With this week’s news that Apple are to convert their entire iTunes catalogue to non-DRM status, allowing tracks to be played on other brands of media players, I find myself wondering what this means for the future of iPod sales.
I know it’s heresy in the eyes of many, but I’ve always suspected sales of iPods owed less to the success of iPods as an experience (expensive, poor battery life) and more to do with the fact that as the first major legal download service iTunes was a runaway success and people them realised they needed the tied hardware to play their purchases on.
I’m a great Apple fan, I’m writing this on my dependable old iBook G4, but it seems to me the company doesn’t really have a lot of experience of dealing with competition – if you want an iPhone in most major markets you go to the mobile network Apple selected for you, if you wanted to play iTunes purchases you bought an iPod and if you want to run Max OS you buy a Mac from Apple.
The DRM-free development means people will suddenly be able to play their iTunes purchases on a Walkman or Creative Zen – many of which are cheaper and at least as well specced than Apple’s devices.
Plus of course many more people will be able to give up carrying around a separate and use the media player features in their mobile of smartphone.
None of this is knock Apple or diminish from the innovation they’ve brought to the world of music downloads but in a world where people have less money to spend Apple might have to rethink some aspects of their range, starting with the specs of their entry-level model.
Of course, this relies on other media player makers advertising their products and ending the sales-killing practice of not bundling Mac-synching software. I wonder how many people realise the Walkman brand which revolutionised their listening habits in the 80’s is still around in this age of digital music?