62 Comments

Summary:

An artificial limit of 100 songs? What the heck? Motorola CEO, Ed Zander doesn’t think anyone needs more than that…at least according to a rant that he spewed when the ROKR went over like, well, a rock. But was Zander’s frustration directed toward the poor reception his new iTunes-capable phone got – or at Apple?

The iPod has been a force that has brought about the second coming of Apple. Millions sold in each of the past couple of years. New models introduced seemingly every month. White ear buds adorning every other person on the streets. The “Halo Effect”.

What could possibly topple the reign of Apple’s iPod? Microsoft hasn’t been successful in championing any competitive products. Who else could? What else could? While every other person may be sporting white ear buds, just about EVERYone has got a cell phone in their pocket. MP3 capable cell phones aren’t a new idea, but they’ve been around long enough that it seems like high time they really take off. And what then? What happens to Apple’s mighty iPod when everyone’s cell phone is playing music on the go?

An artificial limit of 100 songs? What the heck? Motorola CEO, Ed Zander doesn’t think anyone needs more than that…at least according to a rant that he spewed when the ROKR went over like, well, a rock. But was Zander’s frustration directed toward the poor reception his new iTunes-capable phone got – or at Apple?

The iPod has been a force that has brought about the second coming of Apple. Millions sold in each of the past couple of years. New models introduced seemingly every month. White ear buds adorning every other person on the streets. The “Halo Effect”.

What could possibly topple the reign of Apple’s iPod? Microsoft hasn’t been successful in championing any competitive products. Who else could? What else could? While every other person may be sporting white ear buds, just about EVERYone has got a cell phone in their pocket. MP3 capable cell phones aren’t a new idea, but they’ve been around long enough that it seems like high time they really take off. And what then? What happens to Apple’s mighty iPod when everyone’s cell phone is playing music on the go?

A couple weeks back, WIRED ran an article detailing the start to ‘finish’ of the Motorola ROKR iTunes phone, as well as all planning and interaction between Motorola, Apple, and Cingular – the eventual carrier to pick up the iTunes phone. Definitely go read the article. There are some great insights as to the obstacles and hurdles that stood in the way of the “iTunes phone”.

So obviously cell phones pose a valid threat to the venerable iPod. Whatever is Apple to do? How about get an iTunes enabled cell phone on the market and lure people towards the phone version of their favorite mp3 player? Sounds like a great idea, and that’s just what they went a head and did with a friendly partnership with Motorola. Unfortunately, Motorola found out that Apple will have things their way, period.

If you’ve already popped over and read the WIRED article by this point, you found that Apple mandated the artificial 100 song limit on the ROKR. Why would they possibly do that? There doesn’t seem to be a good, or real explanation in WIRED’s article. Come launch day, a 1,000 song iPod nano was announced which subsequently trounced the ROKR in sales and popularity.

So try this on for size:
Could Apple have possibly gone into the ROKR project with a hidden agenda to sabotage the final product’s success? Why not? It may serve to sway public opinion of mp3 cell phones. If the Apple iTunes cell phone flops, how great could mp3 cell phones really be? Might potential mp3 cell phone buyers take a step back and choose to stick with carrying their iPod in tandem with their cell phones? It might be worth another few million iPod units sold before someone comes along with the killer mp3 phone. Maybe. Maybe?

Well today Motorola announced a new version of the RAZR which will be iTunes capable. There’s no confirmation (that I’ve been able to find) that there’s a 100 song limit imposed on the forthcoming RAZR. Might it be the late-to-the-party hit that Motorola was hoping for in the ROKR? Possible. Much more likely I’d say.

Is any of this really plausible? Possibly. Probably not. It’s largely based off my wild imagination and a slightly suspicious psyche. But you can’t argue that Apple – at the very least – made a poor decision in releasing a mobile iTunes app that’s limited to 100 songs. How could that possibly be a recipe for success?

What do you think?

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  1. Is that sabotage? Maybe they view the ROKR as an add-on to your apple kit. It should not be viewed as a replacement for the ipod, because it isn’t. Consider the user that has no need for a big ipod, he can get a shuffle or he could get the ROKR if he happens to be in the market for a new phone at the time. You wouldn’t want a hard disk based phone would you?

    Ok a nano with a phone would be something else but maybe the phone makers wouldn’t be happy with that level of foray into the phone business… just like Apple isn’t happy about the Sony Walkman phone foray into the MP3 business…

  2. Robert Pritchett Wednesday, November 9, 2005

    Captain Kirk’s Communicator didn’t require dialing in, so why should we? Instant-on, say the name, be connected. Who has that unit on sale now?

  3. Either they don’t want the phone thing to take off, or they’ve got something else around the corner. I mean, look at the ROKR, it’s ugly, not Apple’s style at all. If they came out with something that looks like an iPod but works as a phone, they’d wipe the market out. The same way they did by actually giving the MP3 player some style.

  4. Did Apple kill it or did Motorola? I can live with the 100 song limit, but I want a good looking phone with the features I’m use to. I played hands on with a ROKR, but it had some big limitations compared to my p900. The transfer rates to fill the card were also quite sad. I don’t mind 100 limit if I can change my songs without waiting an hour.

  5. This was one of the points made in the cover story of Wired, published about a month ago…

    “Battle for the Soul of the MP3 Phone”
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.11/phone.html

  6. This was one of the points made in the cover story of Wired, published about a month ago…

    “Battle for the Soul of the MP3 Phone”
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.11/phone.html

    Yes Scott…and we linked to that article in our article. :-)

  7. I think it is pretty obvious when you have competition that is in everybody’s pockets you can’t squeeze in more stuff. Could you imagine how big pockets would be in the future? Apple could partner with Levis for IPants.

    There is no doubt in the world that a cell phone with 4GB of flash memory and mp3 capability wouldn’t put a dent in the Nano’s sales. On top of this add to the fact that all the cell providers have upgraded their networks to EVDO to allow for faster data transfer and you have a power house of an idea going. 100 Song limit is for the birds. They just wanted to waste money developing a product so they can say they tried it and it failed to write off for a loss. Apple is getting too big for our britches so to speak. Makes you wonder how many other cool ideas have they killed lately.

  8. Whining about the 100 song limit is as silly as having it in the first place. Everything’s stored on the Transflash card, which is only 512 meg. You can’t get much more than 100 songs in that space anyway. Apple of course wouldn’t ever agree to a hard drive based phone as it’s a much greater threat to their precious cash cow.

    The transflash also is responsible for the slow transfer speed. The maximum transfer rate of the cards is only slightly above that of USB1.1, but way below USB2 – a USB2 interface wouldn’t make a difference.

    And anyone that thought this would have over-the-air purchasing ability as a GPRS/EDGE phone is crazy. You need the speeds that won’t show up until HSDPA. There’s an evolution path here.

    That said, apple == evil and I wouldn’t put sabotoge past them.

  9. did apple sabotage the ROKR? sure, but not by limiting the number of songs on it, but by introducing the Nano during the same event. that was a case of the beauty and the beast.

    what i don’t get is why motorola didn’t use the RAZR as the first phone instead of the thing (ROKR).

  10. .
    Just use Linux with Amarok instead this iTunes. You can control iPod, why not Rokr without limits.

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