See, it's not just me that thinks that iPod/iTunes is the only game in town for serious music player. Some of it is marketing and good luck of course, but Apple has consistantly offer the same or more for the money, while being a much safer long-term investment. Or you can trust Microsoft/Money losing hardware manufacturers… Including Sony who lost out through stupid desisions (Memory stick/proprietary music format).
I'd say the 4gb Nano is what most of you need/want. Unless you already have an iPod, that is. I'm still very happy with my 20gb 4th generation in Apple white… 🙂
On the other hand, there are some really cheap flash-based mp3 players out there right now. If that meets your needs, more power to you! 🙂
At the end of 2004, the biggest threats to Apple were three large companies – Creative Labs, Microsoft, and Sony – but as of today, their competitive efforts have collectively amounted to very little, and in most cases have lost millions of dollars. The reason is fairly obvious: Apple hit all of its marks this year, delivering better iPods at equal or lower price points than in 2004, building an iTunes Music Store capable of selling both music and videos, and growing the largest accessory catalog in the digital music space. Additionally, by introducing iTunes support for podcasts – free audio and video programs that can be downloaded to a computer or iPod – the company significantly broadened the variety of no-cost information and entertainment available for potential iPod and iTunes users. No one has yet approached Apple's overall package of paid and unpaid iPod "benefits." At this point, is it even possible?
On sales, all signs now point to "no." At the end of 2004, 10 million iPods had been sold. As of this writing, significantly over 30 million iPods have been sold, most likely 36 or 37 million. In any case, this installed base dwarves those of all of Apple's competitors put together, and they know it. D&M Holdings, maker of the Rio family of players, decided to exit the MP3 player business altogether in late August of 2005, suggesting that it couldn't make enough money to jusify continued involvement. Creative, Microsoft and Sony have all launched competing digital music services to iTunes, but despite major cash expenditures and public relations efforts, none have made a dent in Apple's popularity. One likely reason: none of their downloads plays on the iPod, and it's hard to convince people to buy music that only plays on devices with uncertain futures. By comparison, Apple's iTunes Music Store has sold far in excess of 600 million songs, with the pace of sales accelerating.
It is presently unclear as to how much of the iPod's dominance is attributable to brilliant strategy and timing, and how much to the bad luck or strategies of its opponents. For instance, Japanese rival Sony unveiled numerous competing music players throughout the year, even adopting direct support for MP3 playback in an attempt to broaden its devices' appeal. After trying to release color-screened music players without success, it decided to focus on more fashionable flash-based devices with glowing black-and-white screens. These devices won praise for their aesthetic designs and looks, and Sony eventually decided to create a hard drive-based version with the same look and feel. Separately, it released the PlayStation Portable (PSP) multimedia device in the United States, failing to achieve its predicted sell-outs of initial allocations, but garnering considerable praise for the power it had crammed into a $250 package.
Similarly, having spent years talking about the technical advantages of its players, Creative Labs shifted strategies, paring down features and working to come up with a simplified control scheme similar to the iPod's. In late 2004, it debuted an iPod-like device called Zen Touch, plus iPod mini clones called Zen Micros. These smaller players used MicroDrive-style hard disks in iPod mini-sized capacities, and were available in even more body colors than Apple had offered. For 2005, Creative developed numerous iterations of Micro and Touch, including Sleek, Photo, and Neeon, which differed mostly in screens and body designs. Most interestingly, it developed Zen Vision, a next-generation hybrid music, photo, and video player with a $400 price tag and support for several video and audio standards, releasing it before Apple had any video device on the market.
But the release of the color-screened iPod nano and video-equipped fifth-generation iPod – each thinner, cooler, and more affordable than these devices – killed their buzz. In some cases, the buzz never began. Sony's 20GB black-and-white iPod competitor was released on the same day that Apple unveiled the fifth-generation iPod. The differences in price, performance, and style could not have been more glaring: they were all obviously tilted in the iPod's favor. Even those enamored by the Zen Vision or PlayStation Portable's technical capabilities were forced to concede that Apple's offerings were extremely aggressive – albeit incomplete – alternatives. It didn't take journalists long to conclude that the major players were in for a tough holiday season thanks to Apple's last-minute announcements.
With Rio gone, will Apple's other competitors disappear, too? For Sony, the answer appears to be no; the company is reported to be working on a more competitive version of the PlayStation Portable, as well as additional MP3 players. Creative also appears likely to stick around. Despite financial losses and repeated drubbings in each sector of the portable media market it enters, Creative appears to be focusing heavily on iPod-alikes and lawsuits as means to stick around. Most recently, it released the $330 Zen Vision: M, an aesthetic and features lookalike of the fifth-generation iPod, but with five different front shell colors and a couple of standard Creative additions (voice recording and FM radio tuning). And Creative has threatened Apple with enforcement of a recent patent on one aspect of the iPod's user interface, the validity of which is still disputed.
What about Dell, iRiver, and other companies that have been heavily involved with Microsoft's digital music initiatives? They continue to release products that aren't going anywhere. Dell released and now appears to have discontinued the "Pocket DJ 5," a mini challenger which appeared just before Apple refreshed the mini in February 2005, as well as the DJ Ditty, a screen-laden clone of iPod shuffle. It has not released any color-screened digital media players yet, and may not. In sharp contrast, iRiver continues to experiment with a bewilderingly large array of colorful, open standard flash players, including multipurpose audio-video players that possess as little as 512MB of memory. It's hard to imagine that these devices will suddenly become popular, but we haven't written these companies off quite yet. More Here
Currently Listening: iPod competitors losing money