Telegraph columnist asks ‘will Apple’s iPod become the next Betamax?’

“There is currently no industry standard for downloadable MP3s. This means that, for instance, MP3s downloaded from Sony’s Connect service can only be played on Sony’s MP3 Walkman, and not on the more popular iPod (and vice versa),” Neil McCormick writes for The Telegraph.

“Behind the scenes, the battle waging for commercial dominance is reminiscent of the early 1980s cut-throat competition to establish video standards between VHS and Betamax. And lest we forget, VHS won despite being technically inferior,’ McCormick writes.

“Although Apple has been the pioneer in the MP3 market, with Sony/BMG controlling 25 per cent of the music market it will be interesting to see whose digital distribution platforms will survive,” McCormick writes. “Will all those expensive iPods we have been rushing out to buy wind up piled high in car-boot sales alongside Betamax video players and 8-track cassette machines?”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Confused? Ditto. iPod can play AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible, AIFF, Apple Lossless and WAV, so we don’t see why this writer’s concerned. If he means to ponder whether iTunes Music Store protected AAC (.m4p) content will possibly end up as “the next Betamax,” the songs can be easily transcoded into different formats with minimal degradation. That particular scenario doesn’t look remotely plausible at this time; 100 million sold and counting. We don’t see any reason for concern here.


  1. Excuse my lack of historical perspective here, but did Betamax ever have 52% share of units sold? Or how about 70+%…. did it have that?

    That must be a pretty good joint that writer is smoking.. maybe he should pass it around? I don’t smoke tho…

  2. Wasn’t VHS already established and then Betamax came on the scene and tried to take over? Seems like a different situation entirely. Apple is currently the defacto standard. About the only similiarity is that both the iPod and Betamax are superior.

    And I don’t have any idea at all where he came up with the 8 track player thing. Maybe he kept using his til a few years ago?

  3. I don’t know this is true, but i heard sony refused to licence betamax to the pornographic industry, vhs
    did, and this helped vhs to become more popular than betamax.

  4. You people need to read a little more. The headline was irrelevant.

    This is the important part: Sony/BMG controls 25 per cent of the music market.

    All they have to do is say no to iTunes. Wouldn’t be the first time someone used marketshare as clout, now would it.

  5. Sony put out Betamax several years ahead of VHS, but dragged its feet in licensing. JVC licensed VHS widely, but most importantly, licensed it for X-rated content, which Sony refused to do.

  6. Thelonius:

    But distribution is everything.

    If you’re Will Smith – a Sony artiste who has declared the iPod to be the greatest thing since someone made the connection between a knife and a loaf of bread – and your label suddenly make a unilateral decision that runs counter to your interests, you will probably kick up a stink.

    And ultimately, iTMS’s market share will be such that Apple will be able to use a carrot/stick based approach to ensuring that labels don’t cherry pick which artists they’re willing to have on iTMS.

  7. This guy is a tech writer? MP3 is MP3 is MP3. It is standard and any device capable of playing MP3 can play MP3 downloaded from any Internet sites. The only way an MP3 fails to play is if it’s wrapped in DRM, which at that points ceases to be just MP3. I think this guy confuses digital music with MP3.

    Also, Sony Connect service uses ATRAC3, not MP3, so how do you download MP3 from Sony Connect? Apple is not a pioneer in MP3 market, but is a pioneer in hard drive based digital player and music download store.

  8. Nobody: Agreed.

    This schlep is making things more confusing to the consumer by stating that MP3s downloaded from Sony can only be played on Sony’s walkman. All the music players we’re talking about play MP3s. He should talk about ATRAC3 being possibly the betamax of the music world.

    One big diff, though. Betamax was actually better than VHS, but lost. ATRAC3 hasn’t given us any proof that it’s better than AAC, Ogg Vorbis, MP3 VBR, or even WMA.

  9. BetaMax: 1975
    1 1/2 hr standard playback time
    Limited number of licencee manufacturers
    Quadraphonic sound
    No pr0n

    VHS: 1977
    2 hr Standard playback time
    Unlimited number of licencee manufacturers

    Have I missed anything?

  10. Sony’s music division will want the revenue stream that iTunes will provide to them (for practically free) . If they control 25% of the ‘mainstream’ music they get (approx) 25% of the labels share of all iTunes revenue .

    With 100 million songs sold Sony/BMG would get over $16 million , nothing to sneeze at . (assuming the labels get 65cent from each 99cent download) .

    As additional geographies get added to the ITMS , the number of songs sold at iTMS in 5 years time could surpass 500 million per year which would translate into $80 million , recurring , revenue for Sony/BMG , for doing practically nothing . I think their share holders would also be asking questions if they were seen to be delibertly excluding access to iTMS for their catalogue .

    Also , a licencing agreenment and a firmware update would allow the iPod to play any format that Apple choses to support if they needed to in the future .

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