Remember when the Sony Walkman was king of the portable-music hill? None of us believed that a product from Apple could supplant it. We were so used to dropping a CD into our portable player that being forced to upload digital tracks to a music player seemed rather ridiculous.
But after a short time with the iPod, it captivated us. We were hooked. We wanted to go to iTunes to pick up songs. We wanted to see how many tracks we could pack into our players. We walked around town, proud of our devices, thumbing at the controls while we listened to our music. It was a love affair that caused Apple to assume the position of the most respected and beloved company in the tech industry.
Soon thereafter, Apple started capitalizing on the iPod’s popularity. It became the centerpiece in the company’s strategy and PR focus. It also helped the company sell more Macs.
But since 2007, Apple’s (and perhaps our) love for the iPod has waned. When the iPhone was released, it captivated the market. Consumers were dying to get their hands on the product. It captured all the attention in the industry. And it stole that away from the iPod.
So as we consider Apple’s event on Wednesday that promises some updates to its music division, some of us are probably a little bored. The iPod’s impact isn’t as great as it once was. Worst of all, the iPod’s potential market is smaller, since most iPhone owners won’t even consider buying an iPod.
Perhaps that’s why the buzz surrounding Apple’s announcements at the press event isn’t as heavy as that surrounding some of Apple’s other events. In fact, the biggest hope for the show is that Apple releases a tablet computer. How’s that for overshadowing the iPod?
But the very idea that the iPod is being overshadowed underlies what’s happening in the market. The iPod is officially the dominant force in the portable-music space. It has helped iTunes become the top music retailer. There’s nothing left for Apple to prove. And there’s nothing left for consumers to get excited about. They have an iPod to listen to music, they like it, and they’ve moved on. They don’t need another iPod.
So while Apple’s iPod event Wednesday promises some improvements to the current iPod line, it’s doubtful that many users will be paying attention. It’s nothing personal, remember. It’s just that the iPod, when it comes to consumer attention, has finally run its course. There are more exciting products, especially the iPhone, that consumers care about. The iPod is now the elder statesman that can’t command the kind of excitement it once did.
It was bound to happen. Every product in the tech industry has run its course at some point. But the iPod has stayed relevant for much longer than many thought possible. It should have lost its appeal long ago. Only the iPhone was able to change things up.
Perhaps that’s as much an endorsement for Apple as it is an indictment of the company’s competitors.
Now excuse me while I check out a couple new tunes — on my iPhone.
Don Reisinger is a technology columnist whose work has included popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move on Twitter at @donreisinger.