Can anything beat the iPod?

Don Reisinger thinks the iPod is such a major force in the industry, there's no chance it can be beaten. Can it?

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

The MP3 player market is one where logic is thrown out the window and as long as the player is manufactured by Apple, it'll perform quite well. Although there have been a number of solid alternatives, none have gained ground. And by the look of things, the Zune is up next on the chopping block.

According to GameStop, it will stop selling the Zune in its stores due to insufficient demand from customers. And although it may not matter to, oh, 99 percent of you, the fact that GameStop is ditching the Zune tells you that Microsoft's media player is on its way out.

"We have decided to exit the Zune category because it just did not have the appeal we had anticipated," said a GameStop spokesperson. "It (also) did not fit with our product mix."

GameStop's decision to remove the Zune from its store shelves reflects an increasingly prominent notion among retailers that suggests that only the iPod is a viable product regardless of the fact that Microsoft has sold more than 2 million Zunes and its other competitors have fought valiantly.

So what's the deal? Is it really true that iPods are the only MP3 players that matter? You better believe it.

Sadly, it doesn't look like there's any real chance for any other player besides the iPod to do well in the current environment. Apple commands such a large portion of the market with its current stable of products, there's no reason to suggest any company can break in and change the way things have been done for so long.

And perhaps that's the biggest issue we're facing. Today's MP3 player market is so lopsided, most companies are basically copying the best features from each other in an attempt to take the No. 2 spot, while Apple laughs all the way to the bank.

From the very beginning, Apple understood what no other company did: people want a product that works well, but also offers the end-to-end solution that won't require them to fire up too many programs to get songs onto their devices. And although some of its competitors don't want to admit it, Apple was the first, and to be honest the only real, end-to-end solution for all consumers.

Going forward, there's no debating the fact that Apple will lead the charge, but I'm not so sure it'll stay on top forever. Who knows if something totally new will come along and supplant it as the leader in the portable audio market much like the Walkman did. If you ask me, it could happen sooner than you think.

But until then, we're stuck with a market that's utterly dominated by the iPod and products like the Zune have little chance of survival regardless of their merit as a fine device.

The competition should pack it in and try to do something new. If it doesn't, we'll be stuck with boring updates to the same devices while doing all we can to satiate our burning desire for a revolutionary device. If it's out there now, I'd surely like to see it.

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