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Apple and the year of the MP3 player

“Kid, this portable music player thing is gonna be big….”

With just 12 percent household penetration in this country, portable music devices still fall short of consideration as a mass market. But thatÂ’s about to change. A new study by Jupiter Research pegs 2005 as the year MP3 players reach a tipping point.

The historical benchmark Jupiter uses is 15 to 20 percent household penetration – a figure well within reach this year. A lot of companies compete in that business but you can attribute the soaring popularity of portable music players to the iPod phenomenon engineered by Apple– a point reflected in the company’s stellar earnings announcement this afternoon.

Here's an intriguing tidbit from Apple's report: sales of Macs more than doubled from a year ago. What gives? Some first-timers–yours truly among them– certainly bought systems because they liked the “I’m not a PC” computing architecture of the Mac. But how many others came to the Mac because they were smitten by the iPod? No hard figures yet on hand to back up that hunch but you can draw the obvious conclusion.