Why iPod killers are no joke

As I cruise around the Mac news web, I often see headlines that read “XYZ Corporation releases iPod killer” which is immediately followed with laughter from the Mac community about why the devices is inferior to the iPod.
I do think that it isn’t wise to immediately assume that all other music players will never be able to compete with the iTunes/iPod combination. Surely something will emerge that will dent the share of the market Apple has on digital downloads and associated players of music. I love the iPod because it is simple to use, it is easy to feed, and I finally got the kit to install one into my car’s stereo system.
Yet, if Apple took the iPod in a direction that I didn’t need or care for, I would look to other companies for a solution. I’m betting I would find a device that does what I want that isn’t from Apple.
In order to “take the iPod down” a company (or several companies) would have to do five near-impossible things. First, they would need a device that wasn’t an iPod in any form that could create it’s own iconic branding. The device would have to play anything thrown at it, and come with an app that was trouble-free and easy to use. Somehow they would have to do this without resembling the iPod or iTunes. Why? Because consumers seem to associate the iPod with digital music and downloading legit music, and any other product resembling it comes off as a cheap Taiwan knock-off. Whether this seems logical or not, that is the comments I get when asking non-geeky people.
Secondly, the device would need a multi-hundred-million dollar ad campaign that lasted a year (or more). Apple has done a great job highlighting the white ear buds, creating the “What, you don’t have white ear buds? That’s not cool” culture. Taking away from that means creating a campaign that does that without copying it.
Third, the company would have to be known for music and electronic leadership. They would have to have a reputable brand already established to gain consumer trust that the investment they are about to take in the ‘iPod killer’ is worth it and when things go awry, support is no problem.
Fourth, the device and software would have to work in many environments, i.e. under water, ALL cars with stereo systems, bathtubs, gyms, war zones, Segways, and space. It would need to be impact-resistant, because nothing is more disheartening than a dropped iPod.
Lastly, the thing would have to be very well designed both aesthetically and functionally. It might include some out of the box ideas like a built in remote control that works with the media-playing app that feeds it. Some feature that pushed the domino all the way over for the consumer to say “Hmm, I wonder why the iPod didn’t do that?”
While the competition keeps trying to make the one device that will take away from the iPod, no competitor is truly putting anything innovative out there that isn’t an iTunes/iPod clone. If you want to kill the iPod, find a way to butter up everyone’s hands so they drop their iPods on the ground. For us Apple fans, take these devices seriously because any one of them could creep up on the iPod. Eventually someone besides Apple will figure it out, and when they do, ‘iPod killer’ won’t be such a joke anymore.


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