Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

Summary: Even with form-factor optimized software and a strong supply chain of commoditized components, Android can't manage to put a dent in Apple's iPod media player device sales.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Apple, Mobility
96

Even with form-factor optimized software and a strong supply chain of commoditized components, Android can't manage to put a dent in Apple's iPod media player device sales.

My colleague and Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan really hit the nail on the head today regarding Android's position in the emerging tablet marketplace -- they just can't chase Apple when it comes to pricing the device.

It's a sobering fact that isn't going away -- the Android tablet manufacturers are going to be at least a cycle behind on product development when it comes to the software and components needed in order to put together something that is compelling as even the current iPad.

Now, don't misinterpret this as Android failing. Android is going absolutely gangbusters in the mobile device industry. According to retail research firm NPD, 44 percent of mobile devices activated in the US in the 3rd quarter of 2010 were running Google's Android's OS, amounting to an eleven percent gain from the previous quarter, compared to Apple's iPhone with a 23 percent share (maintaining its position) and RIM's BlackBerry falling to 22 percent from a previous 28 percent.

Which is why I was very curious when Andy Nusca put up this news item regarding a new Android-based ARCHOS media player that runs Android Froyo. It costs $249.00. Say what?

Now, I can understand why the Android Tablets are behind. Froyo isn't optimized for tablets, nor is the application software that is designed to run on Android smartphones. Tablets are also currently experiencing something of a component gap when it comes to screens, processors and other integrated electronics in order to compete successfully with the iPad.

But Android media players -- effectively cell phones without the cell phone (much like Apple's iTouch) shouldn't have that problem. And yet, they apparently do, because nobody's launched a viable iTouch competitor at a price that people are willing to pay for.

Don't get me wrong, the Archos 43 appears to have a bunch of things going for it. It's got a 1Ghz ARMv8 CPU, Android Froyo, 8GB or 16GB of internal memory that's expandable with a Micro-SDHC slot, an 800x480 pixel 4.3" capacitive touchscreen, support for all sorts of multimedia formats, Wireless-N networking, Bluetooth 2.1, HD camcorder, integrated accelerometer and HDMI output.

In other words, everything you would expect from a high-end Android Froyo smartphone, minus the cellular transceiver. The problem is, you'd expect this to cost LESS than the iPod Touch, which has a higher resolution screen, 300,000+ games and apps, and all of the music and video content that Apple leverages with iTunes.

After all, in the smartphone component space, the parts are highly commoditized and the supply chain is stable, so you'd think these manufacturers wouldn't have issues putting together something viable.

They can't. The Archos is MORE expensive than a comparable 8GB iTouch, which retails at around $229.00. The 32GB iTouch is about $30-$40 more.

Page 2: [If Archos can't compete, who can?]  »

Granted, the Archos can do a bunch of things the iTouch can't. Its got the HDMI output and it's a more open device. There's a minority of folks that might find that attractive, including myself. But for the majority of consumers, if you put these side by side, they're going to choose the iTouch, unless the Archos or a comparable device is significantly cheaper and a better value overall.

Now, it's certainly possible that Archos is the wrong vendor to put together an iTouch-killer, since traditionally they build high-end, esoteric consumer electronics products. Maybe we need someone like Vizio or Samsung or LG or even Panasonic to step in. But they'd have to price it at under $200 for the device to be attractive, and realistically I'm leaning towards even a lower price than that, such as around the $160.00 and less mark.

If there is room for a "premium" Android media player, it would have to be someone that could leverage a lot of content and has the marketing and industrial design moxie to pull it off. The only company that I think could do this is SONY -- which has a huge stable of music, games, movies and TV shows which it could build its own iTunes competitor with. In other words, an Android Walkman. But it would have to be at least price parity with the iTouch, and SONY doesn't have a decent track record for competing on prices.

Aside from SONY, the only other possible contender would be Amazon, which has both Amazon MP3 and Amazon Video, as well as their Kindle content properties and is currently building their own Android app store for an un-named future device.

In the smartphone world, Android currently has an advantage because it can leverage carrier diversity as well as carrier subsidies, and carriers also like Android's flexibility because it can be customized to their needs. In this case, Apple's desire for platform control works against them and that's why Android is thriving in that space.

But in retail consumer electronics, it's not Android's playing field. Not yet. Not for Tablets or any other consumer device. And until an Android device manufacturer can undercut Apple's device pricing and deliver a product with serious wow factor and compelling content, Apple is going to remain king of the jungle.

Will Android ever be able to break into iTouch territory? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Mobility

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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96 comments
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  • It's the content, stupid

    iPeople can't go ahead in life without their precious itunes software. But others don't pay a dime for music (pirate it) so why expect them to pay for a smart media player if they already get the content for free?
    nicholas22
    • To have something on which to put their illegal content? [nt]

      [nt]
      olePigeon
      • What??????

        @olePigeon

        People have illegal content??

        Noooo. ;-)
        Economister
      • Where are all the Giant iPod's I mean iPads???

        @olePigeon People speak of these iPads as if they are everywhere. But out of 1000's of people I know, there are only 3 of them and they always leave them at home. Where are they out in the wild being used as truly portable devices? I can't count the netbooks and laptops there are so many of them. People actually carry them around and use them. I can't believe how many more phones there are out there with Android! :O

        Then I read Samsung has sold more Smartphones alone than Apple has iPhones by double last quarter alone. I come back from Europe/UK trip. What did I see? Well not many iPhones and NO iPads! ......but why don't we ever hear that Nokia has sold over a 100 Million phones last quarter or that Samsung sold over 70 Million and half of them are Smartphones? Where do you hear how Apple has to buy most of their parts for both iPhone and iPad from Samsung and LG? How can they sell them, make a profit over what the actual manufacturer makes and sells them to them for? Crapple's Famed RDF Energy Radiation Generators are working overtime to pump out the over hype and bullcrApple via Media and Stock share speculators! That's what!!!
        i2fun@...
      • @i2fun@. Do you do anything but lie?

        You really are funny in your ability to make up "facts" and data.

        <i>but why don't we ever hear that Nokia has sold over a 100 Million phones last quarter or that Samsung sold over 70 Million and half of them are [Smart phones]?</i>

        What an amazing lie in that. Samsung (by Samsung's own account) is on track for 20 million smart phones for the YEAR. You take that to be 35 million per quater. Samsung expects just over that figure for <b>next year.</b>

        http://www.informationweek.com/news/smb/mobile/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=228200206&cid=RSSfeed_IWK_All

        Last quater; next year. Dollar; Won.

        <i>Where do you hear how Apple has to buy most of their parts for both iPhone and iPad from Samsung and LG?</i>

        Have you not said in the past that Samsung made 70% of the parts in the iPad including the screen? You made that one up as well. Does it bug you the Galaxy Series has an Apple designed processor?

        <i>How can they sell them, make a profit over what the actual manufacturer makes and sells them to them for?</i>

        Because Apple is making 50% of the all the profit in all the mobile handset market world wide? 4% of all the phones sold. 50% of all the profit. Not RDF. Simple fact.
        Bruizer
    • RE: Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

      Because I believe people are basically honest and if they can get content legally without any hassle, they will pay for it. iTune music store has proven this, has it not?
      CowLauncher
    • RE: Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

      @nicholas22 <br>I think you have it all mixed up. iTunes can play three kinds of content: content bought from the iTunes store, mp3 ripped from your CDs or any other mp3 files (pirated if you like). Using Apple products like iTunes and iPod allows you to play any MP3 file, no matter how you got it. In addition, you may purchase content from iTines, which is DRMed as per the publisher's rules.
      prof123
      • RE: Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

        @prof123 iTunes is no longer DRMed for Music... they are all unprotected AAC files now.
        condelirios
    • iPod killer? They're called phones.

      Notice the Sony Walkman finally died the other day, even with no-one using cassettes now, they had a good run.

      Anyone noticed that any phone is capable of playing music - I'm sure even Apple fanbois will notice ater a while.

      What killed the iPod? As soon as its modest functions were incrporated into phones, it began its downslide.
      tonymcs@...
      • Get informed

        @tonymcs@... <br><br>The dedicated iPod player are still selling well. They've been an dip but it's certainly still sellng better than all the other mp3 players combined. The <b>iPod</b> Touch which this blog piece is referring to and which is the successor to the traditional iPod is selling just as well as the iPhone. The iPhone which incorporated the iPod is still the best music/ media player on any device. WP7 Zune integration may come close but nothing beats it yet. So the <b>iPod</b> Touch is alive and well case you didn't notice selling just as well as iPhones.
        dave95.
      • RE: Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

        @dave95

        If it wasn't for iTunes, the software, I would still own an iPod. I thought it was a great music device. But the software tried to modify my ripped mp3's. It didn't like the mp3 tags. I spent days trying to fix that. And the software was pure bloat ware. I hated it.

        I will never own a peace of crap iDevice for two reasons. Apple = Microsoft in being evil, and their iTune software sucks a$$.
        DanLM
      • RE: Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat A

        @tonymcs@...
        I'll never buy another iPod. Their days are dwindling. I have an iPhone and an iPad and and half a dozen elderly iPods that I no longer use. I think all dedicated media players will go the way of the PDA. My iPhone serves all the needs my previous iPods did, and I have a feeling all Android phone users will feel the same way about their previous mp3 players.
        Mark_42
    • RE: Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

      @nicholas22

      Odd. My iPod Touch plays music that I download from the iTunes store. However iTunes also allows me to rip my CD collection, import .FLAC files generated from my vinyl collection and, yes, add some music that I have downloaded to it's library. I can also copy my home videos to the iPod Touch, read ebooks from many sources (Calibre be praised!) though the screen is too small to make that overly useful. I can do much more, RDP to a server being my favourite. I also use non-Apple software to manage my iPod Touch on my Linux laptop. Not as pretty but works quite well and gets around some of Apple's limits on syncing libraries between multiple computers.

      I have looked at other media players to see if they could meet my needs but at this time, it going to take a lot of effort for anyone to come close to matching Apple's support structure.
      DNSB
    • RE: Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

      @nicholas22
      I just like being able to play music while I read the news on the web. Funny that Android tablets that sell for under $200 can do this (http://www.androidgold.com) yet the iPad can't. Oh, we can also load flash movies and play any music and movies we can get our hands on, though admit some jealousy over iPad's slick capacitive screen and idiot-proof GUI, then again, with the extra $300 I save on the device itself I can load up on apps, of course, you can download most apk files free off the net as well - a good reason why some services like http://www.androidlicenser.com may become more popular in the near future, as well as why Amazon's emergence into the Android Apps market COULD be very, very interesting.
      AndroidGold.com - Best Android Tablets and Phones
      • Funny. iPad does that fine

        @AndroidGold.com - Best Android Tablets and Phones

        Some day Android people will learn to stop lying.
        Bruizer
    • RE: Where are all the iPod killers? Even Android media players can't beat Apple pricing

      @nicholas22
      I just like being able to play music while I read the news on the web. Funny that Android tablets that sell for under $200 can do this (http://www.androidgold.com) yet the iPad can't. Oh, we can also load flash movies and play any music and movies we can get our hands on, though admit some jealousy over iPad's slick capacitive screen and idiot-proof GUI, then again, with the extra $300 I save on the device itself I can load up on apps, of course, you can download most apk files free off the net as well - a good reason why some services like http://www.androidlicenser.com may become more popular in the near future, as well as why Amazon's emergence into the Android Apps market COULD be very, very interesting.
      AndroidGold.com - Best Android Tablets and Phones
  • It is time for the DoJ and the EC to step in and level the playing field

    It isn't fair that no one can compete with Apple so the government must step in and start preventing Apple from bundling a media player, a browser, an application store, and even an OS with their computing devices.

    Cue the double standards...
    NonZealot
    • Surely you know better...

      NonZealot, I see you have your troll hat on. Now I want you to tell us why Apple's ecosystem is not anti-competitive because i know that you actually can see the difference from this and what MS did to get their hands slapped.
      CowLauncher
      • He can't see the difference

        Apple has competitive products, and their advantage is simply vision and making it work. Nobody else has figured out how to make a compelling ecosystem around hardware and software products like they have.
        It's a simple little puzzle that has them all scratching their heads.

        @CowLauncher
        GoPower
    • Maybe

      @NonZealot
      IF Apple is using this bundled, monopolized set pf products to crush force other competitors out of the market. Funny enough, though, I don't see that happening.
      use_what_works_4_U