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Monday, 08 May 2006 09:32

iPod soon a museum item as cellphones rule

Hands up those of you who remember the Sony Walkman? Well my son just received a sleek new 4GB iPod Nano for a present yesterday but I didn't have the heart to tell him that this time next year he may as well use it as an oversized spare memory stick or pass it to his little brother as a hand me down. Unless of course we get his brother a mobile phone too.

The fact of the matter is that the iPod, like the standalone PDA, will soon be made redundant by mobile phones. Apple itself realises this, which is why the company is working on bringing to market an iPod branded cellphone sooner rather than later. Don't worry Apple, no one leaked that information to me - it's just me stating the obvious.

Every major mobile phone manufacturer - Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson - have already launched phones that have MP3 players with memory capacity equal to or exceeding the high end iPods. They also come with a heck of a lot of other features that iPods don't have. Other than the fact, that they're also phones, PDAs, internet devices, cameras and even mini TVs in some cases, they also offer a better way to get music.

Why should we need to be stuck with the need to download music from a particular website on the desktop to an iPod? It makes so much more sense to do it on our mobile phones, whatever the brand, from anywhere on the planet.

Another thing about mobile phones is that they're making just about every other handheld device redundant. Most people on the move these days carry their mobile with them along with their wallets and their house keys - they may even replace the wallet and keys at some stage. The iPod, no matter how small, how cool, how sleek, is just another unnecessary accessory, while the cellphone is a must have item.

The other issue of course is price. Most of us realise that we have to pay for our mobile just like an iPod. However, with a plethora of carrier subsidised mobile plans available, we can just walk into a mobile dealer, sign up to phone plan which we need anyway, and walk away with a cellphone, camera, PDA, portable TV and MP3 player in one device, without paying a cent up front. It all comes out of our monthly phone bill, which seems to be getting cheaper and more competitive each time I upgrade my phone.

By the way, MP3 cellphones are also good news for record companies because most of the mobile carriers, who haven't already, are developing their own online music stores. Apple's iTunes currently has about 80% of the digital download music market because quite frankly it has been a great system couple with a great enduser device in the iPod. However, with the mobile phone music revolution descending upon us, that marketshare can only go one way. Even if Apple releases the coolest iPod phone or i-Phone of whatever it calls it on the planet, it's going to have a lot stiffer competition in the massive mobile space than comparatively tiny MP3 player market.

Despite losing its way a few times, Apple has proven itself to be a remarkably innovative and resilient company. Perhaps it's just as well and very timely that the company has reasserted in the PC marketplace by moving to the Intel platform because the golden years of iPod are nearly at an end.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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