Eating Away the iPOD Brand
The Guardian (UK) offers this gloomy report on the iPOD’s future:
Industry-watchers warn that the iPod could soon be regarded by teenage cynics as their ‘parents’ player’ because a mass-market product rarely equates with edgy fashionability . . . The Zandl Group, a New York-based trends forecaster which regularly interviews a panel of 3,000 consumers aged 25-35, recently picked up its first significant criticisms. ‘The iPod is far and away the most popular tech gadget with our panellists – however, for the first time we are hearing negative feedback about the iPod from some panellists,’ said the organisation’s spokeswoman, Carla Avruch. ‘Panellists cite that the batteries are not replaceable, so when they die the entire player must be replaced,’ she said. ‘We have heard from some conspiracy theorists that the batteries are made to die soon after the warranty ends.
‘Other complaints are that iTunes [Apple's online music store] is overpriced and the format is not easily transferred on to other players. In our ethnography interviews, some long-time iPod-users told us that they have stopped updating their iPods because it’s too much work, while other consumers who had bought iPods more recently had not even taken theirs out of the package to set it up.’
She added that the iPod is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success: ‘Some backlash is against the ubiquity of the iPod – everyone has those white headphones on the train.’. . . Wall Street is reportedly starting to worry that the bubble will burst.
Tomi Ahonen, a technology brand expert and author, said: ‘For the first time the iPod has had two consecutive falls after 17 quarters of growth. If I were the manager, I would be wanting my people to explain what is going on. The iPod is wilting away before our eyes.’ . . .
Ahonen, author of Communities Dominate Brands, predicted that in the long term the iPod will have only a narrow audience. ‘It will continue to dominate a niche at the top end: if you’re a musician or a DJ you’ll use it because it’s the best, like a photographer with his Nikon camera. But the average mobile phone user gets a new handset every 18 months, and a quarter of mobile phones sold this year will have an MP3 player. In the same way as camera phones have pushed cameras to one side, this is an automatic replacement.’
Interesting. I’ve previously written (see below) on the topic of the interaction between individual experiences with the device’s poor lifespan, optimism, and iPOD’s market share. I’ve suggested that Apple has erected brand- and network-based barriers to erosion of its sales. A notable piece of evidence in my favor: notwithstanding the “backlash” against the iPOD and the reported “wilting” of Apple’s brand, its share price has been on a strong run since mid-July.
Other Posts on the Topic of iPODs:
1. Christine Hurt, Apple, iPods, Network Effects & Interoperability
2. Frank Pasquale, Single-Payer Music Care?
3. Hoffman, Is Apple Exploiting Consumer Irrationality?
4. Hoffman, (Will) iPod (and Ford) Kill the Radio Star?
5. Josh Wright (at ToTM), Paternalism and the iPod, Part II: The Behavioral Economics of Apple?