The Future of the iPod: Apple Repeating Macintosh (1985) Strategy

While the iPod has been extremely successful for Apple and is reported to have over 50% of the digital music player market, there are skeptics that believe that Apple Computer’s long-standing strategic plan may eventually sink this momentum. More specifically, Apple’s reluctance to license the iPod technology and patents to other companies is reminiscent of Apple’s 1985 decision not to operate the Macintosh operating system and architecture. At the time, the Mac technology was well ahead of anything on the market (and many argue it continues to be), but over time, Wintel machines eventually closed the gap.

Kevin Maney (of USA today) believes that Apple has a unique opportunity here, but that its “control-freak tendencies” could seriously damage their long-term outcome with the iPod. He also does a great job of summarizing the saga to the tune of American Pie.

Long, long time ago/ I can still remember how Steve Jobs made us smile
He knew the Mac was truly great;/ it trumped that DOS made by Bill Gates
And dominated PCs for a while.
But ’85 in retrospect/ looks like a case of gross neglect

Bad news of a crisis;/ the Mac, Jobs wouldn’t license
I can’t remember if I cried/ as I watched Apple’s business slide
Too bad those lessons weren’t applied/ The day the iPod died

So bye, bye to the Pod with an i
We’ll use Real or just steal, swapping files on the fly
The Apple faithful might continue to buy
Singing, iPod has such elegant lines.
But iPod has such elegant lines.

Sure, the iPod is a great machine, but in a time where the term ‘proprietary’ has become a four-letter word, will Apple’s efforts succeed? We will likely see in much less than 20 years this time.