August 05, 2006

Apple's iPod, iTunes Competitors Stumbling

Ever since the debut of the iPod, and through Apple's sustained market share growth, critics have said the company cannot maintain its significant lead in MP3 players, or in the online music sales arena. But quarter after quarter, the company's piece of the pie has held steady at the 80% level, despite competition - real and imagined, from those like Creative Labs, and the biggest names in the business - Sony, Microsoft and Google.

Microsoft made significant headlines in July, with the pre-announcement of Zune, which in theory would present the biggest impact to the iPod lead, a hard-disk MP3 player, tied with a brand-new online music store, and anticipated features including video and photo playback, and even wireless access - something Apple's not yet debuted in its iPod line.

But, as is typical with Microsoft products, features have fallen out, even before the debut. Engadget now says that Zune may not launch with video support. According to the site, "Microsoft called up some content providers and said the video portion of its Zune device... was being delayed."

And Microsoft's not alone in its struggles. Google, long rumored as the potential big fish in the pond, has now come out and said they have no interest in selling music online, and competing with iTunes. With Apple holding a nearly three and a half-year lead in the space, it will take some amazing introduction (or a reversion back to illegal, free downloading) to knock iTunes off its pedestal.

For years, critics and observers have eagerly awaited any potential slip-ups from the Cupertino company, hoping that its iTunes/iPod market share would follow the two-decades old story with the Mac, dropping down to eventual single-digit marketshare. But they have confused different markets in a different time with different leadership, and continue to not recognize the momentum and comprehension shown by Apple in a very competitive space. Maybe it will take some high-profile failures on the part of Microsoft and Google to bring that home.

Listening to ''Spin Spin Sugar (Armands Dark'', by Sneaker Pimps (Play Count: 6)

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