Dear Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal:

The Macalope just finished reading your review of the new iPods, The New iPod: Ready for Battle? (subscription only) (thanks to Brian in comments for a non-subscription link), and as a follower of iPod punditry, he was confused.

Next month marks the fifth anniversary of one of the most successful products of the digital era, Apple Computer’s iPod music player. Since 2001, potential iPod-killers have come and gone like autumn foliage. Apple claims an astonishing 76% market share in the U.S. for the iPod and an equally amazing 88% share of the U.S. legal music download market for its companion iTunes online store. Over 60 million iPods and 1.5 billion songs have been sold.

Well, yes, but where’s the reference to how iPod sales fell leading up to the day before the Showtime event? Clearly the devastating decline from Apple’s monstrous first fiscal quarter right up to the announcement of new models means the iPod is doomed. You should look into that.

But, Walt, that’s not the only place where you drop the ball of conventional iPod punditry. You mention the Zune and RealNetworks’ forthcoming player as potential threats, but then just launch into your iPod review.

Still, this autumn, the iPod could face its greatest challenge. Microsoft, after failing for years to combat the iconic gadget, will launch a new assault Nov. 14 with a player called Zune.

Not only that, but this week, RealNetworks’ Rhapsody music service, the best of the iTunes competitors, will announce its own player, jointly developed with SanDisk, which is the second-place player maker, albeit a distant second.

So, this holiday season Apple has made some of the biggest changes to the iPod and iTunes in years.

No, no, no. Walt, Walt, Walt, this won’t do at all. You devote the rest of the article to reviewing actual features of iPods you can currently buy. That’s simply not how it’s done.

The Macalope shall elucidate.

Take a look at Vic Keegan, Sven Rafferty, Kieran McCarthy and Mike Elgan. You’re supposed to parlay the fantastic but ultimately unsustainable success the iPod has had into some kind of failure – don’t forget to call falling sales growth “slipping sales”! – and breathlessly list imaginary features the Zune may one day have and ask why the iPod doesn’t have those today.

It’s impossible to know if Apple can sustain its remarkably high market shares in the face of new competition, but it is going into the battle with better products at better prices.


Walt, no! The iPod is doomed! Doomed!


And you write for one of the most respected daily newspapers in the world.

Actually, that explains a lot.

The Macalope

  • Or here’s a real link (no subscription needed) to the article on Mossberg’s Personal Technology site.

  • John Muir:

    Letter to the Editor time.

    “The surprising lack of subjective lunacy in your columnist Mossberg’s latest piece was truly stunning.  I am appalled to be left with the sickly impression that the world is not about to end.  Please give him a good dressing down and curtail his iPod privileges for as long as the failed player has left in the marketplace and land him with a mud Zune instead.  Good day!”

  • Scopi:

    The wonderful thing about making “iPod is doomed” prophecies is that you’re sure to be right eventually. No product leads the pack by so much forever. But the doomsayers sieze on any competitor, no matter how idiotic. The Zune? C’mon. Really. C’mon. It comes in brown.

  • zune:

    On Amazon preorders for brown zunes exceed white, so perhaps the color was not a total mistake. It does distract bloggers from the issue at hand which is marketing budgets. With 500 million to spend on advertising, you can sell a brown anything.

  • cfenger:

    Nice, Mr. Macalope, very nice. I am smiling.

  • lantzn:

    Yes it’s refreshing to read what Mossberg has to write about Apple products these days in comparison to all the other dribble out there. He usually right on the money in both his praise and criticism. I often point new Mac potential buyers to his articles.

  • Clarus:

    Brown works for UPS so why not for Micro$oft? And for a dose of irony, uses a brown extensively. If it’s good enough for you it must be good enough for others.

    Good article (both Walt and you)

  • Lekun:

    I completely agree that the articles linked above and talked about previously on this site are moronic. However, Mossberg can be just as biased. To wit:

    “So, this holiday season Apple has made some of the biggest changes to the iPod and iTunes in years.”

    Really? For the first time the iPod was released I wasn’t envious of the new generation (save for the shuffle). Maybe thats my opinion, but Walt seems to be gushing a little bit over a search feature and screen brightness.

    Its just my opinion but Walt seems to gloss over a lot of problems iTunes 7 has caused and for the first time a near standstill in development in the larger iPod versions. Not every announcement needs to be along the lines of iPod Mini to iPod Nano, but it seems this recent update (again save the shuffle) was one of the mildest Apple has produced.

  • Big Al:

    A brown Zune is the turd and an unlimited propaganda budget is the honey.

    Coat anything in enough honey and it will taste good to the masses.

  • It’s true, the excerpts for that article didn’t leave me feeling as emotionally distraught over the Zune as an iPod killer as I should feel. Apparently he didn’t get the memo on the formula to denigrate the iPod correctly. I didn’t feel any drama at all.

  • ScoPi:

    “On Amazon preorders for brown zunes exceed white, so perhaps the color was not a total mistake.”

    Really? What numbers are you looking at? I just checked, and the sales rankings for the various Zunes are #209 (Black), #843 (White), and #1247 (Brown). Unless I’m reading those wrong, the brown Zune is selling slower than the black.

    Now admittedly, the people who pre-order electronics on Amazon are probably tech geeks, and all the best selling personal tech is black. The pink nano is ranked below the black and silver models on Amazon right now, which I’m sure will not be true once those things hit stores. But the female market that’s going to cause sell-outs of the pink nano isn’t going to be lining up for a brown Zune. So my question remains: Who is the brown Zune supposed to appeal to?

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