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Bill Gates: iPod success won’t last

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Thursday, May 12, 2005
News Categories: iPod

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.

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Comments

1

First they gotta make a cell phone that works!  I bet Apple will integrate some phone functionality into the Ipod soon.

The clickwheel could easily be an old fashion phone dial?

Posted by khyberny on May 12, 2005 at 8:21 AM (PDT)

2

nokia already used a click-wheel phone dialer:
http://www.nokia.co.uk/nokia/0,,63592,00.html

by the way, Bill who?
i suggest he just stick with the old fashioned Windows, his xbox won’t even sell…
goodluck with the xbox 360..

Posted by junar on May 12, 2005 at 8:33 AM (PDT)

3

Not that MS needs defending, but junar, that’s pure ignorance.  Xbox is hotter than hell, console gamers love the thing, and uhh, MS has a 90+ share of the computer market.  So uhh…junar who?

That having been said, I think Bill’s wrong.  People hate convergence because it never works the way it is supposed to.  Whenever you have a device that is supposed to do a whole bunch of things, it ALWAYS means it does none of those things very well.

Phones are not mp3 players.  I doubt they ever will be more than a novelty in that arena.

Posted by stark23x on May 12, 2005 at 12:55 PM (PDT)

4

I agree with stark23x, but wonder if a good MP3 player (iPod) could be an OK phone. It already stored contacts. How difficult would it be to make an iPod with phone capabilities. Keep the same look, add headphones that have an integrated mic attached (like the single earpiece/mics that come with a lot of phones) and all Apple has to do is figure out how to make the “phone” interface as simple and elegant as the rest of the UI on the iPod. It seems natural to me. And the clickwheel dialing is a pretty cool idea!

Posted by Matt B. in Idaho on May 12, 2005 at 1:18 PM (PDT)

5

Simply put, I don’t see much synergy between a phone and a music player.  One is an active device, the other is passive (or mostly passive).  What makes certain features on a phone work, like PDA and e-mail capabilities, is that they are more linked to the activity of making a phone call.  Music has nothing to do with that.  I also have a similar disdain for camera phones, as the quality is worthless and the need for it (at least from observation, not research) is minimal.  It is an example of phone companies searching for ways to create additional revenue.

Also, I do agree that it won’t do either thing well—be a music player, or a phone. 

And on one final not, if the Xbox is so hot, why does Microsoft LOSE money on it?

Posted by Gatsby003 in New York on May 12, 2005 at 1:19 PM (PDT)

6

Come on folks,

what did you expect Bill to say?  Wow, i think the ipod is great!  Yea right… He’s married to M$.  Thats like telling your wife that another woman is hotter than she is.  Even if it is true, you just can’t say those things- and live to tell about it.

Posted by apple juice in USA on May 12, 2005 at 1:32 PM (PDT)

7

stark23x,

sorry to offend your grandpa bill…
did i say he has less than 90+ share of the computer market? nooo…instead, i even suggested he just stick with this market…xbox is probably “hot” because grandpa bill has to sell it so cheap so that people will buy it and may use it as a paperweight…

give my regards to grandpa…

Posted by junar on May 12, 2005 at 2:38 PM (PDT)

8

One thing a phone has going for it is that people are more likely to take a phone with them all the time, which can’t be said for the iPod.

But the camera phone may be a good analogy.  People get camera phones because they’re included for little or no extra cost.  But for serious photography, people will take their cameras.

Maybe phones with MP3 players will be good for light music listening (although the phone companies think they’re going to sell a ton of downloads for $2 or more a track) but people who want a better listening experience will take a DAP.

Posted by wco81 in West Coast on May 12, 2005 at 3:53 PM (PDT)

9

Nokia already had an MP3 music phone with expandable memory (3300) and most of their models have FM radios on them already.  Are they that popular though?  Not that I’ve noticed.

If they didn’t catch on then, why will they catch on now?

One problem I see with MP3 phones is that with regular use, the battery dies in a day, while my Samsung will last a week on a charge.  What’s the point in draining your phone just to listen to music?

Posted by matt928347 in California on May 12, 2005 at 4:16 PM (PDT)

10

Windows crashes all the time… cellphones drop out all the time… HEY! THAT’S a convergence that makes SENSE!

As to taking your cellphone with you and not your iPod… huh? My iPod is with me all the time. And it’s a 40 gig 3G. If it was a shuffle, even more so.

Once the phones are wireless-enabled to allow you to access iTunes or whatever service you have your subscription with, and once the wireless connection is good (knock wood/cross fingers/kill chicken and sprinkle blood) the hard-drive based player is pretty much dead. But as others have noted, cell phone companies are doing pretty good adding more junk to cell phones without making them actually WORK for their main purpose, making and receiving calls. I see cellphones being like the PSP. They’ll let you do lots of stuff besides the main function, but not really well.

Posted by leertracy in Los Angeles on May 12, 2005 at 4:18 PM (PDT)

11

junar,

Are you getting pay by Apple, Netscape, or whoever to bad mouth Microsoft?  What’s the point of defending or attacking a brand that you paid to own?  Perhaps, you feel a need to broadcast to the world that you are smarter than the guy next to you?

Sony, the maker of PS2, started the trend of selling gaming consoles below cost.  Microsoft has no choice but to follow suit.  If I recall correctly, Nintendo is the only one who actually take profit on console sale.  Is Nintendo winning to console war?  The last I checked, PS2 is still the king of the hill.  Xbox is at a close second.  As for why Sony and Microsoft sell their consoles at a loss, well, they want to get as much of their consoles into homes around the world as possible.  Then, they can start making money on software and licensing.  It’s not a perfect strategy.  However, it works. 

Back to Bill Gates..  I often wonder.. If he does not exist, what would our world be like?  Would Apple thrive even with their “sue everyone” strategy?  Would $500 PC be available?  That something to think about.

Back to the subject, I think MP3 cell phone can indeed be a hit in the future.  However, in order for everyone to embrace the idea, the price of the phone got to remain low (or free).

Posted by Junono on May 12, 2005 at 4:35 PM (PDT)

12

I’m in wholehearted agreement regarding the issue of convergence vs. quality. I want my ‘phone to be small, loud, hard-to-break and unlikely to microwave my brain. That’s it. When I need to take a photo, I’ll take along my camera and when I want tunes, I’ll have my iPod.

However, this is the purists view - just look how popular camera ‘phones are. Apple has introduced digital music players to the masses (and is courting the popular consumer market with its lower prices) and now everybody wants a piece. As memory capacity, battery life, connectivity etc soars, everything with opposable thumbs will want a ‘phone that plays MP3 ‘s as well as taking pictures, doing the dishes, walking the dog, blah blah blah…

The truth is, some convergences are meant to be. The camera in a ‘phone was one nobody saw coming but the two technologies arrived in the right place at the right time. Music playing will be next. It mightn’t be good, but it’ll be popular and I hate it when Bill’s right about stuff.

Posted by alfa1996 in UK on May 12, 2005 at 4:44 PM (PDT)

13

Junono,

are you being “pay” by M$?
me not being pay…

Posted by junar on May 12, 2005 at 4:46 PM (PDT)

14

junar: you;re extremely childish.  I’m done talking to you.

Gatsby003 - It’s a loss-leader for the games and accessories, which have made a tone of profit.  It hasn’t even been that much of a loss leader in the past 12 months since the hardware is outdated by desktop standard and is dirt cheap.

How the 360 will fare I have NO idea what with the new hardware and not-very-clear featureset, but to call the original Xbox anything other than a hit with console gamers is purely ignorant.

It feels odd that I’m defending it, I HATE console gaming.  wink

Posted by stark23x on May 12, 2005 at 4:58 PM (PDT)

15

junar,

Remind me again just how smart you are then.

In my line of duty, I get paid to work on systems with Unix based operating system.  I don’t own a Xbox.  I do own a PS2.  However, I prefer to play my video games on PC.  I don’t think I am loyal to any brand.  My buy decision is based on multiple factors.  The most important factor is if the item I am going to buy will serve the purpose well or not.

By the way, I am not smarter than most.  So, it’s pointless and outright wrong for me to broadcast it with a bull horn. smile

Posted by Junono on May 12, 2005 at 5:46 PM (PDT)

16

I agree with the people who said the iPod will remain the preference of those of us mainly interested in portable music.  We prefer the higher quality and capacity of the iPod.  And, used to either copying our CDs to iTunes or downloading for only 99 cents a pop, we won’t spring for the higher cost, probably lower quality of direct cell phone downloads.  Still, MP3 download and play capability on a phone may appeal to people who consider their music player less important.  I also wonder if the competition for MP3-enabled phones might be PDAs instead of the iPod.

Posted by Podesta in Portland, OR on May 12, 2005 at 8:01 PM (PDT)

17

well one of the reason i love my ipod so much is that i can blissfully ignore my cell phone, god forbid, the integrated thing should ring in the middle of Bright Eyes!

Posted by khyberny on May 12, 2005 at 8:10 PM (PDT)

18

I think leertracy makes a good point that deserves emphasis.  It’s true that, for most multi-function phone-type devices like camera phones, the accoutrements are little more than gimmicky.  But this failure to realize an all-in-one device does not necessarily belie the impossibility of producing one.  In theory, it’s far from inconvceivable that a single device could be, say, both an excellent phone and an excellent audio device.

Moreover, I think that certain extant devices make it clear that the truly functional, more-than-gimmicky all-in-one is closer than my “in theory” comment suggests.  Camera phones are a case in point.  Photo resolution is approaching 2MP, and onboard memory is expanding rapidly—all this without really increasing the device’s size or decreasing its functionality as a telephone.  So, for individuals who need nothing more than a point-and-shoot camera, the camera phone is becoming, to an ever greater extent, a viable option.

What lesson should we take away from the case of the camera phone?  At the very least, we should recognize that whether cell phone add-ons are good enough to be more than gimmicks is by no means a black-and-white matter.  And there’s no clear reason why MP3 functionality should be an exception to this.  While it might be a long time before cell phones have hard drives that rival any full sized iPod, this doesn’t mean that audio-capable phones won’t soon be capable of fulfilling the musical needs of a fair number of consumers.  After all, the success of the iPod Shuffle has shown us just how stark an MP3 player can be (in storage space and functionality) to be desirable and marketable.

Posted by kachooney on May 13, 2005 at 6:49 AM (PDT)

19

khyberny - I hope you were being sarcastic.  Nobody over 15 is gonna call you if that’s the type of music you listen to anyway, so don’t worry about it!  Put it right to VM!

Posted by pikers in usa on May 16, 2005 at 8:29 AM (PDT)

20

One thing to remeber is that each year electronic parts get significantly smaller, look at the first cell phones, not exactly something you could put in your pocket, but now they are so small you might mistake if for pocket lint.  The DAP’s are also very small, so putting two very small devices together, so you get a full fledged phone, which is a digital audio player, usually with a cheap speaker though, and a full fledged MP3 player, no quality is sacrificed.

Posted by theboomboomcars on May 26, 2005 at 7:45 AM (PDT)

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