Every so often, some piece of technology or product emerges that seems undefeatable by all of its potential competitors. There’s perhaps no better example of this in the modern age than Apple’s iPod. The iPod launched back in 2001, and has had a virtual stranglehold on the portable digital music player market since. Countless companies have stepped up to the plate to try and dethrone the king of portable media, but the iPod continues to take on all comers and emerge victorious. Is there any portable player that can truly be called an “iPod killer?”
Apple currently holds the lion’s share of the portable media market – over 90% of all sales of music players with hard drives are iPods. 70% of all digital music players sold are iPods. Even among Apple itself, the iPod contributes a huge amount of revenue – in the first quarter of 2008, iPods were 42% of Apple’s overall sales. With over 163 million units sold worldwide, the quarterly revenue from iPods alone is a multi-billion dollar figure.
For the most part, most companies don’t even try to market their products as iPod killers. The iPod essentially has them cowed – they know that they can’t compete directly with the popular device, so they try to carve out smaller niches and settle into those. One of the primary areas that other companies attempted to compete was in making smaller, ROM (read-only memory) devices. These devices were not as interactive as the iPod and other high end players, trading extra storage space and features for a smaller size and price tag. However, Apple even countered this development by introducing their popular iPod shuffle.
As it stands today, the iPod has left a veritable graveyard of so-called iPod killers in its wake. As of 2008, the only device that people are still referring to as a potential iPod killer is Microsoft’s Zune. It would seem only natural for Apple’s biggest competitor in the world of actual computers and operating systems would become their biggest competitor in the digital music market.
The initial launch of the Zune was a mixed bag, but Microsoft has continue to iterate on the product. Since its second generation launch late in 2007, Zune has sold 1 million units, doubling its sales since its initial 2006 launch. In fact, Zune is the iPod’s number competitor, but really, Zune is just winning the “race for second place.” Zune, around the time of its launch, achieved 10% of the portable hard drive music player market. Pretty good, considering that Apple was already eating up about 80% of the total market.
What will it take to defeat the iPod juggernaut? Many users have complained about the battery life of the iPod – this might be one place for potential competitors to strike. Suffice to say, any would-be iPod killer must not only match – if not outdo – the iPod’s core features, but must also have a unique aesthetic that is equally appealing.