Bill Gates: ‘I don’t believe the success of the Apple iPod is sustainable in the long run’

“Microsoft founder Bill Gates sees mobile phones overtaking MP3s as the top choice of portable music player, and views the raging popularity of Apple’s iPod player as unsustainable, he told a German newspaper,” Reuters reports. ‘As good as Apple may be, I don’t believe the success of the iPod is sustainable in the long run,’ he said in an interview published in Thursday’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. ‘You can make parallels with computers: Apple was very strong in this field before, with its Macintosh and its graphics user interface — like the iPod today — and then lost its position,’ Gates said.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: You could make parallels with computers and the iPod if you want to sound stupid. The Macintosh platform required and still requires huge investments by developers to create compatible software. So, when faced with budgetary contraints, they chose and still sometimes choose to go with the most popular platforms. The iPod simply plays music that can be encoded, for very little cost, in any format the “developers” (musicians and labels) desire: AAC, MP3, WAV, AIFF, etc. The music doesn’t need to be rewritten, recorded, and remastered. It’s like writing Photoshop once and then pressing a button to translate it for use on Mac, Windows, Linux, etc. To draw an analogy between Mac OS licensing and the iPod/iTunes symbiotic relationship simply highlights either Gates’ ignorance of the vast differences between the two business situations or his desire to spread FUD a little thicker. At least he didn’t use the word “super.”

Sony sold 340 million Walkmans worldwide in the 25 years that portable music player ruled the market. So far, Apple has sold only 15 or so million iPods, despite its popularity. If Apple keeps on top of things, the iPod platform will have quite a long run. An article by John Gruber entitled, “Why 2004 Won’t Be Like 1984,” posted on Daring Fireball is well worth reading here.

Why is Bill Gates mouthing off about Apple lately? Because he’s scared of losing and being revealed to the world for what he is: a fraud who got lucky, lacks vision, and couldn’t come up with something original, innovative, and elegant if his life depended upon it.

[UPDATE: 11:45am ET: fixed partial list of compatible iPod formats in MDN Take.]
[UPDATE: 3:15pm ET: Added explanation about why Gates is yapping about Apple lately.]

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Bill Gates jokes about Mac OS X ‘Tiger’ and calls Apple ‘the super-small market share guy’ – May 03, 2005
Another day, another ‘iPod may go the way of the Mac’ article – August 16, 2004
The iPod is not the Mac, so stop trying to compare them – August 13, 2004


  1. And Ballmer says “Nefarious Widget Developers, Nefarious Widget Developers, Nefarious Widget Developers…”

    Who cares what these 90’s throwbacks think? They’re so Last Generation.

  2. It’s not a revelation that iPods won’t be able to sell forever. iPods will eventually give way to new technologies. Hopefully Apple will be at the center of whatever is new. Gates incorrectly associates the situation of the iPod to the Mac, but he is correct in implying that Apple will need to keep innovating if they want to sustain their lead, whether it be with the iPod or the next generation of new technology.

  3. Yeah, well I don’t think M$ is sustainable in the long run.

    That said, Apple should offer the consumer the choice of a subscription service. Hell, for $60 a year I would use it just to have a nice collection of diverse music to listen, ala a Radio Station, but I’d still buy the songs I want in my collection. Unfortunately, the radio station functionality included in iTunes is craptastic, like a bolt on hack of audio bookmarks. They need to Apple-ize that with album covers of currently playing content, along with a link to purchase the song/album at the store. MSN actually has a very nice Radio interface that Apple would do well to peak at. Maybe in 5.0…

  4. WELL ‘MR’ GATES – I don’t think Microsoft is sustainable in the long run.

    The company is bloated with greedy, lazy and non productive employees ridding the Redmond Gravy Train to oblivion.

    As usual. Bill Gates opinion on ANYTHING is totally worthless.

    GL with Shithorn Bill – your’e gonna need it!

  5. re: Sum Yung Gai

    This guys aren’t even 90’s throwbacks.

    Thy’re 70’s throwbacks that should have been put in the ground and buried years ago.

    Still – not long to wait – eh Bill?

  6. And “I don’t believe the success of M$ Winblows is sustainable in the long run” either. Maybe Billy should be more concerned about that fact than worrying about the iPod…

    Besides, Billy has been predicting the demise of the iPod since 2002 and yet it continues to gain marketshare each and every quarter since. Now it and iTunes together are totally dominating the digital music market.

    Since it’s obviously impossible for you to innovate a damn thing Billy, I’d say you’re the one that should be worried about “sustaining” what you’ve currently got, not Apple…

  7. The main reason I see that Billy is wrong is simply battery life. People get pissed when their cell phone battery dies, and vise versa with MP3 players. Can you imagine how the combination would fair? How bout when Bill wants to add Windows Mobile Edition to the same phone and says everone in the world can now bow before the greatness of the device. Three minutes later it blue screens and the batteries die. Thus loosing all the data you were working on, and cutting off the on hold music playing from your phone to your importaint client you just hung up on. I can see the greatness now. It really is the future.

  8. It would be news if Bill Gates spread anything but FUD. The man thinks his own PR is truth. The only things Windows has going for it is a huge installed base and the momentum that implies. In every other way they are behind.

  9. Gates is assuming, as always, that Apple has not thought of this already and is not working on a new device. If you’ve been reading this board, then you know this is incorrect. This type of FUD is really just to try and convince the public that Apple, or whoever, has a good product and is just sitting on it hoping it will sell forever. But any reasonable person knows that’s ridiculous. Maybe Microsoft should take a lesson here, as they seem to be clinging to their products, hoping they’ll sell forever without innovation.

  10. On iPod and WMA, from the page:

    “Automatically convert WMA to AAC. Convert the unprotected WMA music files you saved in Windows Media Player to AAC format.”

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