Mobile phone industry has iPod in its sights

Today’s Wall Street Journal features an article [paid sub. req.] on the challenges Apple is facing from the $100 billion mobile phone industry. Apple’s digital music lead “may not last much longer,” the article says, because cell phone makers and wireless carriers are “piling into mobile music, with an array of new services and phones that could radically change a game that until now has been defined largely by Apple.”

“Despite Apple’s domination of the digital music sector the market remains in its infancy. The balance of power could tip suddenly and dramatically, especially if Apple doesn’t race to get its music technology into cell phones — an effort that’s had some hiccups. Last year, manufacturers sold an estimated seven million MP3 players in the U.S., a figure dwarfed by the roughly 80 million cell phones sold in the country.”

The article also cites a recent survey by Jupiter Research which showed that 76% of those asked said they carry a mobile phone regularly, while only 7% said the same about a music player.

Some analysts, however, believe consumers will still want devices designed for a specific purpose, and not an all-in-one gadget that does several things, but none of them great. “It’s hard to view the music phone as a direct threat to music players, any more than camera phones have put cameras out of business,” says Michael Gartenberg, director of research at Jupiter Research.

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