The death of the PMP

Posted on: 07/13/09 by Elijah Mendoza
Tagged as mp3 player, iPod, iPhone, Apple, PMP, death

You might have heard of it. The Portable Media Player, the MP3 player, that thing that stores videos and songs, anything that's not an iPod. What happened? It's probably the very question that's in your head now. Portable media players per se aren't exactly gone, but their status today is a far cry from what it was just a few years back. Nowadays, you'd be lucky enough to find more than a couple of competitors to the iPod touch.

There were a lot of interesting things that took place over the past few years. They left the PMP market in a state where only one product reigns supreme.

iPod's preemptive strike

It's no secret that Apple's iPod played a big part in taking the MP3 player's popularity to worldwide proportions. It was neither the first nor, arguably, was it the best player in existence, but it was the most sought-after. It grabbed the attention of a huge chunk of the market despite other brands having arrived here first.

The iPod's fame came to a point where every one had to have an iPod just because everyone had an iPod, product shortcomings be damned. Other brands offered more features such as a radio tuner, voice recording, and superior battery life. The iPod often required third party accessories to do basic things and its battery was non-user replaceable. But none of that mattered. Yes, the iPod had the iTunes ecosystem which made buying music and other content easy, but it was closed to Filipino iPod owners unless you had a credit card with a US billing address.

The rest is history. The iPod won.


Creative gave up

Although there are other great brands who played in this market, Creative was the one company that still kept Apple on its toes. For a while, it was a full-scale war that created great players like the Zen Micro which, in many cases, even trumped the iPod mini.

Much of Creative's success is attributed to the company's longtime involvement with computers and audio equipment. Technologies featured in their sound cards and later on in their players such as the X-Fi were far superior than anything that Apple has ever incorporated into the iPod, and yet they received little or no attention at all from the public. As Steve Jobs proved time and again, a successful marketing scheme was crucial.

Beyond marketing, Apple defeated its competition by going beyond the device itself. Sure, Apple design and software were pivotal in giving the iPod sex appeal, but iTunes integration gave users a seamless experience from the Internet to their computer to their iPod. And the iTunes Music Store, despite being absent in the Philippines, allowed Apple to develop additional revenue and drop its iPod prices time and again. The original iPod sold for $400. You can now get an iPod Touch for $229.

From having churned out at least seven players in 2005, Creative released a mere three in 2008. Creative's next and thus far only release for 2009 will be the Zii touchscreen device - if it pushes through this year.


Zune Zero

Equally disappointing was the purported iPod killer, the Zune, which didn't do as well as Microsoft promised. The Zune was meant to compete with the iPod point for point. Sexy hardware? Check. Software? Microsoft is all about software. iTunes? MS had Windows Media Player. Music Store? MS created the Zune Marketplace.

Sadly, the list of Zune's problems were long and seemingly never-ending. From hardware problems (at 12:01, Dec. 31, 2008 many Zunes went black) to DRM problems, users were assailed from all sides. Nothing short of the perfect storm could knock Apple's iPod from its number position, and it failed to brew for Microsoft.

The mobile phone evolved

The iPhone raised the bar on what a portable media player should be. Like the iPod before it, it wasn't the best hardware out there - Samsung phones regularly trump the iPhone on screen resolution, camera resolution, and sheer number of features - but people still want the iPhone. Different product, same old story: sexy design + easy-to-use software + iTunes integration + iTunes Music Store (now with App store) = one PMP to rule them all. It sounds simple enough today, but few other companies control everything from hardware design to software to distribution of the media and apps that you run on your iPhone.

Other phone manufacturers like Nokia and Sony Ericsson also have media-centric mobiles like the XpressMusic and Walkman series. The combination, as simple as it is, is enough to stop many consumers from buying a separate PMP.

With the Jesus phone at the helm, Apple took PMP's into another direction - one that's far beyond the reach of many of its former foes and one that its newfound enemies are trying to emulate.

Philippine MP3 player/PMP deathlist:

  • Aigo
  • Archos
  • Astone
  • BenQ
  • Cowon
  • Fury
  • iRiver
  • MPIO
  • MSI Megastick
  • Popcom
  • Toshiba
  • Unastima
  • Xfree

Brands that never came to the Philippines:

  • Microsoft Zune
  • SanDisk Sansa

Brands still present:

  • Apple
  • Creative
  • Philips
  • Samsung
  • Sony

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  1. John Ray Cabrera: oh, my very first mp3 player is already 6feet under the ground. it was wayback 2004. mpio fy200 256MB, using a tyriple a battery. but at least i had my sony clie sj30 as another option.
    August 1, 2009 at 10:43 pm