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How Creative missed the Apple boat

What do you do when Apple's Steve Jobs come to you and invites you to collaborate on a project that turned out later to be the most successful iconic appliance of the last five years.

Well, if you're Creative Labs head honcho, you say 'no, thanks'. The Singaporean firm declined to collaborate with the American firm and the rest is history. Creative Labs had produced a portable MP3 player, the Nomad, nearly a year before Apple launched its iPod but failed to create a sizeable portable music player market.

In contrast, Apple’s marketing machine helped the iPod achieve cult status by producing one of the most memorable product launches, with U2 and other celebrities. This in turn helped sell nearly ten million pods around the world. This helped Apple to generate more than $1 billion profits last year, in contrast to Creative's losses of nearly $400 million over the same period.

Earlier this year, Creative launched a lawsuit against Apple but this is seen by many as the swan song of a once-formidable company that is on the brink of disappearing. Creative Labs’ situation can be compared to the likes of Guillemot and Diamond, which were Creative Labs’ competitor a few years ago, before going bust.

In an ultra competitive environment, Creative is now squashed between brand giants like Samsung, Sony and Apple on one side and component/peripheral manufacturers which have turned the audio market into a commodity one.

The Sound Blaster brand was once an industry standard, but like so many - remember Hayes for modems and Hercules for Display - it may disappear sooner than we think.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.