Has iPod made Apple deaf to business threats?

By Constantine von Hoffman

There is just something so wonderful about watching corporate behemoths collide. Maybe it’s just the idealist* in me that thinks this can result in better products at lower prices and maybe it’s just the cranky guy who knows that no matter what the outcome SOME giant-sized executive ego is guaranteed to take a major hit. Whichever it is, I’m enjoying the demolition derby currently going on between Apple, MS, Yahoo, Google and Motorola. Said derby could wind up with the iPod going the way of, well, the Macintosh.

This all starts with Amazon & Google, who are trying to come up with the new iTunes, according to the Financial Times. Music industry types want an alternative to the Tune which currently controls at least 70 percent of the pay-to-download market. The tech companies want a $lice of that market as well and fools like me just want someplace that stocks a wider selection of music. Music execs also want to break the iPod’s stranglehold on the MP3 market as that gives Apple even more leverage…

… Sadly for them, the company that’s currently offering to come to their rescue is lot-of-money-little-design-sense Microsoft. Mr. Gates is quothed by Reuters as saying, "I don’t think what’s out on the market today is the final answer. Between us and our partners, you can expect some pretty hot products coming out over the next few years." Why do I think this challenge is not keeping Mr. Jobs up at night? But there’s another one that should be…

… Motorola has gotten so peeved at how Apple’s hamstrung the iTunes compatible cell phone that big M is now going to make one using Window’s Media player. As you doubtless recall, last year Motorola pulled out al the stops in unveiling the ROCKR only to find that consumers were completely underwhelmed by the phone’s very limited storage capacity, bulky design and inability to sell and transfer songs directly to the phone. Most of these problems were caused by limits imposed by Apple so the damn things wouldn’t actually do what consumer’s wanted – let them carry one less freaking device. If it did that then the device consumers would not be carrying would, of course, be the iPod and that is Apple’s cash cow. Just as the Mac was back in the day.

So Apple is now in danger of recreating the Mac fiasco with iPod. MS is ecstatic to license its software to Motorola and make its money there. If Motorola’s MS phones start selling then Apple could very quickly recreate its role as a hardware maker putting out gorgeous machines that go from mass-market must have to cult icon. Something something learn from the past something repeat it?

*An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. -- Mencken.


There has been some actual dispute over whether or how the comments button on this page still works, but apparently it does. I invite you to try for yourself. Also, for those of you seeking even more allegedly humorous fare allow me to direct you to my other blog, Collateral Damage, which makes fun of marketing. 

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