Steve Wozniak said it best in his exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph earlier this week: "The iPod has sort of lived a long life at No. 1," he said. "Things like, that if you look back to transistor radios and Walkmans, they kind of die out after awhile.
"It's kind of like everyone has got one or two or three. You get to a point when they are on display everywhere, they get real cheap, and they are not selling as much."
Finally, someone on the "inside" at Apple has made some sense about the iPod and its future. Although it may be difficult for Apple zealots and even CEO Steve Jobs to understand, the iPod is not going to be one of the most important devices forever, and if we consider the impact the Walkman had on the industry, the iPod should be moving to the execution chamber in the next 5 to 10 years.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Apple Store itself. How many times must Jobs find his way to the stage only to show off an iPod with barely upgraded specs and a so-called fresh design that we've seen already? Granted, the iPod Touch is unique in its own right, but the iPod Nano and Shuffle have been the joke of the iPod world for years now. The design changes look more like Apple felt it needed to do something to get people to keep buying them, so they went from long and thin to short and fat and back to long and thin again. And don't even get me started on the iPod Classic.
But it's tough to make the argument that iPods will die when sales are up. According to the company's latest quarterly filing, iPod revenue is up 7 percent since last year and unit sales have jumped 12 percent.
Of course, that doesn't stop me from wanting the iPod to die off as soon as possible.
So why do I look forward to the day when the iPod is no longer the toast of the town and finally enters the retirement home? It's simple: it means that the industry has grown, more innovative products are finally available, and we can get away from all the derivative garbage we're seeing at every turn.
When one company makes it big with a product in the tech industry, every other company in the market wants to try its luck in the same space. Because of that, we've seen countless iPod-wannabes like the Zune, the iRiver Clix, and many more. None were able to vanquish the leader, and few were even able to make a dent. And yet, all these companies still try to make their iPod competitors work.
Here's a clue: it'll never happen if you do the same thing Apple does.
Apple has been successful in the PMP (portable media player) market because it provides a real end-to-end solution that easily eclipses the competition's. Let's face it--buying a device and getting it to work with third-party software isn't easy and it's not seamless. But buying an iPod and getting it to work with iTunes is quick and easy. It's usability that attracted people in the beginning and it's the iPod's enormous popularity that attracts them now.
But that popularity is attracting all kinds of bad things, too. How many times do we have to see another iPod clone before we finally say "enough is enough?" And how many times must we sit back and watch as Apple dominates the market without one real competitor to stop it?
It's not that I dislike iPods--I own three. Instead, I think the iPod is the main reason why innovation is at a standstill in the PMP market and why we're not being satisfied nearly enough by the right devices.
As Apple continues to sell millions of iPods, it realizes that it has no reason to change tactics and try something new. And as executives at other companies look at the state of the economy and their company's own financial health, they think it's better to offer a PMP that will appeal to a small percentage of the market than take a risk and try something new.
And therein lies the rub. How can we get out of this vicious cycle if neither the leader nor the others competing in the market want to change anything?
The way I see it, nothing will change until Apple experiences a year of declining iPod sales. Once that happens, its competitors will panic and try to be the first to the market with something innovative and Apple will be forced to make serious changes to the iPod or come up with something new altogether. And once that happens, the market should start booming with innovation once again.
And I, for one, can't wait until that happens.