Ask yourself: When's the last time you bought an iPod? If you're like an increasing portion of Apple's consumer base, you'll probably have some difficulty remembering your last purchase. That's because the iPod, Apple's groundbreaking line of mp3 players that reinvigorated the company in the early aughts and brought it back from the brink of irrelevancy, is itself becoming more and more irrelevant to both the company's overall business plan and its customers' media consumption.
Apple consumers have had a sense of the decline of the iPod for a while, and today Fast Company's Kit Eaton makes the case for killing off all four lines of the device altogether and creating a whole new kind of product in its place:
Of course, we're not suggesting Apple should merely throw away 6-8% of its quarterly revenues. It should transform its iPod into something new. Here's what Apple could make: It could learn its lessons from the iPhone and iPad and apply them to the Nano, refreshing it dramatically by injecting a small but powerful ARM chip and low-power Bluetooth 4 tech, along with the smallest VGA webcam unit Apple can find. This would turn it, as we've suggested, into a second-screen iPhone companion (and, yes, discrete MP3 player) that could access a whole new lucrative app marketplace. Think: specialized apps for sports fans, check-ins, wireless payment tech, and so on. It would innovate into a whole new market, pulling off a trademark Apple maneuver.
Application market creation--that does sound like exactly something Apple would do. The numbers he used to back up his claim, from AppleInsider, indeed do paint a bleak picture of the device's future. It shows the precipitous decline of iPods' sales as a percentage of overall company revenue. Compared to its holiday season-driven high of around 56 percent in the first quarter off 2006, it's projected to be about 8 percent at the end of 2010.
It's not that people don't like music anymore. The rise of the iPod in the early 2000s ushered in the rise of other consumer electronics from Apple--MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads--that cut into the iPod's share of company revenue. And songs, of course, can be listened to on any of the above mentioned devices, meaning that people more and more don't really need mp3 players. The true death knell for the iPod will likely be Apple's next big innovation, the iCloud, the company's cloud-computing service. With it, no device like an mp3 player will be needed to store music, and pretty much no one will ever buy an iPod again.