IPod Killers That Didn't
Thing is, Jobs was right on the money this time: 67 million units later, the iPod has indeed changed the way people listen to music. It has also changed much more:
So you can't blame competitors for trying to get in on the action. None has had much success so far, and several have died trying.
A couple even got into the business ahead of Jobs. Companies like Rio and Creative Technologies beat Apple to market and then squabbled over which one created the first digital audio player (answer: neither). But clunky designs and steep prices kept consumers from buying in. The Rio PMP 300, for example, sold for $200 and stored about 15 songs.
When the iPod entered the arena in late 2001, competitors continued to produce and sell their own versions, but nothing caught people’s attention like the boxy white player. For the next two and half years there wasn’t a single contender that threatened to steal victory from the iPod. By early 2004, Apple had 92% of the digital audio player market, according to NPD Group. That year, competitors finally launched a barrage of products that were supposed to kill off the iPod: They boasted as much memory as Apple's machines, sold for less and offered more bells and whistles.
But consumers didn’t bite. MP3 player pioneer Rio and mass market laptop master
Do any of these products have a chance at bringing down the iPod? No. But they have eaten away at its market share. From its high of 92% in early 2004, Apple is now down to 77% of the market, a number that has held steady for most of the year. On Wednesday, Apple announced it had sold 8.73 million iPods in the last three months, as consumers latched on to colorful new versions of the iPod Nano.
But on Nov. 14, Apple’s winning game could begin to change, as
Microsoft used to play in the MP3 player market by licensing its PlaysForSure software to hardware makers like Creative, and to online music stores like
Steve Jobs isn’t worried. He told Newsweek he thinks consumers won’t have patience for the Zune’s wireless sharing feature. Like it has done in the past, the iPod will continue to succeed with its industrial design and iTunes software expertise, he says. “Other companies tried to do everything on the device itself and made it so complicated that it was useless.”