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How iPods Took Over the World 360

Posted by Zonk
from the thought-control-in-white-plastic dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Observer has a piece today about the iPod's ascension to dominance of the mp3 player market. The author argues that it's largely the result of clever business tactics and the iTunes music store." From the article: "The second thing about the iPod: it puts you, not them, in control. Basically, the record labels are devotees of the Henry Ford business model: 'You can have any music you want so long as it's what I want to give you.' But using the cyberspace jukebox, you're no longer at their mercy. You don't have to pay for the four filler tracks on every album. You don't have to buy albums at all. You can put country next to classical, punk next to jazz, Barry Manilow next to Placido Domingo (wait, that's a joke)."
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How iPods Took Over the World

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  • by Osrin (599427) * on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:45PM (#15421224) Homepage
    ... nobody in their right mind would listen to Placido Domingo.
  • Lame (Score:3, Funny)

    by Jazzer_Techie (800432) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:46PM (#15421227)
    No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.
    • No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

      But at least the iPod won't decide that you are an imperfect biological infestation and try to wipe you out.

  • What a concept! Maybe it will catch on and become the business strategy of the new millenium! No, wait, we've already decided to go with something else. It already has a cool TLA and everything.
  • Linux Software (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Hi,

    with what software can the iPod be used under Linux? My Windows is more or less unusable and I'm thinking of getting rid of it soon in favour of Linux. My iPod is one of the things holding me back.. I remember some years ago there was an attempt at using it under Linux but somehow didn't follow the development.

    Any recommendations of software to manage my library (Most of it in non-DRMed AAC from my classical CDs).

    Thanks in advance for any hints
    • Wow if you weren't an AC I would call you out for karma whoring.
    • Re:Linux Software (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Poppler (822173) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:10PM (#15421320) Journal
      I'd recommend amaroK if you use KDE, or Rhythmbox or gnupod if you use gnome. Banshee also handles ipods pretty well.
    • Banshee [banshee-project.org] - It uses mono so you might have some other philosophical issues to contend with, but it is generally a pretty good iTunes replacement if you don't have any iTMS purchases.
  • More to it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Golias (176380) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:56PM (#15421264)
    The iPod was already taking over the market before iTMS came along. It certainly helped them ramp up sales over the last few years, but the real reason the iPod became so popular was because of the one thing that Apple is known for getting right most of the time: Interface simplicity.

    Remember what most MP3 players looked like before the iPod? I'm not just talking about the general ugliness of some of them, but the way the interface was designed specifically to appeal to people who LOVE high-tech gagetry, and think the Windows file manager is downright spiffy.

    No non-geek had any clue at all how to operate them, or even what they were for. They just barely knew that "EM PEE THREE" had something to do with music, because their nephew set them up with Napster back around 1999 so they could steal music online and listen to it at the office.

    Then the iPod comes out. It's not an "MP3 Player", it's a music player. It has simple and obvious controls. It's easy to figure out how to get songs into it, and easy to figure out how to play them when they are there.

    What iTMS is doing is ensuring that the iPod *keeps* it's lead in the market. It's also creating a new revenue source for Apple. (They started it off as a possible loss-leader to sell iPods, but it's turning a profit these days, and with the addition of video downloads, I'm betting it will become an even bigger revenue generator for them. There's no way in hell I'm going to pay two bucks for a low-res TV show episode, but it appears that some people are happy to do so. Go figure.)
    • Re:More to it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:20PM (#15421363) Homepage
      Remember what most MP3 players looked like before the iPod? I'm not just talking about the general ugliness of some of them, but the way the interface was designed specifically to appeal to people who LOVE high-tech gagetry, and think the Windows file manager is downright spiffy.
      My first music player was a Creative Nomad II MG. Even after owning it for a year, I couldn't skip songs or navigate the content without grabbing it and looking at it. The dreadful UI [mycom.co.jp] had buttons lined up vertically on both sides of the device -- worse than the navigation issues, it was stupidly easy to accidentally delete songs. Within two years it was just a dust collector. The device itself was $250 and an extra memory card about $100. By the same token, the first time I picked up an iPod in a store, it was obious with less than 60 seconds of button pressing how the thing worked. With a little familiarity, it's a snap to operate without looking (nice feature when driving).

      About a year ago, I saw some refurb 3g 15gb ipods on sale someplace for $190, I bought one. It wasn't because of commercials (I don't watch TV). It wasn't because of iTunes (although admitedly, I have fallen prey to the ITMS crack -- but I recovered after an emusic intervention). I just wanted to put my CDs on a useable device and the iPod fit the bill.
  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Winckle (870180) <mark@[ ]ckle.co.uk ['win' in gap]> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:56PM (#15421266) Homepage
    It's the most user-friendly mp3 player with the best interface, and excellent software syncing. Oh to all you non-conformists herescreaming that it was "T3H MARKETING!!!", Apple used to use exactly the same kinds of adverts for the macintosh, that doesn't exactly have a huge market share.
  • I don't like Ipods (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rlp (11898) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:57PM (#15421273)
    I'm starting to feel like the only person on earth who doesn't like Ipods. I admit they are well designed, they have a great user interface. They're very functional. From my point of view there's just one thing wrong with them. The built-in rechargable power supply. I use my MP3 player in a lot of outdoor activities. I prefer a device that I can either replace the battery or take one or more spares with me. You can't do that with an Ipod. Instead, I have a small Sandisk MP3 player which takes on AAA battery. When travelling I can get replacement batteries anywhere. When hiking or biking I can take a spare rechargable AAA. When camping, I can bring several. The design and UI are nowhere near as nice, but that's trumped (at least for me) by the portability.
    • by The One and Only (691315) <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:59PM (#15421277) Homepage
      You can buy external AAA battery packs for your iPod.
    • i'm much happier having 60 gig of music with me.

      and when necessary, i can always take my generic mp3 player with me, and run it off AAAs. i don't see this as a good argument for not liking ipods.

      you know, the right tool for the right purpose.

      • i'm much happier having 60 gig of music with me.
        and when necessary, i can always take my generic mp3 player with me, and run it off AAAs. i don't see this as a good argument for not liking ipods.


        And I can just take an extra battery for my Zen. And keep my 60 gigs.
    • by Golias (176380) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:14PM (#15421338)
      That's not a reason to dislike iPods. It's just a reason why they are probably not right for you.

      The iPod is designed for urbanites. The battery is perfectly adequate for people who don't go more than a few hours away from an outlet most of the time. I have my iPod running in my car (off the car charger) when I drive in to work in the morning, listen to it on headphones in the office, take it jogging with me over lunch, and back in the car in the evening. If I go for a bike ride or a walk that evening, I can take it along then. It's even nice for domestic air travel, and awesome to have with you for a day of downhill skiing.

      Even when traveling by hitch-hiking or on a bicycle, you plug in your charger in the restaurant where you eat lunch (every restaurant has a few outlets in the dining area so they can run vacuum cleaners and stuff), and you're good to go until dinner. No problem.

      That said, unless you attach an external battery pack, it's unsuitable for camping out in the wilderness.

      Then again, when *I* go out into the wilderness, I'm trying to get away from all that shit, and the only piece of electronics I want with me is *maybe* a GPS. Kind of hard to hear the call of the eagle, or the wind rushing through the pines, if it's drowned out by your "slow jams."

      Still, it sounds like the iPod is the wrong player for your lifestyle. You do, however, realize that the way you live is rather atypical, right?
      • by Yaztromo (655250)

        That said, unless you attach an external battery pack, it's unsuitable for camping out in the wilderness.

        That may not be completely true. You can in fact buy portable, foldable solar panels for recharging portable devices like the iPod, which are suitable for backpacking -- you can drape the foldable panels down the back of your pack, plug everything in, and let your iPod charge.

        However, having just returned from a several day hike along the Juan de Fuca trail, I agree with you -- leave everything but

  • by AhtirTano (638534) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:00PM (#15421280)
    This has nothing to do with the rise of the iPod. The ability to get single songs rather than the whole album is why downloading music (legally or illegally) got popular. We have been putting any two songs we want side-by-side since the earliest days of cassette tapes. The only way the iPod factors into this is the convenience of transfering our custom playlists onto a play-back machine. In the old days, I spent hours swapping tapes to record in the order I wanted; and I spent way too much money on blank tapes.

    I love my iPod. Especially because of the sheer volume of sound files it holds, and the way its integration with iTunes* allows me to manage my songs simply. But I've been arranging songs for my personal use (without buying the entire album) for more than 15 years.

    *The application, not the store. I don't like using the iTunes store, because the interface is horrible for browsing. I only use it for podcasts and the occasional audiobook.

    • Most people just listen to "shuffle", so I think your evaluation overrates the importance of the "Y follows X" factor. In fact, I would say that most of the other things in your "I like iPods" spiel were bigger factors: Huge volumes of music (without lugging huge boxes of CDs), portability, simpler song management, and instant gratification thanks to BitTorrent^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H iTMS.
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:00PM (#15421284)
    "You don't have to pay for the four filler tracks on every album."

    Wow, I just had a great idea. Record companies could have sold a smaller record with just one song on it and sold it for less money. Wait. Since there are two sides of a record, they could put another song on the other side. They could have called these records something like a SINGLE. They could have had some of the advantages of the iPod years ago.
    • Wow, I just had a great idea. Record companies could have sold a smaller record with just one song on it and sold it for less money.


      Too bad they never thought up the "sell it for less money" part....

    • What if those songs aren't quite the ones you want to listen to? Sometimes, you know, the single is not the best song for someone. And, as the other poster said, they're more expensive per track than the ITMS (aren't they? 6 bucks for a couple original songs and four remixes... I'll have to pass).
  • Not only marketing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vijayiyer (728590)
    Already, the slashdot posts are rolling in - "People only buy iPods due to marekting" Perhaps the lack of insight evidenced by these comments is why other player manufacturers are unable to compete. The iPod is successful partly due to marketing, but also because it Just Works for the average user. People don't care about Ogg Vorbis. People don't care about DRM if they don't notice it (and if you use an iPod along with iTunes and regular CDs, you realistically don't unless you're trying to give songs to you
    • People don't care about Ogg Vorbis. People don't care about DRM if they don't notice it...

      But maybe they should... I've recently learned the error of my ways; too late for my several thousand mp3's though. Always buy music with an eye on the future... I wish I had my music in a high quality ogg file, or even better, flac.
  • The article AND the iPeople have missed it. As mentioned, iPod and ITMS, are simply relaxed control, but control just the same. The truth of the matter is that iPods and ITMS are simply the best alternative (more or less) for the great unwashed masses that just want music they like, when they like, how they like. To most people, a little control is a good thing, and Apple has kept up their closed/controlled business model from the beginning. This works for many people. Most folk don't want to have to instal
    • This works for many people. Most folk don't want to have to install the software to make their microwave work, they just want to push buttons, and likewise, they want their music to be that simple too, as simple as turning on the radio, or as close as they can get to that.

      That is why Apple's iPod is so successful, because of all the sheeple, and Apple's willingness to pander to that principle.

      I don't think I understand. You say that people like having nice, easy to use music players, and then this make

  • I think what the iPod and ITMS show is not the virtues of putting the customer in control, but the virtues of at least letting the customer share some of the benefits opened up by electronic distribution.

    The reason the music companies are seen as greedy is that they want 100% of the benefits to accrue to them. No, it's worse than that: they want to take away things that the customer used to enjoy... the ability to make low-fi cassette copies for friends, for example. The music companies hope they can use DR
  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:13PM (#15421332)
    but I wish articles would stop making articles about ipods then spending most of the time talking about itunes.
  • Full albums (Score:4, Insightful)

    by basic0 (182925) <.ac.oohay. .ta. .wolloccmm.> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:14PM (#15421336)
    There's something to be said of albums that are meant to be taken as one whole work of art. There aren't any really horrible songs or filler, and each song just kinda flows or leads into the next. Some of my favorite examples:

    - Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
    - Nirvana's Nevermind
    - Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here
    - Soundgarden's Superunknown
    - Michael Jackson's Thriller (despite that horrible duet with Paul McCartney)

    Whenever I hear a song from one of these albums on the radio, I'm always waiting for the following track to start playing at the end. It's so unsettling to hear them out of context. It's like seeing a drawing of Spider-Man floating on a page with no background, rather than in a comic book with a plot and setting. I'm sure every classic rock fan has encountered that one jackass DJ who plays Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" and not "Livin' Lovin' Maid" afterwards.

    I don't think the situation will get better for we who enjoy music's artistic merits. Radio and MTV (or MuchMusic) already can't tolerate any songs longer than about 4 minutes. I feel this "iPod effect" will only cause record labels to enourage their artists to record music that is marketable rather than good (more so than they do already).
  • by radarsat1 (786772) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:14PM (#15421339) Homepage
    I dunno, maybe I'm in the minority, but I've actually NEVER heard anyone say "I bought my iPod so I can finally buy music from iTunes!!"

    People buy the iPod because it's attractive, has a large harddrive (one of the first players to use a harddrive, I think), and has a great interface (circular touchpad) for browsing the contents. And, no doubt, because the marketing has been successful in making it the first thing that comes to mind when people think about MP3 players. Frankly, there may be other players on the market that do as good a job or better, but when it comes down to it the iPod is just a good little piece of hardware that does what it does very well. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why it's popular.

    Personally I haven't bought one because I want something that can record a line-in signal. And because I have, like, no money at all right now. I might eventually get an iRiver or something that can record CD-quality music.

    However, I'm almost sure that iTunes is never the reason why people by the iPod..
    Of course, I could be wrong.
    • I am thinking about buying an iPod because of the following reasons:

      1) Great interface: I hate my MuVo with its previous-next buttons, it takes me an hour to find the song I want, with the wheel I don't even need to categories the MP3s into folders any more.
      2) Ubiquity: Since everyone and their dog has an iPod, people are making stuff run on it. What other portable player runs wikipedia and linux?
      3) Video: It plays video, which is great when you want something more than listening to music, so you can maybe
    • It's also not true that an iPod is required to use the ITMS. iTunes itself will play back music bought from the store.

      The iPod wasn't the first HD player, but it was at the time one of the smallest and the only one that didn't take hours to fill thanks to its (at the time, unique) Firewire connection.
  • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:19PM (#15421358)
    C'mon . . . lots of folks have an iPod and have never purchased a single song from the iTunes store. The reason iPod was so successful was that it was the first portable music player with mainstream appeal which let folks play non-DRM'd music on it. If we would have been forced to re-encode our stuff (a la Sony) people would have never touched it, and Apple knew this. (Sony probably knew that too, but their label / content arm wouldn't stand for DRM-free players) The other part of mainstream appeal is the iTunes software -- highly intuitive for non-geeks, extremely fast, no forced advertising / spyware, etc. It just works the way it's supposed to.
    • One more thing that helped make it popular - accessories; there aren't just a lot of them because the iPod is popular, it's because the iPod has a fairly fixed form factor, a single connector type that allows you access to the thing, feedback from it, and of course the audio itself, and fairly simple-to-follow licensing setups from Apple.

      Compare that to just about every other music player out there. With audio you're probably all set - it's going to be either a 3.5mm or a 2.5mm plug - but for everything el
  • Perhaps it's for the tech-oriented, but I don't like the iTunesDB crap that iPods love so much. I don't want extra software to copy music onto my iPod. Installed Rockbox for iPod, haven't looked at the official firmware since. Spent a few hours re-encoding CDs into Ogg Vorbis, but the quality improvement over MP3s is worth it. At a friends' house and I want to copy songs to/from the iPod? Simple, plug it in, and use the local operating system file management tools to copy songs.
  • Apple made the iPod, and set up a business plan wherein people wanted to buy an iPod. They were not trying to sell any specific sort of music. The iTunes store is designed to work well with the iPod, but you really dont need to use iTunes to use an iPod. The only thing Apple wanted to do was get people to use iPods.

    Unlike Sony, Apple is not burdened by a publishing arm that wants to sell or promote specific artists. And as the submitter mentioned, they are not trying to sell filler tracks. Apple even t
  • Come on... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by minitual (966089)
    It wasn't genius marking, clever business tactics, or the iTunes Music Store. It was simply the fact that Apple released a superior product than all the other crap that was being put at that time. It looked cool, worked well, and wasn't so expensive you would have to mortgage your house for it. That's it...that simple.
  • by osho_gg (652984) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:42PM (#15421441)
    There were online music shops where you can download each track individually before iPod. And, there were players who could play those tracks.

    It is primarily due to ipod's (and itune's) highly intuitive and easy-to-use interface that made it a real winner. It made it possible for anyone who would otherwise be afraid to touch a new high-tech gizmo, instantly comfortable with ipod. And Apple's marketing of ipod is another factor contributing to ipod's success. The initial buzz that was created with white earbuds was something many marketing teams dream about launching their products.

    Of course, being able to buy a track at a time is a great thing and definitely helped ipod gain market-share. But, Apple didn't invent it. It was there before ipod.

    Osho

  • When I go jogging, I carry around one of these [blogspot.com] puppies with me. Whenever I need a break, I just stop to change needles, give it a crank and I'm off. A whole block can listen to whatever I'm listening to and it's a great conversational piece as well. And go ahead - mod this flamebait.
    • Reason 1: No gapless playback
    • Better yet, anyone know how to fix this?! Even just on iTunes, not necessarily on the iPod... as a DJ I often record mixes, and the only way I've found to listen to the mix without gaps is to record it as one giant song. That's fine, but if you distribute your mixes on CDs, you want song breaks so people can skip to whatever song they want. I can't figure out a way to do this using MacOS X (I usually record via SoundStudio and then put the mix into iTunes). Anyone know how to remedy this situation?
  • How it took over? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @03:19PM (#15421569)
    Simplicity, hype, marketing.

    There are far better mp3 players out there, but they are harder to use, or their knobs are too small, or they have too many functions, or they are not well advertised...

    What you gotta understand, and since we're kinda "geeks" here, I guess you already do, is that iPod is far from the best mp3 player out there, let alone with best value/price ratio (mentioning value/price ratio and Apple in one sentence makes me laugh).

    Case in point, my shitty mp3 player:

    $880 mp3/wma player with FM radio. It's smaller than iPod shuffle, but has a screen with song selections, doubles as a mass storate USB stick (1GB), it has rubber grip & it doesn't scratch at all, even if I put it in my pocket with my keys. Oh and it uses one AAA battery, so you never have to charge it, since you charge the other batteries while you're out listening to the player (and they are so tiny, you can carry 2-3 as a backup in your pocket for more than 16h total play time).

    The brand? Canyon or something. Popularity: none. The manual is written in poorly written English, never seen ads or posters for it.

    But iPod sucks compared to this thing.
    • Damn ... I mean $80 not $880 :D
      • Re:How it took over? (Score:4, Informative)

        by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear@pacbe l l . n et> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @08:45PM (#15422677) Homepage
        There are far better mp3 players out there, but they are harder to use, or their knobs are too small, or they have too many functions, or they are not well advertised...


        If they are harder to use or their knobs are too small, they cannot be better. A better player would be easier to use with perfectly sized knobs.


        What you gotta understand, and since we're kinda "geeks" here, I guess you already do, is that iPod is far from the best mp3 player out there, let alone with best value/price ratio (mentioning value/price ratio and Apple in one sentence makes me laugh).


        In 2001, the iPod was far and above the best mp3 player out there.
        By 2004 Creative Labs had caught up; they had released their Zen Micro to compete with the iPod mini, they had a minimal 5 element UI, they had finally adopted fast USB2, and they came in several colors.

        What happened in the intervening 3 years?

        Apple released a Windows compatible iPod, they had released a Windows compatible iTunes, they had released ever smaller iPods, the even smaller and thinner iPod mini (January of 2004, nine months before the Creative Zen Micro), and they had been continuously bumping the capacity and slowly reducing the price of the iPods.

        So it doesn't seem surprising at all that, in the course of three years, that Apple would dominate if they kept releasing better and smaller and cheaper iPods. Fast forward to 2006 and it seems if anyone else wants to topple Apple then it might very well take three full years of concerted effort to topple them.

        As per my "facts", you don't have to take my word for it, please look it up. Creative Labs took several years to catch up with 1.8" drives and 1" drives, colors, good UI, and good form factor.
    • Harder is better? (Score:4, Informative)

      by TimmyDee (713324) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @07:30PM (#15422475) Homepage Journal
      I think you're confusing "full-featured" with "better".

      Sure, the iPod is not as full-featured as some other players, but I think the fact that they're harder to use automatically removes them from the "better" category. Ease of use is a feature, too, even for geeks like us.
  • ...that doesn't consider the iPod interface "intuitive" (Nevermind the "nipple"-theory)? About half a year ago, I thought about getting an iPod, since my Trekstor iBeat organix only holds a single Gigabyte (Flash though, which I prefer over HD, which was the reason for getting this nice, big, Ogg-compatible player in the first place). So, I went to a store and began fiddling with the different players on display, including an iPod. I should mention that I'm both a capable tech-head (CS student actually writ
  • by puck13 (102616) on Monday May 29, 2006 @06:18PM (#15426163)
    David Pogue said it best in a NYTimes article [nytimes.com] (free, no reg required for Pogue's articles) about a(nother, ho hum) Samsung MP3 player.

    He points out that Apple didn't get just one thing right, they got a bunch of things right AND made them work well together.

    == Quote:
    The iPod's competitors have wasted years of opportunity by assuming that they can beat the iPod on features and price alone. They're wrong.

    In fact, at least six factors make the iPod such a hit:
    cool-looking hardware;
    a fun-to-use, variable-speed scroll wheel;
    an ultrasimple software menu;
    effortless song synchronization with Mac or Windows;
    seamless, rock-solid integration with an online music store (iTunes);
    and a universe of accessories.

    Mess up any aspect of the formula, and your iPod killer is doomed to market-share crumbs.
    == Endquote.

    I'd argue that they also got the ITMS business model right, in addition to the superb integration of the above six.

    You'll note there's no mention of marketing anywhere there.

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