On Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster reported on Mac and iPod sales and noted that Apple’s iPod sales have slipped 23% in the last quarter and represent only 2% of Apple’s revenue. This means the iPod is no longer what consumers want, and that it may not necessarily be around for many more years. It is no wonder that Apple never bothered to update the iPod Classic line after they added the larger 160 GB model storage option.
Apple hasn’t released anything groundbreaking in their iPod lineup, and anything that was considered remotely different—such as the iPod nano redesign—didn’t last long enough. Apple continued to change the nano design, but changed it so drastically each time that consumers apparently grew tired of the constant hardware redesign. Apple seemed to cause some buzz when it introduced the nano with a clip, but then they quickly moved to a touchscreen version of the device.
Apple did the same with the iPod touch and didn’t change much, adding in year-old processors and cameras. So what can the Cupertino company do with its struggling line of music players? The key is that they already have everything in the current iPod models, but are not focusing on it enough.
With the iPad and iPhone getting most of the attention these days, the real question to ask is what those devices have that the iPod doesn’t. These features include top of the line cameras, fast processors, and a full fledged OS with a universal design across devices.
The iPhone is packing serious camera heat with a 8 megapixel camera and an f/2.4 aperture. This camera is so powerful for a mobile device and so handy, that even some professional photographers are using it for their projects. Apple’s iPod Nano line currently has no camera, despite previous generations carrying a video camera for recording, and the iPod touch is still carrying the same 5 megapixel from the iPhone 4. If Apple began to pack the devices with better cameras and modeled the OS around it, they could potentially market it as an alternative for a camera. This would be somewhat similar to the iPod touch being marketed as a gaming device.
Apple’s iPod lineup is still running on age-old processors, and while the iPod nano or the iPod classic may not need an A-list processor, it will need some processing speed if Apple adds cameras and other features.
Last but not least, is the OS running on the iPod line. Apple’s iPod nano has an OS similar to iOS, but runs entirely differently. It contains basic functions such as a Music app and a home screen with icons, but does not fit into the iOS ecosystem. The iPod classic is still running a basic OS that is operated with a click wheel.
It is very possible that Apple will eliminate one or two—if not all—of the iPod lineup in the next 4-5 years. The iPod classic will be gone, that’s for sure, and perhaps even the Nano (if Apple introduces a smart watch, that is).