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Cheaper, Thinner iPods – Apple vs Sony

Apple seems to be serious about holding on to its digital music business:

    Apple said the new model iPod has up to 12 hours of battery life, compared with eight hours in previous models. Poor battery performance in some iPods has drawn criticism.

    The 20-gigabyte model, which can hold about 5,000 songs, has a list price of $299, lower than the previous price of $399 for a 20-gigabyte iPod. The 40-gigabyte model costs $399.

    “Apple is closing the pricing gap between iPod and competitors,” said Steve Lidberg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities. “Combined with a longer battery, Apple addresses the two biggest issues it had with the product.”

    ….iPod claims a 50 percent market share in digital music players. Its sales almost tripled in the previous quarter. Analyst Lidberg expects shipments of 1.2 million iPods this quarter, more than tripling its sales last year.

    Greg Joswiak, vice president of hardware product marketing at Apple, said it expects “a very strong growth” in the third quarter, helped by the upgrade. Traditionally the third quarter is stronger than the second quarter due to back-to-school sales, he said.

And Apple is worming its way onto college campuses:

    As part of a pilot program, Duke University plans to give iPods loaded with school calendars and other information to its 1,800 incoming freshmen. Students can download class materials to listen to anything from audio examples of textbook exercises to Spanish songs.

    iPod users can now change the playback speed of audio books. The new iPods, which are thinner, also offer improved menu programs.

    Apple’s iTunes online music service is the most popular legal download site, claiming 70 percent of all songs bought online. [Reuters]

A free iPod would be nice, and once they’re hooked they’re hooked.

BusinessWeek compares the performance of the iPod (I assume the old one) against the new (out in August) Sony NW-HD1 Network Walkman, which

    weighs in at less than four ounces, making it slightly smaller than Apple Computer Inc.’s (AAPL ) popular iPod. More to the point, Sony claims that its 20-gigabyte Walkman can store 13,000 songs, compared with the 5,000-song capacity of a similarly equipped iPod.

    ….How do consumers wade through all of the hype? By understanding that compressed music is an issue of quantity vs. quality. Getting a lot of songs onto a player or a PC, or making them small enough to download fast, entails compressing digitized music files. The maker crunches them down by deleting redundant sounds as well as those that humans can’t hear. The industry uses a standard compression measure called bit rate; the lower it is, the smaller the music file and the more you can squeeze onto a PC or music player. The downside of that, however, is that a lower bit rate generally means lower sound quality.

    That’s the logic Apple used to attack Sony’s new player. The creator of the iPod notes that to jam those 13,000 songs onto its player, Sony would have to compress music files to a bit rate of 48 — well below the default 128-bit rate Apple uses. “Clearly, they are trying to use a little marketing trickery,” says Apple Executive Vice-President Philip W. Schiller. Moreover, Sony’s default bit rate for the new player will be 68. But Sony says its compression technology is superior to Apple’s and can maintain quality even at lower bit rates. “Listen to it yourself,” says Todd Schrader, a Sony Electronics vice-president. “I don’t have a golden ear, but it sounds great.”

    ….In a decidedly unscientific test, one BusinessWeek writer and two friends listened to Frederic Chopin’s Etudes Opus 10 and Opus 25, compressed from a store-bought compact disc to a 48-bit rate using Sony’s technology. Then they compared it with the original CD. Guess what? They couldn’t tell the difference.

    That prompts the real question: Does any of this really matter to the average music lover? Audiophiles insist that compressed music files in no way measure up to CD clarity. And while it’s true that hooking up a PC or music player to the home stereo might not deliver CD sound, plenty of people are doing it anyway. Besides, if the sound quality of compressed music was substandard, it’s hard to see how Apple moved 860,000 iPods during its fiscal third quarter, a performance that helped the company triple its profit to $61 million and boost revenues 30% to $2.01 billion.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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