Microsoft tries to blunt power of Apple iPod’s dock connector

“The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has established a working group to develop a universal docking standard for portable devices, the US-centric organisation announced this week,” Tony Smith reports for The Register. “The move is being driven by Microsoft – at least, the software giant is the only company to be granted quotation space on the CEA press release, and there’s a Microsoft staffer in the working group’s chair. It’s not hard to see why. Having failed to beat the iPod using proprietary technology – the Windows Media format – it’s try to beat it using a sharper weapon: the open standard it defines.”

“Apple’s iPod owes its success to many factors, not least of which is the company’s decision to develop the player’s dock connector. Where other music player makers have simply stuck in a USB port and and left it at that, the proprietary dock connector has provided the perfect foundation for a whole range of iPod accessories that have, in turn, helped the small white player on its way to mainstream market dominance,” Smith reports.

Smith writes, “If Apple follows the standards process and adopts whatever specification the CEA team comes up with, it still finds itself up against competitors whose players have as many accessories as the iPod does and, worse, risks alienating owners of older iPods for whom potential purchases will fade away as the classic iPod dock connector becomes increasingly irrelevant. This is an issue for Apple because it’s a hardware company. It’s not an issue for Microsoft, because it sells software and as long as somebody makes hardware that uses its code, it wins. It has no vested interest in hardware beyond that need, whereas Apple’s success is predicated upon designing and selling great hardware.”

“Apple’s best option – ‘least-worse’ might be better – would be to co-opt the standards process by proposing its existing specification as the de facto standard,” Smith writes. “That way, at least, it’s not going to have to spend years ignoring the growing support for the rival specification, only to have to cave in to market forces and support it anyway. This way, it could also continue to earn royalty revenues, as it does with FireWire, for instance, but again loses the advantage it has gained to date from the iPod’s undeniably innovative dock concept.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews reader, “Stoo,” for the heads up.]

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  1. In the end, open standards will always win. Apple can make all the money they want now, but they better get involved in this or they will lose out eventually.

    I have always felt the iPod has a limited lifespan. 10 years at most. Eventually, portable players will be commodity items. Apple really has two choices. Milk it till it runs dry or make the iPod more open to developers and maybe risk losing a little marketshare now.

    But with Apple wanting to charge fees for accessories and such, it seems to me that they have decided to milk it till it runs dry. Can’t say whether this is a better choice or not, but I do think this one has a dead end at some point. How many years is that? I don’t know.

  2. Microsoft finally knows what it’s like to be the minority market share holder, and they don’t seem to like it.

    It seems to me we have a standard to go along with the “Gold Standard” in MP3 players.

    The truth is that nothing can touch iPod and its delivery/sales model.

    Microsoft is willing to use whatever it can to slow Apple’s growth and lower its market share. Microsoft needs to understand that Apple’s “mind-share” is far more dangerous to Redmond.


  3. Wow, the egos of the yanks has grown. First it was the world series for baseball (2 countries). Now the “universal docking standard for portable devices, the US-centric organisation announced this week”.

    Can’t wait to see what happens when the US takes over heaven and the other place.

    Or as Bill Gates has been known to say to God “you are sitting in my chair”.

  4. Microsoft and their buddies can make any sort of connector they want for their unpopular devices. There is absolutely no reason why Apple needs to listen to any of this pointless nonsense.

    The days of Microsoft pushing around the hardware companies is gone. And, unless Microsoft can produce a stable, inherently secure, operating system within the next 12 months, Microsoft’s own days are numbered.

  5. Non issue. There are lots of connectors that are “standards”, and yet, not every device carries all of these “standard” connectors. Who cares if the Apple connector is not the official standard, it’s the defacto standard.

    Apple has such a head start, any new connector, standard or not, is just not going to get any traction.

  6. With the iPod dominating the market, any proposed universal standard will fail unless the iPod goes along with it. There are two ways this can play out.

    1) Apple decides to go along with it, and it goes somewhere.

    2) Apple tells the CEA where to go, and continues making the iPod dock connector as they always have. The other mp3 players all make theirs the same, and people continue to buy iPods just as they are now with no knowledge of any universal standard.

    To the general public, iPod is the universal standard. I was at Best Buy over the weekend. They had an entire row devoted to mp3 players, and the only ones receiving any attention were the nano and 5G iPod. Move down the aisle a little, and the only accessories that are being looked at are the iPod accessories.

  7. There already is a standard, non-proprietary connector that any device manufacturer can use, and it was even mentioned in the stupid article: USB.

    After this Xmas season, there will be over 50 million iPods in circulation. Why would device manufacturers want to deal with ANOTHER interface to address 20% of the market? The low market share argument has always been used to explain why there is not as much software for the Mac as there is for Windows, and even viruses.

    This is Microsoft just trying to keep themselves from becoming irrelevant in the digital music space.

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