The Washington Post: ‘New competitors can’t measure up to Apple’s iPod’

“The iPod shouldn’t dominate the digital-media-player market,” Rob Pegoraro writes for The Washington Post. “That’s not a value judgment, just a statement about economics.”

“For all the success of Apple’s iTunes Store, most digital music still consists of MP3 files, which anybody can build a device to play. And anytime one company must compete with the collective talent of everybody else in the world, it should be lucky to grab one-third of the marketm” Pegoraro writes. “Instead, Apple owns more than 70 percent of it and has wiped the likes of Sony and Dell off the map.”

Pegoraro writes, “Last month, Apple renewed its drive for the rest of the market by revising its lineup of iPods. Its new models don’t mark a major shift in the iPod formula, but still worked far better than two other players put through the same tests.”

“The [new 2nd generation] iPod shuffle, shipping later this month, is much smaller,” Pegoraro reports. “The new Nano, just 1.75 ounces with its headphones, is the easiest to spot in this bunch, encased in colorful anodized aluminum instead of scratch-prone plastic. The $149, two-gigabyte model is silver; the $199, four-GB version can be had in silver, blue, green or pink; and the $249, eight-GB variant comes only in black. Inside that sturdy exterior, the battery life has been boosted to an advertised 24 hours — though the four-GB Nano I tried lasted almost 26 hours.”

“The full-size, don’t-call-it-video iPod looks no different from before but adds the Nano’s search option and longer battery life. An 80-GB model lasted for 22 hours of music and seven hours of video,” Pegoraro reports. “This updated model can also double as a handheld game player, at least for the small set of $4.99 titles sold on iTunes.”

Pegoraro looks at SanDisk’s Sansa e280 (8GB, $250) and Toshiba’s Gigabeat S60 (60GB, $399). “The iPod is allegedly a luxury item, but the prices of the others, at best, barely undercut Apple’s. And the SanDisk and Toshiba players don’t approach the iPod’s simplicity… The controls of each player were more cumbersome yet. The Sansa’s array of buttons looks like a ClickWheel but is less elegant and feels flimsier. On the Gigabeat, adjusting volume, pausing playback or skipping to the next or previous song requires pressing tiny buttons on its side, not the big four-way control on its front.”

“Their screens almost wash out in direct sunlight, while the iPod’s stays legible. And after a few minutes of playback without user input, these displays shut off instead of just dimming, forcing you to adjust the volume or tap another button to see what song just came up,” Pegoraro reports. “These gadgets didn’t run as long as iPods, either. The Sansa sustained 18 hours of music playback, while the Gigabeat allowed 10 hours of music, four of video.”

“It’s supposed to matter that these Windows Media-compatible devices can play songs rented from such subscription services as Napster, and that the Gigabeat also supports video-download stores such as Amazon’s new Unbox,” Pegoraro writes. “But those non-iTunes stores possess a tiny fraction of iTunes’ popularity, which undermines that aspect’s entire relevance. How many shoppers will base their decisions on the lure of a store they’ve never tried? How many will, instead, only see devices that are uglier, heavier and buggier than the iPods everybody else seems to like?”

Full article here.

Related articles:
Analyst: Microsoft Zune with fake scroll wheel ‘hardly an Apple iPod killer’ – September 14, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft’s Zune an ‘underwhelming’ repackaged Toshiba Gigabeat; no threat to Apple iPod – August 30, 2006
Microsoft confirms brick-like Zune to be made by Toshiba – August 25, 2006

Computerworld review: ‘Apple’s new iPods are better than ever’ – September 27, 2006
Review: Pac-Man for iPod – September 27, 2006
PC Magazine’s 19th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards for MP3 players: Apple iPod line – September 25, 2006
USA Today reviews new Apple iPod nanos, updated iPods, iTunes 7 (each earns 4 stars out of 4) – September 21, 2006
CNET Editor’s Choice: Apple fifth-gen updated iPod – ‘best, most attractive iPod to date’ – September 20, 2006
CNET Editor’s Pick: Apple’s new 2G iPod nano – ‘sure to be top choice among wide range of users’ – September 14, 2006
Apple debuts new iPod in 30GB and 80GB with Hollywood movies, games and new lower price – September 12, 2006
Apple intros new iPod nano with new aluminum design in five colors and 24-hour battery life – September 12, 2006
Apple unveils new iPod shuffle: world’s smallest digital music player – September 12, 2006

22 Comments

  1. “But its slick new “CoverFlow” album-cover view bogs down older computers ..” he says in his article.

    Gotta admit he’s right on that one, but just the simple presence of CoverFlow did motivate me to finally go and find ALL my album covers, a task which I had previously avoided. That particular feature is quite alluring, for sure.

  2. Coverflow slows my iTunes as well (a mere 1 GB RAM).

    Still infatuated with it. Spent several hours over the past few days working towards getting all the albums covers on and correct (several downloaded by iTunes 7 were wrong).

    Performance has improved with 7.1, but it still is not close to 6. I believe it will improve more over time.

    Still, I like the direction iTunes is going – the iPod interface is better, the organization of the icons on the left is better, etc.

  3. Hey gwm, now I know I’m not alone./

    I too hunted down all my album covers online and scanned the ones I couldn’t find. I must be nuts, but CoverFlow makes hunting for music a VISUAL experience on top of musical. I just HAD to do it!

    Very Cool!

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