The age of the iPod, which transformed Apple from a computer maker into a consumer electronics giant, is coming to an end. Since its launch in 2001, the device practically defined the global market for digital music players, and turned Apple into the world's largest music retailer in the process. But in quarterly results issued yesterday, iPod sales fell by almost a million units, with industry watchers saying the worldwide market for the devices has reached saturation point, thanks largely to Apple, which has sold more than 200 million of them.
At the top of the market, those looking for a device that can store tens of thousands of songs, costing many hundreds of dollars, already own an iPod. Others looking for something cheaper, often costing less than US$50, can now choose from hundreds of devices flooding out of manufacturing hubs such as China and South Korea. While many companies would see the loss of a cash-cow global phenomena such as the iPod as an existential threat, Apple is treating the shift as a transition to a newer, even more profitable era. Sales of its iPhone handset and touchscreen iPod are booming, and the company is now doing a healthy business as a middleman distributor of software applications for both devices.
The future for the company, many say, will be in doing to the phone market what it has already done to music players. Just as it expanded from pricey, top-end iPod music players into cheap, mass market products such as the iPod Shuffle, the company is widely expected to introduce cheaper, simpler versions of the iPhone as the market for its premium products saturates. email@example.com