Peak iPod: Has Apple Reached Its End?

Update: Due to a duplicate filename, WordPress got confused.  Some people were seeing the latest-generation Shuffle, while some were seeing the original white stick model.  All fixed now.

I was thinking about this well before I started reading a book about peak oil this morning. But it did goad me into creating this post.

This is the iPod Shuffle:

shuffle2.jpg

Where can it go from there?

This is the iPod nano:

nano.jpg

Where can it go from there?

This is the iPod Classic:

ipodclassic.jpg

Where can it go from there?

This is the iPod Touch:

ipodtouch.jpg

Where can it go from there?

Of the four versions of iPod, it seems to me that three of them can’t go any further. Perhaps more storage can be added, but do people really want or even need that? And if Apple were to come out with Shuffle and nano models that could store more, would they retain the earlier versions and lower their prices to compete against units such as the Sansa Clip? Apple could gobble up more marketshare that way.

The iPod Touch is a new unit. There is still a lot that can be done with it. Apple could even discontinue the Classic and force people to the Touch.

But of the four models of iPod, have three of them reached their peak with nowhere else to go? Does this make Apple vulnerable? The iPod has been driving much of Apple’s revenues and profits. What happens if three of the iPod models have reached their end?

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15 Comments on “Peak iPod: Has Apple Reached Its End?”

  1. Tom B Says:

    I have my order in already for the brain chip.

  2. Tom B Says:

    Hey, rumors are that Zune 3 will include “Surface” technology and will weigh in at a svelte 50 pounds.

  3. rattyuk Says:

    Ain’t So – the crowds in my local Apple store buying iPods as if there were no tomorrow…

    I’m sure there is plenty of room for these things to progress – probably why Steve Jobs is working on them and you, who says “it seems to me that three of them can’t go any further.” are writing a column about the limits of YOUR imagination.

  4. mikecane Says:

    >>>I’m sure there is plenty of room for these things to progress – probably why Steve Jobs is working on them and you, who says “it seems to me that three of them can’t go any further.” are writing a column about the limits of YOUR imagination.

    Come back in a year.

  5. John M. Says:

    Uhmm, that’s a very nice photo of the 1st generation iPod shuttle. Perhaps you should replace it with one of the radically different model they now sell.

    And yes, the iPod Touch is their future. Think about it, it sells for less than the original (5 GB, 1000 songs in your pocket) iPod launched in 2001. A lot of people will be buying that and its descendants in the years ahead. Along with the iPhone, its a whole new platform.

  6. mikecane Says:

    >>>Uhmm, that’s a very nice photo of the 1st generation iPod shuttle. Perhaps you should replace it with one of the radically different model they now sell.

    Shuttle? Riiiight.

  7. Paul Says:

    Here’s that horseless carriage. Man nobody can do better than that. oy vey.

  8. mikecane Says:

    Goddammit. WordPress botched the Shuffle photo. It was supposed to be the NEW one. I had dupliacet filenames.

  9. mark Says:

    Imagine an iPod shuffle built right into the chain between the earbuds.

    The iPod nano can get thinner, or imagine a nano-sized iPod touch.

  10. Adam Says:

    It’s time to suggest what the iPod should have or where it will be going rather than predict when it will stop selling… sad to say there are a lot of these reports going around slamming Apple for being successful.

  11. ramin Says:

    There’s a common practice in merchandising where you offer the same product with minor variations at different price points. It’s also a good way to keep out the competitors and give customers a growth path. Apple has done a great job with it, hitting a range of prices from $79-$399 covering everyone from ten-year-olds who save up their allowances up to gadget freaks with no budget limit.

    Feature-wise, they’ve already shown where the future lies: the Touch is the pinnacle. Now all they have to do is trickle those Touch features down the price-point and they keep their market share. It’s the same thing they did with the iPod. The middle-price models used to be text-based-UI music players. Now they do color video.

    But where do they go on the top end (the Touch)? There are a number of hardware bits that they can integrate (GPS, audio capture, DTV receiver, webcam, 1080i/p output, hardware encryption, hi-rez scanner, better Bluetooth) so there’s headroom for growth. Through Bluetooth they can also start supporting accessories like keyboard, external GPS, secure storage, or stereo headphones.

    But the most important thing to realize is that with the Touch (and iPhone) new revisions are just as likely to come in software than hardware. Not only could they incrementally add hardware features, but also more software into the mix. VOIP, gaming, e-wallet, live stock trading, video streaming, social networking, etc, etc… Each new generation will do more and pretty soon, you will have the choice of buying an internet tablet/music-player/hand-held PDA for the same price as a competitor’s MP3 player. Let’s not even go near all the permutations on styling and design. They’ve already shown there’s a market there.

    All Apple has to do is raise the bar on the high end to keep people excited and trickle bits of functionality down the price-point and the hamster will keep running for a long, long time.

  12. Brett Says:

    I see no reason why Apple can’t keep the iPod line fresh for a long time to come.

    You can never have enough memory. Videos are particularly memory-intensive. With lots of memory, more people could choose to rip their CDs in lossless format for pristine sound– especially noticeable when the ipod was hooked up to a good stereo system, or quality headphones.

    New battery technology could provide longer time between recharges. Or dare I suggest that they come out with a model that has a user-replaceable battery?

    iPods could be given voice memo capability. With increases in processing power, the speech could even be converted to text.

    The cases could be ruggendized and made waterproof.

    iPods could be ordered online configured with custom colors styling details giving each person a uniquely designed device.

    Bluetooth could be added to provide wireless syncing ands support for cordless earbuds.

    The iPod Classic could eventually go with flash RAM storage instead of a fragile hard disk.

    iPods could ship with premium quality earbuds instead of the mediocre ones they now have.

    A dynamic range compressor could be added to equalize volume for use in noisy environments. If enough devices had this feature, sound engineers might stop the increasing trend of removing the dynamics from recordings in an effort to make songs sound louder (even during soft passages). Users then could decide for themselves how much (if any) loudness compression to apply during playback.

    The display-less shuffle could be given speech synthesis and support for multiple playlists. Spoken menus would allow selection of specific tracks or playlists by quickly cycling through their names.

    I’m sure you can think of other improvements if you try.

  13. mikecane Says:

    @ Adam: I don’t see how you get the idea I’ve said iPods will stop selling.

    @ ramin & Brett: All great ideas. I’m glad both of you understood what I was asking!

  14. room4improvement Says:

    The iPod could incorporate FM receiver, voice recording, maybe satellite radio, BT/WiFi, a lowjack device (imagine all the missing kids that could be located).


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