The iPod revolution: what next?

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How I wish the iPod and the iPhone were as successful in India as they are in the US! But then the market dynamics are so different. More importantly, Apple doesn’t seem to give a damn about India, especially with the iPhone.

Nevertheless, an interesting infographic on the iPod:

The iPod Revolution
[Source: Online MBA for]

I remember getting my first iPod – a 4GB Mini for a princely sum of SLR Rs.30,000-odd (approx INR 15k). The simplicity of the packaging, ease of use of the click wheel are still fresh in my memory. My next iPod was the photo one, introduced in 2004. It seems so archaic what with Nanos, Shuffles and Touch introduced over the last 5 years.  Since launch, it has morphed into a hybrid device of music, gaming and internet device following the launch of game-changing iPhone .

What next for the iPod? It has morphed into an internet device so the original, classic mp3-player is no longer as attractive as it was. It shows in the numbers – Apple sold 10.89 million iPods during the quarter ending March’10, representing a one percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter. People prefer the iPod Touch or better still, the iPhone which also doubles up as a music player. While it makes sense for Apple to have consumers upgrade within it’s own portfolio, the iPod as we originally knew it has perhaps reached saturation levels.

New markets? New geographies? In markets like India the dynamics are so different. One of the biggest reasons for iPod’s success in the US is also the ecosystem it provided through iTunes for music sales. In markets like India, that service has not been launched yet. People prefer devices that are affordable and offer great value – as defined by ability to do many everyday things. No wonder the FM Radio feature in a regular mobile handset is such a winner in India. And even better if it comes with a camera and doubles up as a torch. With markets like India, the preference for iPod will be driven by the likes of iPod Nano – which bundles a lot of features yet makes the experience superior to competition – other mp3 players and mobile handsets.

Ability to play back music is such a common feature on smartphones. What value will iPod offer in the future? What will it be it’s reason for existence? In my view, the low end versions – Shuffle and Nano have a clear, compelling need & market. Shuffle is the second iPod. Nano attracts the entry level users with video recording and other features. The high end ones like the iPod Touch appeal to gamers, casual internet users and such – it’s a nice hybrid device. With Wi-Fi getting to be common (at least in the US), the iPod Touch is best placed to lead the market. Which leads to a sacrilegious question- is the iPod Classic the most vulnerable one?

With the iPod Touch, iPhone and now the iPad, Apple is constantly re-inventing the market. I hope it maintains it’s dominant share of the music market. Moving forward, it is hard to tell which industry the iPod operates in – music, computer, mobile phone? Maybe a bit of all. Whichever way it moves and whatever shape it takes, thank you Apple for giving us the iPod and what followed.

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