Guts, glory, and screwing the nano

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Motorola’s CEO, Ed Zander, had some unkind words for Apple’s iPod nano. Surely you’ve seen the most infamous quote:

“Screw the nano. What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs?”

But Zander goes on to say:

“People are going to want devices that do more than just play music, something that can be seen in many other countries with more advanced mobile phone networks and savvy users.”

Sour grapes aside at having his poorly received Rokr phone overshadowed by the sleek and sexy nano during a recent Apple music event, Zander isn’t saying anything that hasn’t been splashed across business journals during the past three years. The prevailing wisdom is that when we don the silvery jumpsuits and hop into our flying cars, we will pack a single, multifunction device rather than a bandoleer of gear. In this world, devices like the Rokr make sense. The iPod nano does not.

Given that, I can understand Zander’s frustration—though I’ll grant you that there are better ways to shore up a business relationship than slagging your partner’s products; particularly when you failed to deliver the goods.

So where does that leave us? I think Zander is right—and I think Apple thinks Zander is right. A quick glance at Apple’s digital hub strategy makes it clear that Apple buys into convergence (though it currently practices it in its computers, operating system, and iLife multimedia suite rather than a handheld device). What is less clear is who will lead us to that Golden Age of Convergence.

Microsoft, in league with a host of mobile phone manufacturers, would dearly love to own this space, but Microsoft’s feeble music efforts demonstrate that might doesn’t always make right. With its clear understanding of what makes devices just work, Apple could have a shot, but it needs supportive (and supportable) partners and the commitment necessary to say:

“Screw the nano. What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 10,000 songs on a device that only plays music!?”

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