July 30, 2012
It’s a pundit’s cliché to prognosticate something like “this will be the last generation of game consoles” or “Blu-ray will be the last physical format” (maybe not). If you want to go out quite a bit further into the future, though, you can listen to the likes of OnLive CEO Steve Perlman, who says that, eventually, virtually all computing devices will go away in a world that can take advantage of ultra-high-speed wireless technology like DIDO.
Are these the ramblings of a mad scientist? Not for Perlman’s former employer, Apple, which has traditionally made money from devices supported by software and content. The latter has historically represented relatively little of the company’s revenue when compared to its well-known hardware products.
But that is starting to shift, at least on a relative basis. In a charting of Apple’s YoY third-quarter revenue shares, Stuart Carlson shows the growing influence of the iPhone and iPad over time. But look a bit further down the Y-axis from those ascendant lines and you will see that revenue form the iTunes store, while down on a percentage basis from a few years ago, now accounts for more revenue than desktops and the iPod, two products that are still strongly identified with the company. This has more to do with cannibalization of these products by notebooks and iPhones than a particular surge in digital sales. I wouldn’t expect this revenue stream to overtake iPhones or notebooks any time soon. Still, it demonstrates that Apple is positioning itself for a world in which bit distribution may pick up growing importance versus devices.
Tags: App Store, Apple, atoms versus bits, desktops, DIDO, iMac, iPod, post-hardware, revenue share
June 17, 2011
When Apple debuted its portable digital music player that would interact with iTunes, it named it iPod. This left many scratching their head iPod? Why not iSongs or iMusic, particularly since Apple was almost exclusively focused on that content at the iPod’s debut. Over time, though, Apple added support for more media types to the device, including photos, videos and games.
Years later, Apple introduced the iPhone, claiming that it was the best iPod it had ever produced. In fact, the app that played back music and videos was called “iPod” to play upon the familiarity with the blockbuster portable device. This always seemed a bit odd to me, though – assigning what had previously been a hardware brand to software. Indeed, the metaphor fell apart when Apple introduced the iPod touch, and renamed the “iPod” app Music to avoid recursion.
Now, a decade after the debut of the iPod, and as Apple may finally leave the iPod classic behind this fall, it’s all becoming almost completely logical and consistent. Apple still has the fixed-function iPod shuffle, but the flagship iPod touch is indeed a container for many seeds; the floodgates have been opened completely with a rich app library. And the iPhone’s “iPod” app will disappear with iOS 5, being replaced with separate apps for music and video. This move signals that – as much as the iPod has been synonymous with music – its brand and capabilities have grown into things more consistent with its name.
Tags: branding, iPhone, iPod, music
September 2, 2010
Prior to this week’s iPod announcement, it was a bit inconsistent that the midrange iPod nano could capture video (but not stills) and the high-end iPod touch could capture neither. With the new lineup, hough, the iPods’ capture capabilities have been rationalized. The iPod nano has no image or video capture capabilities whereas the iPod touch now has both – including high-definition video — even though the stills are of a lower resolution than those the iPhone 4 can capture. Of course, video capture is a better fit for the touch than the nano anyway. Not only can it now take advantage of the remarkable iMovie app, but video can be uploaded via Wi-Fi (which the nano lacks) and used by third-party developers.
Indeed, while the new nano boasts a novel and fun form factor, Apple’s new lineup has a sort of retro feel to it, with the shuffle reclaiming its buttons and the nano focusing more on music and a smaller screen. Why, the dock connector on the nano even returns to the center of its bottom, where it was on the third-generation nano. Both the shuffle and nano show that Apple thinks it’s hip to be square.
Paradoxically, the iPod touch, which looks most similar to its previous generation, really has an opportunity to spawn a whole new category of products – the consumer videoconferencing appliance. For less than $500 and a Wi-Fi connection, you can now set up a simple point-to-point videoconference, one that will be able to tie into more users as Apple enables FaceTime over 3G. Not only is the device now, more than ever, a contract-free smartphone, it’s a contract-free videophone.
Tags: Apple, digital music, iPod, iPod nano, iPod touch, videoconferencing
May 18, 2009
Steve Jobs’ podcasting run was brief but memorable; Apple’s CEO took to the microphone to demonstrate the podcasting studio features in GarageBand during his Macworld Expo keynote in January 2006. He elicited laughs from the audience by creating a podcast called “Super Secret Apple Rumors” in which he reported, “The next iPod will be huge – an eight-pounder with a 10” screen.” The mock rumor was illustrated by a spoof of Apple’s silhouette iPod ads featuring someone holding a briefcase-sized iPod classic under his arm.
And yet, just a few years later, rumors are indeed circulating that Apple may be working on a media tablet and that the company has ordered a large quantity of 10” touchscreen panels from Wintek. Even Apple’s largest MacBook doesn’t weigh eight pounds (in fact, Apple promotes the 17” MacBook Pro as the thinnest and lightest 17” notebook), but it would be a sublime prank on the rumormongers if Apple foretold of a 10” iPod years in advance right before their eyes.
Tags: Apple, iPoad, iPod, podcast, super secret Apple rumors
March 25, 2008
Sirius and XM have convinced the Department of Justice that its merger won’t create a monopoly in the radio, or more broadly, music playback, space. While the FCC is expected to follow suit with the DoJ, there is a rush of parties that are looking to add terms and conditions to the merger. Censorship on satellite radio? What would be the point of a premium alternative to terrestrial?
It’s certainly true that there are far more options available for high-quality digital music playback since the time that XM started broadcasting from space. The iPod is frequently brought up as a competitor, but I’ve never really thought of it as a major one. First, the iPod accelerated its move into the vehicle rather late in its rise to popularity and many of the solutions are primitive or awkward.
I’suspect that I, like many MP3 player owners, have music on their players to which they’ve never listened. Mostly, though, particularly for Apple’s ecosystem that has never been as aggressive about music discovery as, say, Rhapsody, iPods are about playing back what you have, not what you don’t. And keeping them fresh requires round-trips between the house and car. So, what satellites really buy the companies better than any competing technology today (save terrestrial radio, which was around at its launch) is direct and unfettered access to the vehicle
Wireless technologies such as 4G and WiMAX have the potential to present a credible no-hassle alternative to satellite radio, but the cost structures don’t support the infrastructure required to deliver it for the foreseeable future. One could argue that they didn’t for XM or Sirius, either. But with a reduced customer acquisition marketing burden, their expenses should become more manageable. In the meantime, the Slacker Portable satellite add-on looks like it will be promising alternative when it arrives.
Tags: competition, iPod, satellite radio, Sirius, slacker, XM
March 18, 2008
There’s a pretty exciting report coming from the Financial Times that Apple is negotiating with the major music record labels to build in access to their catalogs into the price of the device. Such a move would be consistent with rumors of an Apple DVR in that it would show that Apple is intent on keeping the value on its hardware products, the roots of the company. As many have speculated, while Apple has sold over four billion songs, the iTunes store hasn’t been a major profit center.
According to the FT, the labels want $100 per device, which would be prohibitive for where popular models such as the iPod nano are today. Also, I’m not thrilled with the idea of the license being tied to a device. That seems like a step backward from the trend of DRM-free music sales; even DRM tracks can be used on an unlimited number of iPods.. Nevertheless, if Apple (or any other company, for that matter) and the labels can pull it together, it would represent a digital music renaissance, taking us full-circle back to the early days of “free” digital music and the explosion in discovery that went along with it.
Tags: Apple, iPod, music licensing