IPOD Killer #2786 – This time we mean business

Here we go again, another IPOD killer is going to be released soon. I don’t know who it’s going to be this time, but rest assured someone else will launch a low price digital media player, and somehow they’ll refer to it as an IPOD killer.

When people ask me who my biggest competitor is, I always say Apple. Looks of shock and awe come across their faces wondering how I got where I am today.

“Really?” they ask, wondering if I’m just an idiot.

You may not understand my reasoning at first, to me the answer is so obvious.

Apple poses a threat to many PC companies, including giants like Dell.

Though as long as Dell continues to be an operationally efficient machine, they will continue to dominate almost every market they enter; and they will experience a slow but certain growth.

Not that I'm questioning that model, because it’s obviously one of the most successful we’ve seen in our lifetime.... but in the case of the IPOD no one has been able to compete well with Apple. Being that we're in the age of companies like Google and Apple it might be time to consider other ways of growing.

Apple created the IPOD in order to reinvigorate their slacking sales. They created a device which would allow them to compete for the same psychographic that Voodoo, Alienware, and others are competing for. You cannot play video games on Mac OS, but you can certainly make a cool product that early adopters will latch onto.

The original IPOD customers are early adopters of technology, and these people tend to be influential when it comes to technology. These customers started using the IPOD and they became evangelists for the brand. Apple then managed to crack the mainstream consumer market with their IPOD as a result of all this influence. This is really the ultimate business model, get the early adopters talking about it and eventually Madonna will be seen jogging sporting her IPOD and the mainstream will bite. In the case of the IPOD this all happened unexpectedly fast.

Now companies like BMW, Burton Snowboards, Bose, and almost every accessory manufacturer are coming up with cool accessories designed for the IPOD. The IPOD is a force, it is NOT a fad.

The IPOD reinvigorated Apple, I have been saying this for years and it’s only going to get stronger until someone comes out with something more compelling. People who buy the IPOD feel compelled to buying an Apple PC when they replace their own personal computer. Why not replace my aging personal computer with one that works well with my IPOD? Most of these mainstream buyers are oblivious when it comes to computers so the lure of Apple’s “ease of use” makes them that much more compelling. Between the IPOD, Apple OS, and iLife, Apple has managed to drive down Microsoft’s Brand Karma dramatically.

Which brings me to my next point: Microsoft, instead of spending money on a PR campaign to elevate your Brand Karma you should start thinking about why people consistently bash our beloved operating system. I am a firm believer in Windows, and it irks me when people say the same old stories about it. It’s unstable, there are too many viruses, it’s hard to use, and it is not secure. People know that when you have an operating system with the install base of Microsoft you better believe there are going to be more viruses and security holes to expose, that’s just common sense. Generally speaking people like to bash Microsoft, and no amount of PR will help.

Apple has trumped us on features in their OS, just look at the value add of their software suite. I recently acquired a G5 to play with, and I started to play with Garage Band. This software almost made me cry, it is so easy to use, so fun, and very intuitive. Microsoft needs to take notice and come up with some competitive solutions.

One has to recognize that Microsoft Windows does have some great features that Apple lacks. Media Center rocks the house, and you can’t beat the PC gaming capabilities of Microsoft Windows.

I don’t think coming up with “me-too knock-off IPOD wanna-be products” will hurt Apple in any way. I can’t lay the entire blame on Microsoft alone. Someone has to realize that Microsoft has given us the tools to innovate, tools like their Windows Media digital rights management and Pocket PC OS, amongst other things. There are many other tools that Microsoft has placed at our disposal, but instead of innovating compelling products we seem to be fixated on cutting cost for the most part.

Believe me; the person going out to spend $500 on an IPOD could care less about saving $200 on something that isn’t as beautiful. Apple has done a bang up job of creating an intuitive interface that is very “natural” to use. Don’t bother with the instructions, because a monkey could pick up an IPOD and figure it out.

The thing I dislike about the IPOD is the software for Windows based PCs. I personally think it’s difficult to use, at best, and I dislike the fact that I cannot play WMA files (yes, obviously I know this won’t happen). It makes me wonder what Carly was thinking when she had Apple make HP IPODS a few years ago. So obviously there is a void to be filled here, but everyone is doing it wrong.

There have been a few devices that could have been contenders’ as true IPOD killers including the Creative Labs Zen Sleek, and some of the RIO products. They are all still missing critical features to amass the mainstream to make the switch though.

Companies need to start focusing on the big blue ocean. Apple took an existing product idea and made it better. Apple did not invent the MP3 player, they re-invented it, and it was an established technology at the time. There are other emerging markets that we must look at and consider in order to compete against Apple.

I have some fantastic ideas on how to beat Apple at the IPOD game and it doesn’t involve making, yet another, wanna-be IPOD.


Anonymous said...

so why not reinvent the market in another sector? prime place to start: notebook computers

No more compromises! make it beautful (please, no alienware-style tops), lightweight(4lbs?) AND powerful. That means no stupid intel or previous gen graphics!

like you said, a well made product will sell itself.

Anonymous said...

so why not reinvent the market in another sector? prime place to start: notebook computers

No more compromises! make it beautful (please, no alienware-style tops), lightweight(4lbs?) AND powerful. That means no stupid intel or previous gen graphics!

like you said, a well made product will sell itself.

Lt.Col.Claymore / Albert said...

The iPod is A Awesome mp3 player

i'll Keep my Ipod 4 as long it work
or give it to my mother and buy myself the Ipod Nano

and wel using a Great Pc for all my media center needs
im bee happy with it

big 28"LCd tv From Dell

Bang Instant .. Media center

im digging This all of it .....:)

how about you Rahul you like it how fast The Development of c Technology goes?

i like it

5 yr ago a Gefore 2 Ultra wirh 64 Mb was for sale of 1000 buks
now 5 yr later you get a 700GTX 512 MB for the same ! :-)

see ya

Anonymous said...

not bad but you said you can not play games on an apple http://www.macmall.com/macmall/shop/cat/Software/EntertainmentEducation/category.asp

Anonymous said...

I still think IPOD is way overhyped product, there are many MP3 players as good if not better then the IPOD. The thing about the ipod was it's finishing, its initial user interface and it's style. Creatieve made some nice MP3 players and so did many others. In fact Samsungs small flash YP model players that run on a single AA battery for 8+ hours is one of my favorites.

IMHO apple got lucky, it isn't about 're-inventing' anything some people get lucky, others dont, there were plenty of very competitive MP3 players against the ipod, the main thing other MP3 companies lacked was a user interface non-computer users (i.e. your grandmother) could use.

Anonymous said...

I think I enjoyed those "new" mac games about 18 months ago. And by enjoy, I mean I played through Doom 3 for a bit, and liked UT2004 and halo (sort of).

Anonymous said...

Rahul I am fascinated by your weblog and all of the editorial work you have been doing. Thanks for actually being present to your customers!

However, I work at a Best Buy store and I gotta disagree with some of the things you say. I totally agree that someone who pays $500 for an IPOD wont care about saving $200 on a computer. That's why we have computers ranging from $500 past $2000. The customers who come in and buy $500 ipods don't come in and get talked into it. These are the people who come in and say "I want this, and this and this and this. Ring me up." On many occasions, people have walked in and said "Give me the most expensive computer you have. Nah, give me two."

These are perfect examples of apple's customers. They come in with lots of money and went the best product. The Mac OS X may not be the most powerful OS but to a customer it may appear the best because they can actually get work done on it out of the box.

Unfortunately, no matter how good of a salesman you are, there's no convincing somebody on a $400 budget to buy a $500 ipod. Apple does have a great strategy in getting the early adopters to buy their products. Whether early adopters are the aforementioned people with lots of money or if they are true tech aficionados, apple will grab them. That doesn't mean anything, though, if apple can't get the late adopters too.

Go to your local bestbuy and look at the selection of MP3 players from apple. You'll find a vast selection of products in many price ranges. Now go look at their computers in the same store. You'll probably find a mac mini... and that's it. There's no point in a mainstream company like Best Buy putting an expensive Dual Processor G5 on their floor if it will never sale. They tried to do the same thing with the mac mini that they did with the ipod... Put an expensive product on the shelf and get the early adopters to grab it, then get the late adopters with a similar product that's much cheaper. Apple didn't take into effect that the G5 didn't create buzz like the ipod did.

Just my two cents. Either way, keep up the great work Rahul!

Anonymous said...

I think it was more of Apple's marketing that allowed them to take off. Music Video cameos and those spiffy commercials helped them attain a 'cool' status in just about everyone's mind, especially in teenagers -- a prime market for their technology.

Anonymous said...

Grab some Cell Processors and make some screamer laptops.

joggerblogger said...

Where would Ipod be without Itunes? The sum is much greater than the parts. Ask those MP3 Corporate Brands leaving the battlefield. Apple's techology, marketing,design,and synergy are not Rocket Science. Apple will meet its match but you're right, it won't be as expected. In addition to superior technology, brilliant innovation, gurilla marketing, and timely design, waring with Apple will require a large war chest. Your ally and virtual strategist, Joggerblogger.

joggerblogger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dana said...

I think the thing most technology people forget about is simplicity. If you look at any player designed for use in the Windows world, they are just packed full of every feature the designers could think of. FM radio, audio recording, etc, etc. But when it came down to it, regular people didn't want all that stuff getting in thier way. They wanted a Walkman. They wanted something stylish, so when they use it they didn't look like dorks, and something they could use to quickly access thier music. That's what Apple gave them. Style and simplicity, that's what it takes to sell technology to the average joe.