Posted by: Heather Green on May 25, 2005
With everyone talking about how cell phones will or will not be iPod killers these days, let’s just get one thing straight.
When we wrote a story entitled iPod Killers? we didn’t take it literally and neither should the rest of the world. It’s a phrase that describes gadgets that are aiming for the same market as iPod—portable music players. But we weren’t saying when we wrote that story that cell phones would obliterate iPods from the earth. Do they have the potential and intention of eating into the iPod marketshare? Sure.
Now, to address a couple of things that Wall Street Journal
(unfortunately behind a firewall) brought up in a May 23 column entitled "Adding Music Players to Cellphones Won't be the IPod Killers Some Think."
Certainly, cell phones lag the iPod in design. But, based on what I have seen from companies such as Samsung and software makers such as Melodeo, it's a little early to write off whether cell phones can offer a good experience to music lovers.
Next, skeptics who doubt that people will download music say that people--at least in the U.S.--really only want to use their phones for calling and maybe SMS. Look, these skeptics say, at anecdotal evidence that people don't want to send photos wirelessly, as the carriers had hope. To back up this point, they often point to data such as the recent JupiterResearch studies that find a majority of people won't pay to send a photo to a phone if they have to pay 30 cents or find a waning interest in sending pictures from phones to an email address or PC.
The analogy with photos, I think, is misleading. It's still a pain to send photos between wireless carriers because they don't make it easy for their systems to connect. That could be the reason for the declining interest. When it comes to music, though, cell phone carriers have shown that they can easily zap ringtones wirelessly to the phone, creating a multi-billion business.
Indeed, it's when it comes to the business of wireless music services that cell phone companies hit their biggest hurdle. If they want to be competitive with Apple, they will have to accept that they must charge the same price 99 cents that iTunes charges. And they ahve to the same flexibility that people are accustomed to with their music.
Otherwise, they won't have a chance at even being an iPod wannabe, let alone an iPod killer.