As the official unveiling of the new iPhone looms, Apple's iPod, once the flagship device in the company's product line, is being cited by some folks as a potential candidate for the chopping block.
CNET senior editor Donald Bell discussed that possibility yesterday, saying that he's "a little worried for the iPod." He pointed out that the iPod has been surviving in the shadow of the iPhone and iPad, and as time goes on, the portable media players are becoming less important to Apple's bottom line.
In July, Apple revealed in its fiscal third-quarter earnings that its iPod division made up less than 5 percent of the company's total revenue of $28.6 billion. Just three years ago, the iPod accounted for more than 22 percent of the firm's fiscal third-quarter revenue of $7.5 billion. Meanwhile, the revenue share of Apple's iPhone, and more recently, the iPad, have only gained.
Will Apple kill the iPod
CNET review of the iPod Classic
CNET review of the iPod Nano
Given that decline, as well as the state of Apple's business right now, Bell opened the floor to CNET readers to discuss the possibility of the iPod's demise. In a CNET poll asking readers what they think might happen to Apple's iPod line, 42 percent of the nearly 3,300 respondents said that it's quite likely that Apple will discontinue its Nano, Shuffle, and Classic, but the company's iPod Touch will hang on. Another 30 percent of voters had the exact opposite reaction, saying that they believe Apple will "never" discontinue iPods, and will instead offer up some new versions this year.
However, if history is to be our guide, it appears time is running out on the chances of the iPod being refreshed anytime soon. As Bell points out, "Apple's product announcements are like clockwork," and in the past, the company has unveiled new iPods in September. But with only a few days left in September, it appears increasingly likely that they won't be making an appearance this month.
CNET's readers weigh in
Even though that might not happen and Apple is seemingly pushing the iPhone--which has a built-in music player--on users, there are some people who aren't so quick to jump on the bandwagon and bid adieu to the music players.
"There's something to be said for being able to carry your entire music collection with you," CNET reader "wpavlik2" commented on Bell's story last night. "The [iPod] Classic is perfect to keep in the car plugged into your stereo. I know I'm not the only one who does this."
Another CNET commenter, "ElHalo," joined the discussion saying that the iPod Classic is "permanently sitting in my center console plugged into the car's USB port, and I can instantly hear any song I want, immediately."
But not everyone is so convinced that there's so much value in owning a standalone music player. CNET commenter "Steve_Ernstberger" said that "there probably won't be an iPod much longer. $200 will get you a nice new iPhone and you can decide whether to get data, voice, etc. Get ready for a seismic shift."
CNET commenter "JHankwitz" agreed, saying that the iPod's "features and benefits are available in so many other products, it's no longer needed."
Although some consumers might feel that way, "need" on a corporate level is very different. Even as its importance to Apple's bottom line declines, the iPod division is still generating over $1 billion in revenue each quarter, which is nothing to scoff at. What's more, the iPod division's revenue of $1.3 billion in Apple's last-reported quarter isn't that far off from the $1.67 billion the media players generated three years ago when their death wasn't a subject of debate.
That said, it is worth noting that the iPod division is the only part of Apple's business that saw revenue figures decline year-over-year, dropping 14 percent.
CNET commenter "d_adams" pointed to the importance of the iPod to Apple's financial performance, saying that "it's still a money maker, so why end it?
"Kids will always want music players, and most people aren't going to give their kids a smartphone," d_adams said.
But in the end, it's up to Apple to decide the fate of the iPod. And according to Apple blog TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog), citing an anonymous source, the company is planning to discontinue its iPod Shuffle and iPod Classic by the end of this year. However, as with any other Apple rumor, take that report with a grain of salt, since the iPhone maker has not made any indication that such a decision has been made.
Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.