White earbuds

I can’t say I was really surprised to hear that Apple has captured as much as 82% 92% of the US hard drive-based music player market. Walking around campus recently I have noticed a much greater percentage of people listing to their music via the tell-tale white earbuds. And, for a while at least, I would expect that trend to continue. With HP entering the distribution channel for iPods, they are starting to appear in even more mainstream retail locations, including Radio Shack and Costco.

This boom in popularity has some early adopters running for the closet. Witness Seth Godin:

“Godin is a closet iPod user, one of a small cadre of iPod lovers loath to be identified as an iPod lover. For closet users like Godin, it’s the way the earbuds scream, ‘Woo hoo, look at me, I’ve got an iPod!’”

This doesn’t seem to be an issue with teens, for whom in a recent survey voted the iPod as fourth on their holiday wish list, after clothes, money and a car. And it wasn’t even listed as a choice.

Despite what some detractors think, Apple is not going to cede market share willingly. Just today they have launched a new iPod ad featuring U2 in silhouette. And Steve Jobs reveals in a Business Week interview that Apple is successful because they focus on a small amount of things, and getting those things right:

“And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Realistically, Apple can’t hold onto such a large market share forever, but it’s not going to be easy to unseat them. And just about the time someone is poised to do so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple introducing a new device that reinvents the genre.


Some have suggested that Apple should treat the iPod less as a computer by-product and more as a consumer gadget, just the way Sony does with its stuff. I’m not one to tell whether that’s the way to go or not.

I have nothing against the white earbuds, but since mine didn’t survive a recent car wash, I now use a pair of ordinary black Sonys with my iPod - and that’s okay. It’s not like I’m on “Look at me, I have a 4g ipod” mode anyway :D

Posted by: beto on October 13, 2004 12:02 PM

I’m not sure where on the computer by-product—consumer appliance spectrum the iPod “should” be marketed either. At the moment, however, Apple seems to have nailed it.

As for the white earbuds, I wonder how many people are using them (or third party knock-offs) with non-iPod music devices? I like Jobs response to that possibility as quoted in a New York Times article from the 2 year anniversary of the iPod:

“But then you meet the girl, and she says, ‘Let me see what’s on your iPod.’ You pull out a tape player, and she walks away.”

Posted by: Mark Newhouse on October 13, 2004 12:54 PM

iPod Rocks! ;-)

Posted by: Lenny Cooper on October 22, 2004 11:24 AM

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In which Mark opines about the popularity of the iPod...

October 12, 2004 | iPod

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