Like Popeye before me, I’m a reasonably patient guy. You can bum the price of a burger off me with no intention of repayment, steal my pencil-thin dithering girlfriend, even hammer me into the ground like a hunk of rebar. But there comes a point when I’ve had all I can stands and I can’t stands no more. And by this I mean, of course, that I’ve had it up to here with the fabled “iPod killer.”
The final straw was last week’s AM radio interview with the gadget-guru from a Big Name Technology Site.
“Oh, and wait until you see the next iPod killer from YetAnotherKorean Co. It’s gonna blow you away.”
If I may give this bozo’s wheeze a squeeze, I’d like to suggest that there are two problems with his statement.
The first is that coupling “next” and “iPod killer” suggests that a portable music player exists that has given the iPod a run for its money.
Rather, we get a week’s-worth of hype that features The Phrase in bold type and then someone like the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg takes the time to actually run the thing through its paces and judges the device yet another pretender. The alleged “killer” is quickly forgotten and the hype machine spins down until it’s time to float the next “killer” before an apparently amnesiac public.
Secondly, if YetAnotherKorean Co. released a music player with truly killer capabilities—an interface as intuitive as the iPod, a color screen, battery life measured in days rather than hours, boundless storage, outstanding audio specs, an FM tuner, CD-quality recording, and a taste filter that prevents the device from playing anything found in Billboard’s charts during the Ford Administration—it would still have a hell of a time making a dent in the iPod’s marketshare.
The popularity of the iPod is about far more than the device’s design. The iPod is part of a digital music experience—one that beautifully integrates an intuitive software client in iTunes and a source for music in the iTunes Music Store. Name a single “iPod killer” that offers this kind of integration.
It doesn’t exist.
Save for Sony, there’s not another company that owns enough parts of the experience to compete with Apple and, up to this point, the makers of the Playstation and Vaio have stumbled around like a kid coming off the Tilt-A-Whirl with his shoelaces tied together.
And speaking of kids, there’s this: Old fart technology writers routinely forget what it’s like to be 16. At this age, the music you listen to, the products you buy, and the clothes you wear have far more to do with what your friends have acquired than with feature-sets and spec sheets. It’s hip to own an iPod (but probably not hip to say “hip”). Regardless of how many bells and whistles your new “iPod killer” has, if it’s not an iPod, you’ve got the wrong player.
So enough of the “iPod killers” already. Should such a device emerge, you won’t learn about it from hyperbolic headlines. Just follow the cable from a typical teenager’s earbuds to the music player in their pocket and you’ll have all the news you need.