Apple launched the iPod almost eight years ago, and in that time has never seen a quarterly drop in sales of the diminutive pocket music player. It’s a product line that has so far generated over $38 billion on sales of 218 million units. None too shabby, eh?
Arik Hesseldahl, in an article in yesterday’s BusinessWeek, reports that Apple’s sales of 10.2 million iPods in the three months ending July 21 were down from 11 million in the same quarter last year. But it’s not an unexpected decline. Even without the economic downturn, Apple knew the day would come when market saturation meant a dip in sales. Hesseldahl says:
“Anticipation of the drop-off is ‘one of the original reasons’ Apple developed the iPhone and the Wi-Fi-enabled iPod touch…Apple is prepared for lower sales of what it calls ‘pocket products’ the iPod shuffle, nano and classic.”
Hesseldahl posits that Apple will shift its focus on to the iPod touch line, as future iterations of the iPod family will derive from that device’s advanced features. He suggests Apple will soon drop the iPod Classic’s reliance on hard disc drive-based storage, moving instead to Flash storage. Certainly that makes sense, given the functional advantages NAND storage has over spinning magnetic discs — not to mention Apple’s frankly gargantuan orders for flash memory chips (orders that seem to get ever higher year over year.)
Much of the rest of Hesseldahl’s article is a mix between idle conjecture about, and a wish list for, future generations of the touch.
They’re decent suggestions, to be sure; a 5- or 6-megapixel camera; built-in microphone for Skype and other VoIP services; Mini-SD expansion port; and a GPS chipset for full, always-available personal navigation. (He makes the point that some products from Garmin and TomTom sell today for $100 below the price of an entry-level iPod touch.)
Will Apple’s product roadmap for the iPod see an end to classic click-wheel designs? Probably. Apple’s experience and skills acquired from the iPhone, iPod touch, and very likely, upcoming Tablet device make it one of the world’s leading developers of touch-based consumer multimedia technology. It’s not hard to imagine an iPod Nano with an entirely virtual click-wheel (or better) interface that gets out of the way when it’s not needed. Apple can do that now. Perhaps it’ll just wait to see if the sales continue to slide before it releases such a device.