In an article today for GottaBeMobile, Chuong Nguyen suggests that “iOS 5 Ushers in the End of the iPod Era.” While the title and content of the article focuses on the Apple iPod, I think the question can be more generally asked, does iCloud mark the beginning of the end of dedicated music players?
Cloud storage services like the ones from Apple, Amazon, and Google, mean that as long as you have a connection to the Internet, you have access to all of your music. If you have access to all of your music via the Internet, do you need all of it to be stored on the device that you use to listen to the music? For most people, so long as there is a good Internet connection and the music sounds good, they won’t need to store all of their music on a device.
All modern smartphones have the ability to play music, the problem has been that most phones don’t have enough storage to hold an entire music collection. Even if you can get your entire music collection on your phone, the process of managing the music on the phone, such as when you buy new music on a PC, has been a pain. Storing music in the cloud means that storage is no longer a limitation to playing all of your music on a smartphone, and it is much easier to add new music either directly from a store, as is the case with Amazon and Apple, or via an automatic upload as is the case with Google.
It will be interesting to see what impact the music cloud storage services have on the sales of the classic iPods and music players sold by other companies. Reports have existed for a while that Microsoft will stop selling the dedicated Zune music players, with Zune living on as an app on Windows Phones. A few niche companies may continue selling dedicated music players, but they probably won’t have a significant market share.
My expectation is that in the near future Apple will drop the iPod classic line and just sell the iPod Touch, which will probably have the largest storage capacity of the mobile devices Apple sells. What will be interesting to see is what Apple does with the iPod Nano and Shuffle. My bet is that the Nano will get WiFi connectivity and the ability to sync with iCloud, while the Shuffle will also be dropped. In the end, I do think that the iCloud announcement does mark the beginning of the end of dedicated music players.