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iPod Takes Japan by Storm 284

conq writes "BusinessWeek reports on the soaring popularity of the iPod in Japan. From the article: 'iPod mania is alive and well in Japan -- one of the most competitive consumer-electronics markets on the planet. Despite an array of well-entrenched Japanese rivals, such as Sony and Matsushita, the iPod had cornered 51.3% of the digital-music player market as of the end of 2005, up from about 32% in 2004, according to research firm BCN. Sony was a distant second with 16.2%, while Panasonic grabbed just 8.2% of the market.'"
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iPod Takes Japan by Storm

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Crowhead ( 577505 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:16PM (#14796484)
    Popular technology popular. Interesting....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:18PM (#14796499)
    That's payback for the whole Walkman thing back in the 80's !
  • by Stan Chesnutt ( 2253 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:21PM (#14796525) Homepage
    ... and I saw a LOT of people wearing iPods in the trains, walking on the streets, and at the Narita airport. I talked with a few people about the iPod, and most were using them for Japanese pop music ripped from CDs: I did not meet anyone who had used the iTunes store.

    Further, most of the models I saw were the video iPod or the Nano. Very few older photo iPods, and none of the earlier generations.

    I'd say that the iPod was the dominant music player that I saw (although there were a few portable CD players)
    • by gbrandt ( 113294 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:24PM (#14796557)
      When I was in Japan I noticed quite a few companies selling white ear-pods in Akahabara. The iPod is such a fad item that people that have other devices will buy the white ear-pods to make it LOOK like they have an iPod.

      Its all about perception in Japan.

      • I can't imagine that the iPod is technically any more advanced than other products available on the Japanese market.

        Japan/China/Korea are usually years ahead of the U.S. when it comes to tech.

        Must be the user interface.
      • I tried to by some earbuds at a Lawsons (Like a 7-11 []), and the only ones in stereo were a pair of white Sony earbuds.

        I ordered my nano on the first day it came out (I'd been waiting...), and went about 2 weeks after getting mine -- saw a few other people with them in Japan, too!
      • My latest mobile 'phone (Nokia N70) came with with white earphones. Yet another example of a company completely missing the point, as they are very angular and cause pain if worn for more than a few seconds. I would rather have non-white earphones that I can actually keep in my ears (oh, and these have a proprietary connection, so I can't just use my iPod headphones).
      • The iPod is such a fad item that people that have other devices will buy the white ear-pods to make it LOOK like they have an iPod.

        Its all about perception in Japan.
        You dimwit. Half of the white earbuds on people EVERYWHERE are iPod look-alikes. This is not a Japanese invention.
    • Has anybody used the iTunes Japan service? Perhaps it has lousy selection or something? A lot of the Japanese business climate is still in the "good old boys club". With Apple being something of an outsider, I could see giants like Sony Music Japan giving them the cold shoulder.
      • With Apple being something of an outsider, I could see giants like Sony Music Japan giving them the cold shoulder.

        They tried. Apple launched without Sony, and shot to the top of the market for downloads in Japan in the first week or so. Some of Sony's muscians were trying to cut their own deals with Apple, so Sony quit their foot-dragging pretty damn quick.

        This was a source of great amusement to everyone who works on the iTMS.

  • by dgb2n ( 85206 ) <> on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:22PM (#14796536)
    Until I owned one.

    I've owned at least 6 or 7 different non-IPOD players including RIO's, RCA's, hard drive, flash based, you name it.

    My wife bought me a Video Ipod this year and I was skeptical. "Why not save the $50 and get a non-Apple one.". After less than 3 months, I like it so well, I'm ready to trade her Rio Carbon in for a Nano just because its so easy to use. I generally consider myself tech savy (using Linux since 1997) but the interface just seems so slick, so smooth, so simple to use with one hand that I can't get over it. Just the fact that you can rate songs as you play them and have that transferred back into Itunes seemed to represent a higher level of integration (seamlessness) than I saw with any other player and client-side software combination.

    Want to fast forward though a song? No problem. Couple of intuitive ways to do it. Love the album art. I used to download podcasts with a non-Itunes client and download to my other players. Completely simple with Itunes and the Ipod.

    I'm not suprised. Apple just got it right.
    • damn straight man,

      other than itunes being a kinda crappy program, the ipod really is the best thing out there. The rage of options/sizes/such really make it aa great music player.

      Do lots of peopl my them because the are the 'it' thing. Yes. But they are the 'it ' thing because the are really good at what they do.

    • Why does your average MP3 player need to be more intuitive? My Rave MP has up and down arrows instead of a virtual scroll wheel. The latter may be somewhat cooler, but it's not any more efficient. You can operate it just as fast, just as easily, with one hand. You have playlists, shuffle, etc. Fast forwarding through a song is as simple as--get this--holding down the fast forward/skip button. I use folders to organize my songs, and transfering them to the Rave is as easy as plugging it in and dragging
      • by TCQuad ( 537187 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @06:23PM (#14797001)
        My Rave MP has up and down arrows instead of a virtual scroll wheel. The latter may be somewhat cooler, but it's not any more efficient.

        When you want to scroll down faster to get to the bottom of your list, how do you do that? Can you hold the button down harder?

        The beauty of the scroll wheel is I can go faster or slower or many subtle degrees in between depending on how fast I move my thumb around.
        • When you want to scroll down faster to get to the bottom of your list, how do you do that? Can you hold the button down harder?

          The beauty of the scroll wheel is I can go faster or slower or many subtle degrees in between depending on how fast I move my thumb around.

          Um yes, with my old rio karma (which I lost), the scroll wheel acted in much the same way. I could just as easily move up or own 1, 2, 5, 10, or 2000 songs in one go.

          Oh, and it also plays flac and ogg, not to mention having the best sound o

      • So which other players let you rate your music on the portable device and build playlists that include song rating as a filter? And update those smart-playlists in real time as the traits of a song change, like it's playcount, rating, last-played-date?

        This is the killer feature of the iPod for me. When I get new songs, they go into a playlist of 'unrated' songs. They stay there until I give them a rating, and then I can pull up the playlist for 4-5 star songs and get all the music I like and none of the stu
        • Errr, I like ALL of the music that goes on my player, so I really don't see the point in rating it. If I want to organize, I can do so via folders or playlists, and I'd wager I can drag and drop into folders faster than you can individually rate each song.
          • There's no way you'd be able to drag and drop files into random scattered folders faster than it takes someone to set a star rating on an iPod. In iTunes, I'd be able to go from album to album before you'd be done closing your windows to go to the next album.

            Yeah, I like all the music on my player, too, but I like some more than others, and a few are top-notch five-star classics. I can use Smart Playlists to randomly pull out the best of the best, or I can make playlists to grab some of my lesser played s
      • My Rave MP has up and down arrows instead of a virtual scroll wheel. The latter may be somewhat cooler, but it's not any more efficient

        How easy is it to adjust your speed scrolling through a list with arrow buttons? Can you quickly skip through a to n in your list of artists to get to the one you want? The scroll wheel is a very nice device for this kind of thing, since it allows both fine- and coarse-grained movement with similar ease.

        Fast forwarding through a song is as simple as--get this--holding

        • Speaking of radio.

          The only radio I have that I ever turn on is in my car. This is mostly to play stuff from my iPod through my RoadTrip []. For me this is one of two killer features. The other was that I already had and used iTunes on my iBook so that intergration was nice.

          Although I do love that it also "just works" and I can drag a drop tunes into it with my OpenBSD boxes.
      • You don't get it because you haven't used it.

        The iPod's scroll wheel isn't just about scrolling up and down, it's about all of the other things it ALSO can do. You really do need to use one.

        Playlists? I promise, you might HAVE playlists, but they're not like the iTunes playlists. If you don't understand what I mean, you need to get iTunes and create a few smart playlists. Rate your music. Organize it in a way that once you start to see how it applies to the iPod you will suddenly start to realize why i
        • Thing is, I have used it, and it just isn't that special. The scroll wheel is ok, but I don't think its inherently superior to other interfaces.
          As for the "smart" playlists, I have thousands of songs.. When I'm listening to music, I want to sit back and enjoy it, not fuck around with my mp3 player every 4 minutes to rate the song I just heard. I also don't want to spend hours rating them one by one. It's a futile waste of time. I know in my head which songs are good, and I do a way better job of adjust
          • As for the "smart" playlists, I have thousands of songs..

            I have tens of thousands of songs...all rated (except 51 new ones). Yes, it takes time to rate them all. Yes, it can be a pain in the ass. Yes, it's worth it. If you have thousands of songs, you like some more than others. Actually, you love some and hate others. Once they're rated you can enjoy them how you want. Want to hear everything? No problem. Want to hear your four- and five-star songs? No problem. Want to hear everything but bia

      • It's not about the general features, all massive storage media players have these, it's about the small things.

        A lot of companies try to improve a product by %100 by adding one new feature, but the iPod improves 100 of the existing features by %1.

        This is what makes it so good, the small things, and so forth. Plus the simplistic design and so on. Buttons are annoying to use and hard on fingers, and more importantly hard to use in pockets. So, the add the click wheel where all you have to do is turn it a litt
      • Are you an engineer by any chance? It doesn't sound like you've even tried the iPod. And yes, I had an Archos before I had an iPod. NO COMPARISON. iPod wins hands down.

        I would encourage you to try the iPod and iTunes for a month and see if you could possibly go back to the world of non-integration and manual copying.
      • Point by point explanation for you then:

        Q: Why does your average MP3 player need to be more intuitive?
        A: Because most people aren't as smart as you are.

        Q: My Rave MP has up and down arrows instead of a virtual scroll wheel. The latter may be somewhat cooler, but it's not any more efficient. You can operate it just as fast, just as easily, with one hand.
        A: It's actually much more efficient. How many times do you have to press "down" to scroll through a list of 200 songs? Of 2,000 songs? How long do you have
        • Several people now have mentioned the "feature" that auto-sycronizes the music on my HD with the music in the iPod. I don't see how that's going to work at all for flash players. On my computer HD I have several dozen gigabytes of MP3s--on my MP3 player, I have 1.25 gigabytes. How does iTunes magically know which songs I want to copy over? I suspect that the answer is "it does not", and I would be forced to manually copy it over using a third party program instead of the file manager(s) I am already fam
          • There are several ways to synchronize to a flash player:

            iTunes will automatically resize (by reducing bitrate) when transferring to a iPod shuffle
            iTunes can use special playlists; one poster mentioned "least played". I use "most played". You can also select "most played but not played in the last three days" or "least played with greater than 1 star rating". Because iTunes uses a database, you can use some pretty fancy logic on your playlists
            iTunes can also do random synchronization

            None of these solutions r
      • I'll try to explain. (I probably won't do a very good job of it, but hey, no-one else has tried yet :)

        Where the iPod scores isn't in big features. It doesn't have a tick-list of big features to impress you, like other gadgets do (Sony's, especially). Where it does score is in lots and lots of really little things that individually sound stupid or not worth bothering about, but collectively add up to a really great experience. That's Apple's way of doing things, from their Mac hardware and software dow

        • by gidds ( 56397 ) <> on Friday February 24, 2006 @07:21PM (#14797397) Homepage

          It's just struck me that the Apple philosophy (do one thing and do it well) is rather like the Unix philosophy (where each command does just one thing and does it well). As contrasted with that of most other gadgets (try to do everything), which you might consider more similar to another OS entirely...

        • The wheel is sounding nicer the more I hear about it. I will give you all that point. Variable speed scrolling would indeed be nice, but I'm not willing to spend $50 more and give up my FM tuner and voice recording features for it.

          I don't think that syncing is worth anything at all--copying over the old playlist is just as easy and quicker. For a small, flash-based player, automatically copying over all new songs on my HD simply isn't an option. Also, the few-button menu system you describe is exactly
          • I agree with you 100%, and I'd like to add the one feature of my cheap-ass 1GB "Vibe" MP3 player from PNY that, as far as I know, no iPods have: when the battery runs low, I pop a new AAA battery in for the next 10 hours or so. Oh yeah, it's also got FM tuner and voice recording, but I've never bothered with them anyway, so it's hard to count that as a feature in my case.

            Also, it may just be me, but I frankly just don't want a HDD for something that I use to work out with - solid state lasts longer and use
        • I can zip really quickly down to the approximate area, then slow down, and zero in on the right one.

          With Rockbox [] I get to do that on several different players, and more importantly I get to specify the amount of scroll acceleration and "inertia" I like. But don't worry, the Rockbox Ipod [] port is progressing nicely...
      • What could possibly be worth an extra $50?

        Borrow one for a week, and you'll have your answer.

      • What could possibly be worth an extra $50?

        That's exactly what everyone who hasn't tried one has said (at least in my experience, including myself.

        It's EXACTLY the same response I get when I try to tell someone they should use gmail over hotmail/Yahoo mail--it's just better in so many barely perceptible ways that it's impossible to describe.

        Same response I get when I try to explain why someone should use IM instead of email...

        To post a letter like you did without trying it is only displaying ignorance. I do
      • Can you run your MP3 player while it's inside a soft case AND in your leather jacket pocket, without putting your hands in your pocket, while wearing light gloves?

        I can run my iPod that way (although I'll admit volume up/down gets a bit sketchy with that many layers). That's why the controls are so nice.
    • 3 months eh? Wait a few more months. Buy a few more iPods. You'll see their quality control is surprisingly bad. I've had two go bad on me and all five of my iPod owning friends have had their iPods crash, go dead or just plain act funny. It's not reliable hardware, just like every other hardware out there except of course for things like the IBM ThinkPad business series laptops. You're right though, great interface, and I agree, they're better than the rest.
      • You'll see their quality control is surprisingly bad.

        I guess they really are the BMW of mp3 players.

      • I've had a 4g since they were released, actually dumb luck got me one on THE day the first ones came in.. and the only problems I've had were because I was using outdated firmware.

        My 5g had the 1.1 video skipping issue, but I downgraded and it works fine. And that's a software issue, not hardware.

        I've dropped my 4g 5-6 times from eye level to hard tile floor while walking and it never had any problems related to physical damage..

        In my opinion, it's a sturdy well built thing.. and except for it looking
      • I'm approaching three years with mine. Not a problem, yet.
    • They got it right 3 or 4 ways.

      #1 They have last mover advantage; they didn't try to create a new market just tried to do a better job.
      #2 It's priced to make them money; they aren't giving them away meaning it's healthy for them
      #3 Because they are actually selling music over time as that makes more money they can afford at some point lower margins on the pods

      This means #4, that in Japan or any place else, if people only buy the pods that's ok. If people download thats ok too.

      One thing that I had problems wit
    • I have an iPod and keep trying each new version of itunes, hoping that one day i'll like it.
      However, until now, I love my iPod but cannot stand itunes. Instead I use jriver media center, which also has excellent ipod and podcast support. It is much more versatile and advanced than itunes, however it is not free. It can handle huge libraries (I have almost 100'000 tracks on a remote disk) very well and fast.
      itunes just can't copy with that.
    • There are several features that the iPod is still missing. They're the reason I haven't gotten one. One is Ogg playback, just because I have a lot of music in Ogg. That's forgivable, and I can transcode if need be. However, the other one is simply unacceptable, and that's the lack of gapless playback. Workarounds like encoding all my music as one file are also unacceptable. I need true gapless playback for files that support it.

      However, I might soon be buying an iPod, since the fine folks over at RockBo
  • by ShyGuy91284 ( 701108 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:23PM (#14796549)
    Japan is a culture that has been historically known for being very group centric, and supportive of the group which they are part of. Them choosing a foreign product over a local product is thus surprising to me. I assumed the fact that the XBox was foreign was the main reason it never took off in Japan. Then again, it was more or less a "PS2 without Japanese games" when you look at the big picture of consoles at the time, so that may be he reason for it's bad sales. I'm guessing the popularity of the iPod is due to the younger generation breaking off from the ideals of the older generation, and willing to buy an interesting product even if it is foreign. Even today Japan is going through big changes in terms of the position of women in society and external influence.
    • There are plenty of extremely popular foreign brands in Japan, from low-end (McDonalds, Coca Cola) to luxury (Louis Vuitton, Prada). It's a tough market, but not at all unprecedented to break into.
      • True. But typically if they have a very similar alternative that when you get down to it has almost no functional difference, it seems they have choosen their variant (Often electronics). Take an mp3 player for example. When you get down to it, they are pretty similar. They have different sizes, capacities, and sound quality, but among the basic traits, most large manufacturers sell a model that is basically the same as a competing model other than interface, casing, support, build quality, and stuff li
        • I think your post touches on one difference between the U.S. and the Japanese market - Americans will tend towards a "more X for my money" approach, where X is a quantifiable variable like size, processor power, or horsepower and ignore unquantifiables like aesthetics and 'feel', whereas the Japanese will take an approach that emphasizes the unquatifiable feel or usability of a device, and less on getting "more" of whatever is being sold.

          Take your assertion that: most large manufacturers sell a model that i
          • You seem somewhat knowledgable about Japan. That is very true. America wants bang for the buck. Japan wants good quality at higher expense. It's the reason why you don't see too many junkers on the roads in Japan. I also remember reading somewhere (not sure if this article touched on it) that the shuffle was the most popular music player in Japan, not the bulky HD based ones like here in the US. From what I've learned (from a native Japanese teacher), Japan is a very unique country, and their tastes a
  • by mcsestretch ( 926118 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:25PM (#14796560)
    Just wait until Godzilla gets back from his battle with Mothra.
    It'll beat back this iPod invasion.
  • iPod not Xbox 360 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hchaput ( 544841 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:29PM (#14796590)
    Slightly off topic, but I wonder... Will this finally put an end to the theory that the Xbox 360 bombed in Japan because the Japanese are faithful to Sony? As if baseball wasn't proof enough of Japan's willingness (eagerness) to embrace western culture.

    Maybe the trend here is that Japan doesn't like big, brawny electronics. Perhaps they like simple, cute, almost frivolous electronics. Less is more!

    • There is a post above that explains this. id=14796604 []
    • It's more than the fact that it's cute, simple electronics.

      Apple as a brand can be more associated with fashion and it's social status of that brand recognition. Japan is not completely xenophobic when it comes to fashionable items. Wanna know what brand names are also highly sought after in Japan? Prada. Gucci. Louis Vuitton.

      Apple is a fashionable product. 10 dollars says that the Ipod is real popular amongst mid to late teenage girls in Japan. Woah, it's also highly sought after by the same demographi

    • Maybe the trend here is that Japan doesn't like big, brawny electronics. Perhaps they like simple, cute, almost frivolous electronics.

      Or maybe Japan is made up of millions of individuals who have their own preferences and favorites, and make their purchasing decisions based on those rather than what THE COUNTRY does? Although the furthest "East" I've been is Amsterdam, so maybe I'm just not getting their culture.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      This thread has both the MS apologist and the denegrating comments stating Apple is just a fashion with little technical competence.

      The reality is likely to be more complex. There is almost always a nationalistic pride for localy produced products. And even though almost all electronics are produced in Asia, the branding issue is still very real. But at the heart a good product can always compete, and a good product is not just about fashion, but also the amount of money a person is willing to pay for

    • I was given an original Japanese Xbox and kept it for a little while without really playing it that much. One day, I wanted to watch a DVD, so I put it into the Xbox. Everything worked out once I found the batteries for the remote (that you need them to get the DVD working at all is another rant). However, suddenly I noticed something odd: When you press play, on the top of the screen it says "Play." It doesn't say saisei or katakanaized purei, but straight up, using roman letters "Play." The same for fast
  • by signed.bewildered ( 957063 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:33PM (#14796615)
    Now we need a Naruto SE with all episodes loaded. My kids would NEVER speak out loud again.
    • Now we need a Naruto SE with all episodes loaded. My kids would NEVER speak out loud again.

      Hmmmm ... make it also have Inu Yasha and Ghost in the Shell:SAC, some Cowboy Bebop, and Gundam Seedm and I'll never speak out loud again except for the initial squeels of delight.

      We're talking Anime here!! =)

      Hmmm ... come to think of it ... I've got a few new episodes of Naruto on the PVR to watch tonight. Yay!

  • There is another way to spin the data that iPod has 51% market share in Japan. It has an 82% market share here in the US. This article could just as easily have been titled:

    Apple market share slips 30% in Japan

  • When the Apple store opened in Tokyo - the pre-opening line ran for miles!! The Japanese love gadgets; particularly those gadgets that combine style with functionality. Apple does a good job with this, but has done exceptionally well with Ipod. It's not surprising that this has really taken off in Japan. And just wait till the special Ipod Nano Hello Kitty edition is released!
  • by TetryonX ( 830121 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @05:50PM (#14796752)
    War was beginning.
    Japan: What happen?
    Mechanic: Somebody set up us the iPod.
    Operator: We get signal.
    Japan: What !
    Operator: Main screen turn on.
    Japan: It's You !!
    Apple: How are you gentlemen !!
    Apple: All your mp3 player are belong to us.
    Apple: You are on the way to destruction.
    Japan: What you say !!
    Apple: You have no chance to survive make your time.
    Apple: HA HA HA HA ....
    Japan: Take off every 'wma' !!
    Japan: You know what you doing.
    Japan: Move 'wma'.
    Japan: For great justice.

  • nothing beats the look of a 25 lb, 2.5 foot long boombox on a sholder, remeber when the guy with the strongest upper body would bring the tunes to all!! ahh yes, I still have back problems from back then.
  • One problem with iPods is that their quality has led to hype, which has led to people not buying them because they refuse to buy anything that is hyped up to such an extent.

    Such people really are missing out. In some circles it is cool to hate the iPod because they are so ubiquitous, but their widespread adoption did not begin with, and is not being sustained by the cool factor alone. The iPod started as an expensive little toy that a lot of people dismissed as being another Mac Cube [].

    Then something ha
    • Re:Drop the hate (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Phroggy ( 441 ) *
      That's precisely the same reason I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books.
  • When 1" hard drives or flash storage hold plenty of music and are cheap enough to put in lower-priced cell phones? Maybe then there will be an Apple-infused phone with a scroll wheel (virtual?)?
  • Metal Gear Solid series creator Hideo Kojima makes much use of iPods. In his blog [], he mentioned that he uses an iPod to listen to music. And now he is making podcasts []. He is supposed to be one of Sony's leading supporters, or at least one of PS3's leading supporters, but here is using Apple hardware and software whenever he likes.
  • I'm confused by this statement: "Still, iPod's continuing dominance in Japan isn't a sure thing. For starters, Sony isn't giving up the chase. Its new Walkman, which will be released in the U.S. this year, has been well-received in Japan."

    Did someone forget to tell Sony that their six-month-old "hip, fab, stylish" Walkman Bean has already been steamrolled by the iPod? []

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