quarter levels.”
Munster said he expects Apple to ship approximately 3.5 million iPods (excluding iPod shuffles) in the June quarter.
Banc of America Securities expects Apple to introduce a new iPod “as early as June” to help increase demand which is expected to slow this quarter. The firm forecasts that iPod shipments will decrease to 4.8 million units in Apple’s fiscal third quarter ending in June from 5.3 million units last quarter.
In a research note to clients, Banc of America Securities said that its model incorporates “some seasonal softness,” and with flat revenue guidance from Apple’s last financial conference call, “we imagine that investors are looking to flat to slightly down MP3 sales, and strength in CPUs.”
NBC “Today” show tech editor Corey Greenberg has admitted to charging $15,000 to Apple and other companies to talk about their products on television, reports the Washington Post. In July, Greenberg praised the iPod on the show, saying it was “a great portable musical player… the coolest-looking one.” He said, “This is the way to go.” Greenberg has also appeared several times on CNBC touting Apple products including the iPod photo.
However, Greenberg says he was never paid to promote products on national TV — only local news. “I have never accepted payment to place a product on NBC News,” Greenberg says. “I have never accepted payment to say nice things about a product in any venue.” He says companies hired him as “a spokesperson who could talk credibly and understandably about consumer products,” but that he would no longer accept payment for appearances on local news shows.
The financial relationships Greenberg and another man, Child magazine’s Technology Editor James Oppenheim, separately have with companies was first reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, as noted by iLounge Backstage. Further details about the dealings can be found in that article.
iLounge reader Adrian from Germany writes to tell readers that “the packaging of the regular iPod 20GB has been changed recently. Instead of the packaging featuring images from the silhouette ads, the iPod 20GB is now packaged similarly as the updated iPod photo models (i.e. black box with silver writing). The only difference is that it lacks the ‘photo’ box and the size obviously reads ‘20GB’ instead of ‘30GB’ or ‘60GB’. The display images are also not in colour. Glad the box looks nicer again, but it’s confusing for customers.”
For pictures of the new 20GB iPod box, click on Comments above or photos below. For iLounge’s box opening gallery for the 30GB iPod photo, use this link. Thanks to Adrian for the 20GB photos!
Update: iLounge editor Jerrod H. has confirmed that black-boxed 20GB iPods still contain their predecessors’ FireWire and USB cables, as well as their AC adapters. Thanks, Jerrod.
While Apple does not break down iPod sales per model in its earnings reports, Piper Jaffray estimates that in its first quarter of availability the iPod shuffle accounted for approximately 1.8 million of Apple’s 5.3 million iPods shipped. The firm had estimated Apple would ship 1 million iPod shuffles during the March quarter.
In a research note obtained by iLounge, Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster also comments on the iPod halo effect that has been cited in the past year as a positive force for Mac sales, and notes that he expects Apple to ship 25 million iPods in 2005 for a total of more than 35 million iPods in four years.
“Our confidence in the halo effect has increased based on Mac sales of 1.07 million units in the March quarter compared to Street expectations of about 970,000 units,” Munster said. “We believe the halo effect is the primary driver of upside to Mac units. We expect the halo effect to accelerate in 2005 as the total installed base of iPods increases from 10.3 million at the end of 2004 to an estimated 35 million by the end 2005.”
U.S. shipments of portable MP3 players will grow 35 percent to 18.2 million units in 2005, according to a new report from JupiterResearch. “MP3 players will reach critical mass this year, fueling demand for digital music services and stores,” the firm said. Jupiter forecasts that digital audio devices will maintain an annual growth rate of over 10 percent through 2010, reaching an installed base of 56.1 million, up from 16.2 million in 2004.
“Apple shows no signs of losing momentum,” said Michael Gartenberg, VP and Research Director at JupiterResearch. “The iPod is a consumer phenomenon. Apple dominates this sector and will dominate portable MP3 player growth over the medium term,” added Gartenberg. The firm raised its near-term forecast “mostly due to the iPod’s success,” but projects that shipments of flash-based players will surpass those of hard-drive models in 2007.