Forums
« Previous topic | Next topic »   
Twilight of the iPods

1 2 3 4 
LAN_402 LAN_403
Christo [PCD]
Wed Sep 09 2009, 07:02pm
Christo [PCD] Main Admin Registered Member #1 Joined: Fri Feb 03 2006, 10:48am
Posts: 4503
News item posted



On Wednesday evening, UK time, Apple is expected to release an upgrade to its iPod line. But amid the inevitable hype surrounding its careful marketing and intentional secrecy about the content of the launch, a different truth is emerging: that we are seeing the twilight of the stand-alone digital music player (DMP), a product category only just over 10 years old.

That does not mean that digital music players will vanish. Quite the opposite: the sector is still growing. Increasingly, though, the products have some sort of connectivity – whether Wi-Fi, mobile phone, Bluetooth or all three.

But if you look closely enough, the signs that the stand-alone player is in decline are all around. The first, and most obvious, was Apple's announcement in its latest quarterly results that iPod sales fell year-on-year for the first time since the product's launch in October 2001. As the iPod dominates the market for DMPs, any drop in its sales indicates a fall in the market.

Next is the news that in the last week of August, Sony's Walkman DMPs outsold the iPod in Japan for the first time in four years . But that was against a background where sales of DMPs fell by 13.5% for the fifth month in a row; and Sony forecast that it would sell 6.7m units in the year to March 2010 – compared to 7m sold the previous year. The conclusion? The market for those DMPs is falling. By contrast, in July the launch of the new iPhone 3GS at the same time the iPhone was the most popular phone in Japan.

Then there is Microsoft's decision to drop older versions of its Zune music player, which despite having Wi-Fi connectivity (unlike all iPods, except the iPod Touch) has failed to make an impact on the North American market, the only place it is sold. The Zune has been close to an embarrassment to Microsoft, losing money and never living up to expectations, with sales dropping 42% in the last quarter – though the company hopes for better from its next, touchscreen Zune HD.

And finally, there is the forecast by In-Stat, a consumer-analysis company, which suggests that the market for stand-alone DMPs peaked in value last year at $21.8bn and "will slow considerably over the next five years". It reckons that the market's growth fell below 10% at the end of 2008 for the first time since the Saehan "MPMan" player, able to store 32MB of data, went on sale in 1998. Soon after Diamond Multimedia started selling the Rio PMP300.

Download downturn

That in turn carries serious risks for the music industry, which for some time has surfed along on the iPod sales boom, warns Mark Mulligan, vice-president of the global media practice at the analysis company Forrester Research. Digital music downloads have been driven by DMP sales growth. But what happens when that growth slows? Logically, digital music sales – which the music industry had hoped would replace CD sales – slow down too.

"There's a really, really important point that we have been trying to hammer home to the record labels for some months, which is: what happens to music sales as device sales start to slow? Apple is 75%-80% of the music download market. Its fortunes are explicitly tied to iPod sales. And even before the last quarter, if you do a simple calculation – assuming a two-year replacement cycle for each iPod, and calculate the installed base – then you discover that the installed base of iPods stopped growing in 2007." Mulligan puts the total installed base at roughly 110m at the end of 2008.

He explains that 2005 was the "liftoff" year for iPod sales, and for the installed base to grow beyond that would require a "massive" sales surge – which is not happening. Instead, people are turning to the iPod Touch and iPhone; and those people are not buying as many tracks as iPod-only buyers.

But the music industry has had a troubled relationship with DMPs through their lives. In 1998 the first reaction of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), representing US record labels, to the Rio was to sue Diamond Multimedia because it could be used to play illicit copies of music. (A judge dismissed the case in October 1998.) The next was to ignore it: in 1998 Nick Raymonde, then the A&R (artists and repertoire) director at BMG Music, one of the biggest music companies, said in an interview that MP3 "is not a particularly good format technically" and "I don't really see a lot of kids walking around with MP3 players yet". He's probably seeing it now. And MP3 has remained the dominant format for storing music, with Amazon and other online retailers adopting it – forced principally by Apple's blanket refusal to use the Windows Media Audio format.

The iPod's arrival, with its click-wheel access to huge numbers of songs (5,000 on the first 5GB hard drive model), galvanised the market, which began to take off. By July 2006, a study by Digital Life America and Canada-based Fast Forward found 28% of Americans aged 12 and over had a DMP – up from 12% the previous year – with sales growing fastest among women. The iPod had a 68% US market share, up from 53% in 2005, with Creative Labs a distant second with 6%; dozens of other manufacturers with shares no larger than 3% made up the other 26%.

But now that market has matured – or become saturated. It is no longer enough simply to play music (or, as non-iPod devices often can, have an FM tuner and voice recorder). Connectivity is now the key.

There's wealth in wireless

According to Stephanie Ethier, a consumer devices analyst at In-Stat, the slowdown in the stand-alone market is caused by "market maturity, a weak economy and competition from other multimedia handhelds – primarily mobile phones". She believes the total market for personal media players (a category that includes Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as the iPod Touch, Zune and Sony's new X-series Walkman) will grow from 200m in 2007 to 245m in 2012 – but of that, 21%, or 52m, will have Wi-Fi. That means 193m sold without, a fall compared to 2007. And the value of those 193m will be below that in 2007, as storage gets cheaper and the market commoditises.

Apple, again, clearly recognised that with its launch in September 2007 of the iPod Touch – essentially, the iPhone with the phone and Bluetooth systems taken out, but Wi-Fi left in. Since its launch, the iPod Touch has sold 18.6m units worldwide – compared to 26.4m units of the iPhone, launched three months earlier.

That connectivity though means that the complexities of the device – and the need for good user interface design – are suddenly much higher. Wi-Fi means email and web browsing become possible, if not obligatory, and the idea that you might be able to do even more with the device – as the iPhone and iPod Touch have demonstrated through Apple's online App Store, selling 65,000 different applications – raises the bar for those in the market. As Michael Gartenberg, a consumer analyst at the research company Interpret, says: "Let's face it. app stores are table stakes for mobile platforms today. If you don't have one, you're not even in the game."

Building up interest

It's easier for mobile phone companies to consider building an app store, because they know how their handsets work. But they have the challenge of working out how to make any revenue from them, and designing them so that people want to use them to download applications. RIM, with the BlackBerry platform, Palm, Nokia (with the Ovi store) and of course Apple.

But Mulligan warns that for the record industry, this brings all sorts of dangers which won't help sell more songs. "The iPhone, iPod Touch, devices like that, are basically vanilla products where the owner adds apps to customise it." Then they can use it for navigation and games, not necessarily songs. Hence the necessity for the record industry to push schemes such as Nokia's Comes With Music, where handset buyers get free music for a year, or Universal's download deal with Virgin Media.

"I don't think Comes With Music would have been licensed three years ago," says Mulligan. "But the record labels understand that [digital sales to iPods] isn't enough. There's no hockey-stick upturn in digital downloads. They're pretty much having to go with anything that the market comes to them with – Spotify, whatever. And they have a clear need to be forcing product innovation. The album format was devised in 1909. It hasn't changed since."

The product rumoured before Wednesday night was the "iTablet" – a tablet computer being developed by Apple with record labels. "I've learnt never to second-guess Apple," Mulligan says. "But if you had things like interviews and apps and music on a touchscreen netbook – that would be an ideal format. That's just what the music industry needs."

With the iPod – increasingly key to Apple's growth – now glimpsing its end, there will be pressure on Apple too to revitalise its offerings. But will Wednesday night's launches have been enough?
[Submitted by MaTiCa]

186 1252512663 Twilig

Back to top
Morgue[FLB]
Wed Sep 09 2009, 08:41pm
Morgue[FLB] Admin Registered Member #59 Joined: Wed Mar 08 2006, 11:21am
Posts: 6778
That's what I was talking about here:

http://www.pcdoctors.co.za/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?70362.last

Why have a separate music player when your cellphone duplicates the functionality? So the decline of the music-only handheld player is obvious.
Back to top
MaTiCa
Wed Sep 09 2009, 08:50pm
MaTiCa Admin Registered Member #186 Joined: Sun Jul 23 2006, 12:16pm
Posts: 2882
It seems Apple have listened:
A sneak peak at the new Nano

Tongue
Back to top
Morgue[FLB]
Wed Sep 09 2009, 10:57pm
Morgue[FLB] Admin Registered Member #59 Joined: Wed Mar 08 2006, 11:21am
Posts: 6778
Ped

LAWL, a pedometer!

They really are trying too hard!! Laugh

Back to top
Enigma_2k4
Wed Sep 09 2009, 11:42pm
Enigma_2k4 Registered Member #265 Joined: Sat Dec 23 2006, 08:59am
Posts: 3171
NICE news post man! Awesome read. Very exciting.

As for MP3's on your pone, for me MP3's are still too crap quality to be used. I have an iPod but hardy use it because of mp3 compression. Also, phone's have a much wors DAC (Digital to analogue converter) to be cheaper so MP3's sound even worse!
Back to top
Morgue[FLB]
Thu Sep 10 2009, 09:08am
Morgue[FLB] Admin Registered Member #59 Joined: Wed Mar 08 2006, 11:21am
Posts: 6778
Don't crosspost (posting the same thing in two different threads) Tongue

I'm tempted to respond here as I did in the other thread (http://www.pcdoctors.co.za/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?70362.last) but then I'd be doing the same thing...

Suffice to say, cellphone audio is really not that bad.
Back to top
Hawk
Thu Sep 10 2009, 09:13am
Hawk Registered Member #217 Joined: Mon Sep 18 2006, 04:12pm
Posts: 3610
Morgue[FLB wrote ...
]
Suffice to say, cellphone audio is really not that bad.

Whut? Cellphone audio generally sucks when compared to music players (e.g ipods). At least in my case my phone is a so called "music" phone and listening to music with it is just horrible. - SE W910i. Whereas listening to music on my ipod classic is awesome Smile

I like separate devices to do different things, that way if my phone dies I can stil listen to music, or if my music player dies I can still phone.
Back to top
Morgue[FLB]
Thu Sep 10 2009, 11:09am
Morgue[FLB] Admin Registered Member #59 Joined: Wed Mar 08 2006, 11:21am
Posts: 6778
Well, it's nice to have a backup device in case one fails - but not nice to have to lug both with you if you want all the features.

And maybe your SE W910i audio isn't very good in comparison to your iPod... but cellphone audio improves all the time. There's no reason it can't be just as good (or better than) the audio in other handheld devices.

See this page (http://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_5800_xpressmusic-review-308p6.php) under the heading Remarkable Audio Quality.

1252573764 59 FT70446 Nokia5800

Back to top
Enigma_2k4
Thu Sep 10 2009, 02:38pm
Enigma_2k4 Registered Member #265 Joined: Sat Dec 23 2006, 08:59am
Posts: 3171
LOL, I did warn that I had already said what I was going to.

Basically, for an audiophile (such as myself) 320kbs MP3 is not good enough, I can hear the difference in the sound and it irritates me to death. The sound processor makes a HUGE difference in the sound quality.

If someone is willing to lend me a nice shiny Nokia 5800 I have no problems giving a full review Cool

If it has a better processor in then the iPod I'm very keen to hear it! Although, I'm certainly going to be getting one of those from my company I think Cool
Back to top
Morgue[FLB]
Thu Sep 10 2009, 03:22pm
Morgue[FLB] Admin Registered Member #59 Joined: Wed Mar 08 2006, 11:21am
Posts: 6778
Enigma_2k4 wrote ...

...for an audiophile (such as myself) 320kbs MP3 is not good enough, I can hear the difference in the sound and it irritates me to death.
May I ask, the difference in sound quality between what and what? If you say the difference between listening to an .MP3 on your cellphone and listening to a CD on your Bang & Olufsen hi-fi, I'm gonna smack you Tongue

Like it or not, you can't take a CD player-sized device (or bigger) everywhere you go. Which means you have to use digitally-encoded audio files, which generally means the .MP3 format with a maximum of 320kb encoding. You could of course opt for .AAC or .OGG or .FLAC (the latter being the best choice), but the format may not be supported by your portable device (and .FLAC files are around 4 to 6 times bigger than their .MP3 counterparts).

Enigma_2k4 wrote ...

If someone is willing to lend me a nice shiny Nokia 5800 I have no problems giving a full review Cool
You can check my nice (but not shiny any more) one out sometime Tongue It's interesting to note that this is really a *budget* phone, but it comes loaded with features. Impressive.

Enigma_2k4 wrote ...

If it has a better processor in then the iPod I'm very keen to hear it!
First, I have no idea if the SP in the 5800 is 'better' than the one used in an iPod - I don't know if there are websites that undertake to publish such comparisons.

Secondly, I have no idea how one would qualitatively evaluate sound processors (comparing them against each other). What sounds good to you may not sound good to me, so any such comparison is highly subjective. Of course, expensive sound processors in top-end hardware would sound 'better' than cheapies.... but comparing SPs of a similar price group could prove tricky Cool

Back to top
1 2 3 4 
Moderator(s): Christo [PCD], Morgue[FLB], RaZeaL [PCD], Siversmith[PCD], Dade_182, MaTiCa, MayheM

Go to:

LAN_431 LAN_432 LAN_433
Powered by e107 Forum System