The iPod Killer

Apple CEO Steve Jobs made another one of his grand pronouncements yesterday and he seems to have left everyone very unhappy.

Except his customers.

Internet streamers thought this was going to be the moment that Jobs would build digital Internet capabilities into the iPod.

Radio broadcasters may not have said it aloud, but some were hoping that if that happened maybe somehow, some way HD radio might make the cut.

Jobs, the caretaker of cool, has once again taken a pass on all types of "radio".

This doesn't mean that future iPods might not have Internet streaming capabilities, but it's not a lock right now.

Not a lock because, to be frank, Internet streaming isn't in Apple's best business interest.

Jobs' core business is being a record tycoon.

Kidding -- kind of.

We all know his business -- selling devices and computers, but Jobs has fashioned himself into becoming a record poo bah. He's already a Pixar genius and a computer pioneer.

Radio is not cool.

And Internet streaming is not a great benefit to Apple's iTunes online mega store. You must remember that iTunes does have Internet radio capabilities but it's almost a throw away.

And the rest of us in the music media business?

We're looking in the wrong places.

Until WiFi or WiMax is everywhere, Internet streaming on a portable device is a nonstarter for iPod type devices. So there's no rush for Jobs.

Sony, the Walkman people, are hopelessly out of the picture.

Microsoft's Zune is a joke -- a bulky imitation of an iPod.

Don't get me started on subscription music services. We already have Rhapsody for what its worth and Columbia co-president Rick Rubin was quoted in the Sunday New York Times Magazine (cover story) on how a model that charges $19.95 a month for everything you can eat -- I mean, listen to -- would kill the iPod.

Not so fast. This next generation doesn't like to pay for what they can steal for free.

The iPod killer doesn't mean trying to design a better mouse trap -- so to speak. It's inventing a device that is not the iPod.


I believe radio, and even 24-hour streaming stations will have a hard time keeping up with an attention-deprived youth audience that toggles between songs on their iPods before they are over.

Even 60 Minutes founder Don Hewitt wants to do a show more like 60 Seconds with concessions to this generation's attention deficit.

So, what to do if you can't spend all your time and money trying to beat Apple?

Build a portable TiVo.

Build a device that could be both Live (where available) and time-delayed.

Live to bring you Internet streams when you are near WiFi. But this alone is not going to sell devices.

Time-delayed because I feel that the young people will crave downloadable content. Podcasts, if you will, with music programming once royalty issues can be resolved. They may want "shows" that are 10 or 15 minutes long. Maybe personalities they follow for a few minutes every day. Niche content and the like.

Terrestrial radio doesn't get on this new device unless and until it forms a skunk works with young people and lets them develop new content for distribution.

The point is that we don't need another iPod when the ones we have are making us happy.


We need to build a new device to handle the content that radio people are going to create aimed at a new generation. We'll deliver it daily. We'll make it addictive. We'll add music as soon as we can work out the royalties.

This device is going to be popular because it cooperates with the inevitable which is -- consumers will choose their entertainment from a vast world of possibilities and consume it at will -- in short stretches.

The first models will dock to load and work at WiFi locations.

Of course, Apple could build all these things into iPod and iTunes now.

Agree or not, let's agree on this.


Short and sweet.


Spread virally.

That's the future and radio can have that future in a different model that takes it away from the terrestrial chains that prevent it from getting started.

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