Feb 1, 2006 12:00 PM,
By Mark Johnson
The Apple iPod is an interesting product. Technologically speaking, it’s pretty cool and user friendly, and that’s probably why it has the lion’s share of the market. But iPod has also spawned an interesting phenomenon: Non-Apple manufacturers are now marketing a slew of supporting and accessory products as iPod-specific gear.
Think for a minute. When was the last time you saw a billboard or magazine ad for custom wheels designed specifically for, say, a Ford Mustang? Meanwhile, it seems that everybody and his brother has come out with an iPod docking station, iPod covers, or cases, or some other “necessary” accessory. That’s the power of that product, and now Apple and the accessory manufacturers feed off one another.
For example, you think the Bose iPod docking station is cool, but you don’t have an iPod, although you’ve been looking to buy a MP3 player of some kind. So now, you go out and buy both. Accessories have been developed and styled to have the iPod look and feel, not just any old MP3 player — but an iPod. In developing a supporting product, Sonance has spun off its iPort and created a whole new company.
Is it possible that the iPod is to MP3 players what Kleenex is to facial tissue? Both of my kids told me they wanted iPods, when I know what they were really asking for was an MP3 player. The brand was secondary (but I did get my son an iPod for Christmas). I also have a friend who was in the market for an MP3 player and eventually bought an iPod, which was at the top of his price range. Why? Because of the plethora of gear available to support it.
Many people use the iPod as a benchmark of design and technology with its elegant and accessible user interface, but marketing and product development professionals should stand up and take notice of the iPod phenomenon as well.