2004 has been a good year for the iPod. Not so good for its competitor products. Creative looks to be taking it’s Nomad off the market, and Sony’s lackluster showing with the Network Walkman and Hi-MD (largely because the prices simply were not competitive with the 4G iPod mini) are proving to make this year in digital music tech dominated by the iPod and the iTunes music store.
It’s kind of a bummer because, just once, I’d like to see Sony do something in the US market without dropping the ball. Sony makes good equipment, I can’t argue with the durability of the minidisc player itself, or any of their walkman products, but the walkman name isn’t going to be enough to carry them through this age of digital music.
Right now, the only thing that’s even competing well with the iPod are the iRiver mp3 players. These things have the advantage of being able to play whatever you want to shove on them, in a variety of open source formats. They have the same massive storage capacity that people have come to expect from an iPod, and they are so easy to use that they are literally plug and play. Your computer sees them the same way it sees a jump drive. File transfer is all a matter of drag and drop, and you can plug them into your radio or television to record music, the same way your old casette recorder did. If you plug in a mic, you can record a lecture from class. This area of being able to record music and voice seems to be the only place where the iPod is currently lacking and could be a long-term weakness for the iPod brand.
So, now we know why we all want an iPod for Christmas.