The first iPod generation appeared a few months after the worst of the last Internet bubble burst was over but with the forthcoming global recession looming, there are growing signs that the iPod line could be sidelined as Apple's main money spinner.
September is traditionally the month when Apple woes prospective Christmas purchasers with a whole array of gadgets and devices but this year was all but overwhelming partly because Steve Jobs is not at the best of his form, although he said that this year was bestowed with "the strongest lineup of iPods we've ever had."
So what are these reasons and symptoms why the iPod's future looks positively bleak?
(a) The global economy is on the brink of recession and you know that there is a blip when Apple starts cutting prices - something that rarely happens. Apple will have to work extra hard to convince existing iPod owners to upgrade their iPods to iPods (not iPhones) and get new converts to get iPods (not iPhones).
(b) The iPhone has changed the game and essentially made it cool for people to listen to music on their phones and made it viable for companies like Sony Ericsson (with its Walkman range) and others to tout their phones as music friendly. Furthermore, many iPhone owners have now either sold or given away their iPods simply because carrying two devices is cumbersome.
(c) Convergence is the name of that new game; smartphones are the perfect illustration of Convergence at its best/worst. Internet, Watching Movies, Listening to Music, Making Calls, Taking Photos, Shooting Videos, Playing games and Writing documents squeezed in a volume smaller than your average pack of cigarette. Most iPods only do one function really well.
(d) Competition is becoming more ferocious: from far-east manufacturers to global brands like Microsoft and Nokia, competition is heating up either by cutting prices or adding features that have yet to be found in the iPod range, like the Zune wireless connectivity.(e) iTunes is getting more rivals : One of the main reasons why the iPod range is so successful is because of its tight integration with Apple's own iTunes online service. Now, everyone else under the sun - from SonyEricsson to Vodafone, Nokia and many others, have announced similar ventures with some going as far as offering DRM free, better quality, free ad supported/cheap music tracks.
(f) The iPod Touch muddled the iPod range by bring a larger screen and more functionalities than ever to the range and essentially making the shift to the (more lucrative) iPhone all too easy.
(g) The iPod range is not as focused as it was before: the iPod Touch can now surf the web, watch movies, download and install applications from the Apple Apps store and even make calls through unofficial VoIP applications, the only thing missing for it to become a potential iPhone competitor is a digital camera. Jobs even claimed that it "is the best portable device for playing games."
(h) Most of the new features announced have more to do with aesthetics rather than ground breaking, head spinning features. No major differentiating factors compared to the previous generation(s), only tweaks as Macworld judiciously noted.
(i) Ironically, Apple's current state stems from the fact that it becomes ever more difficult to improve on an already very successful product line; the iPod cow has now been milked for seven years and only Microsoft with Windows and Office has managed to stick around for longer in the consumer market.
(j) Music Labels, without which Apple's iTunes wouldn't exist, become fed up with the fact that Apple owns 70 percent of the online music market and that their own "Frankenstein monster" (dixit Guardian's Charles Arthur) is not particularly keen to listen to their demands.
So do you think that Apple has lost its magic touch with the iPod range? Should they now concentrate on the iPhone instead? Are you planning of buying a new iPod for Christmas? Have you sold your iPod and moved onto the iPhone? Let us know by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org