iPod killer?

I just read an article from CNet about a portable device that Microsoft is apparently working on. According to the article, it may focus on music rather than gaming.

As is common in articles about portable music devices, the article pondered whether this forthcoming device could be the "iPod killer" we've all been waiting for.

You want to know what I think? Probably not, but I assume you'll keep reading anyway...

There is no such thing as an iPod killer.

The whole suggestion that we're just waiting for the right device to come along before everyone will suddenly drop their iPods in the bin and replace them with this fantastic new music player is ludicrous.

Why?

Well iPod's share of the portable music player market has grown steadily since its release. According to the NDP Group (quoted here), the iPod range accounts for about 80% of the MP3 player market. So 80% of people who have an MP3 player* have an iPod or some variant. The point is, why would they change? Even if they did decide they needed a new player, they're used to the iPod, they know it works, and they've probably bought a whole lot of music on iTunes that they can't play on another device anyway. The natural choice is to get a better iPod.

Let's face it, there are probably a lot of devices out there that are better than the iPod in terms of price, functionality, the number of file formats they can recognise, etc. The market share of these devices may have grown, but clearly they haven't killed the iPod. Not even close.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that iPod's share of the MP3 player market will continue to increase or even stay at the level it is. Depending on what Apple's strategy is, who knows what it will do?

There has been speculation that Apple will start releasing iPod mobile phones at some stage, and that makes a lot of sense. As companies like Motorola, Nokia and Sony Ericsson continue to release phones that can do all that an iPod can do and more, I can't imagine people will feel the need to upgrade to a new standalone music player. I do think that it's the phone companies that will have the advantage if Apple tries to go head to head with them. Being able to play MP3 on my phone is a bonus, not the reason for having one, so I'd be more comfortable with a phone manufacturer I like. But I don't represent the majority so who am I to guess what people will prefer?

Regardless, iPod will always be the dominant standalone MP3 player. A new device whose main function is to play MP3s will never knock it off its perch. Sure, devices that do much more than play music will likely all but extinguish the sale of MP3 players, but the "iPod killer" will not just play music. So please stop using the term when describing a funky new MP3 player, you'll look stupid when it goes nowhere.

Damo "Visa" Brady

* MP3 player, for the purposes of this post, means any portable music player that plays some kind of compressed file format (mp3, wma, aac, etc.)

Damian Brady

I'm an Australian developer, speaker, and author specialising in DevOps, developer process, and software architecture. I love Octopus Deploy, Visual Studio Team Services, and reducing process waste.