Is The iPod An iFad?

Bill Gates thinks the iPod is a passing fad. He thinks the future belongs to music-playing mobile phones.

If you think about the statement, it really is two statements:

  • Mobile phones will eventually take over playing music from standalone players.
  • Apple will lose that competition.

    The first statement is pretty straightforward, and Mr. Gates is probably quite correct. Why carry two devices when you can carry just one? Such a device might be a little on the heavy/clumsy side today, but innovations like perpendicular hard drives ought to take care of that.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean Apple can’t come up with an iPhone in due course, so a shifted format doesn’t condemn Apple.

    Or does it?

    Battle Reenactment

    I don’t know if people do this elsewhere in the world, but at least in the United States, there are people who like to reenact battles, as in getting dressed in Union or Confederate uniforms and refighting the Battle of Gettysburg.

    What does this have to do with Bill Gates and Apple? Well, that’s just what Bill Gates wants to do with Apple again. He wants to refight Little Stevie Jobs again on the same grounds as the PC vs. Mac battle of the Eighties.

    He’s not even trying to hide it, from the link above:

    “You can make parallels with computers. Apple was once very strong in this field, with its Macintosh and its graphical user interface — like the iPod today — and then lost its position.”

    This is trash-talking without the trash. I (use any slangish synonum or phrase for “beat”) you before and I’m going to (repeat earlier insturction) you again, and you can’t stop me.

    I wonder if Little Stevie is now going to ban Microsoft books from the Apple Store, too.

    Well, is this history repeating itself?

  • Microsoft is trying to make arrangements with mobile phone makers left and right. At the same time, they’ve certainly have made sure that non-iPod music players will play WMA files.

    Mobile phone makers have been more wary of MS than those making music players, but you don’t need to sell your soul to Redmond just to be able to play WMA files. Besides, any music player needs to play something usually legal, and Apple won’t let them incorporate AAC technology into their players (just like MacOS was never an option for a PC), so where else can they go?

    When the time comes for musical mobile phones, the phone makers will certainly have no problem licensing whatever technology they need from MS and go about their business, just like PC clone-makers did twenty years ago.

    And what will Apple do? Why, if the past is any indication of the future, they’ll come up with an iPhone, and if you want Apple technology, you buy an iPhone (or maybe one or two rebadged ones). Period. Just like if we wanted Apple technology fifteen-twenty years ago, you bought a Mac. Period.

    So then it will be Apple against the rest of the mobile phone industry, most if not of which will under MS’s banner simply because Little Stevie cannot play well with others.

    Different players, same plot. Proprietary vs. an effectively open standard. No wonder why Bill is salivating. He no more expects Apple to win this time around than a Civil War reenactor wearing a Union Army uniform expects the South to win the next Battle of Gettysburg.

    Is it exactly the same?

    The iLegal Standard

    Mr. Gates’ reenactment would in all likelihood come true if the Battle of the Musical Mobile Phones came down to an army of WMA-players against an AAC-iPhone.

    However, there’s a third player in this game, one only backed by the customers. That player is called MP3, and it’s like a nuclear superpower in this battle.

    Ask yourself this: How many iPods do you think would have been sold if they didn’t also play MP3s? No matter how cool-looking and handling it is, that wouldn’t have been good enough for the vast majority of current iPod users.

    This is just as true for any other player out there, but it is especially ironic that a company hellbent on preserving its intellectual property standards is so dependent on a thieves’ standard.

    (Spare me the “MP3 is a legal standard. emails” Yes, it is. Many “illegal” drugs are legal, too, under certain medical circumstances, but that doesn’t make buying some on the street and indulging OK.

    So long as MP3 remains the de facto standard, Bill won’t get quite the battle he wants.

    That doesn’t mean Apple won’t lose. It probably will, but they won’t be beaten by Bill, but rather by Samsung, Nokia and Company building more appealing phones than Apple. Given that Samsung, Nokia and Company are already in full-scale war trying to build the coolest-looking and -acting phones, they are far more formidable competition for coolness than, say, Dell.

    Bill’s real enemy in the music field isn’t Apple. It’s MP3. Bill can’t win unless it gets KOd, and he can’t do it.

    Remember that over the next few years when DRM in under discussion by governmental types.


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