Reality Check: 1,000 Songs In Your Pocket

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Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column. We’ve gathered a group of visionaries and veterans in the mobile industry to give their insights into the marketplace.
With these five words, a revolution began. Digital home products were floundering en masse (remember the iPaq music center?). The PC market was in the tank. Our nation was still reeling from the terrorism of 9/11 and we were frantically researching anthrax. The largest producer of software, Microsoft, was introducing its latest operating system, Windows XP, with a $1 billion advertising budget.
What a perfect time to introduce the iPod, a $399 portable music device that could transfer CDs in seconds from your Apple Mac. On October 23, it debuted as “1,000 Songs In Your Pocket” weighing 6.5 ounces and promising 10 hours of continuous music. It sounded simple: Bring together advancements in disk storage, proprietary data transfer capabilities, and a few new developments with consumer demand for more music and market its massive capacity to Mac users first and then the general public. On top of this, convince the music industry that this would help sell more music and not increase piracy. Few companies could maneuver through the obstacles, and only one company would: Apple.
And maneuver they did. First came the iTunes store (April 2003), then the Mini (Jan. 2004), Shuffle (Jan. 2005), Nano (Sept. 2005) and Touch (Sept. 2007). The capacity of the “classic” iPod grew more than thirty-fold from five to 160 gigabytes and now sports a 36 hour battery life for music playback. The iPod revolution also rewarded shareholders handsomely, adding at least $160 billion of value in eight years (interestingly enough, that increase slightly exceeds AT&T’s current equity value).
Apple is warming up for the heavyweight battle of the century. As I demonstrated at a recent conference, with WiMAX or LTE for live/local broadcasting, the classic iPod or a beefier iPod Touch combined with Hulu or a video search engine could easily meet or exceed many household television viewing needs (and reinvent ESPN Classic, the Discovery Channel, and Boomerang in the process). Add in the portability of a “two deck of cards” terabyte iPod and the DVR is a thing of the past. Add in some exclusives, and – you get the point – the screen size of the iPod grows to 30, 40, 50 inches, diagonally. This time, the value extraction comes from U-Verse, FiOS and cable.
In eight years Apple revolutionized the personal music and the mobile phone industries. Is your company ready for the next wave of change?
Jim Patterson is CEO & co-founder of Mobile Symmetry, a start-up created for carriers to solve the problems of an increasingly mobile-only society. He was most recently President – Wholesale Services for Sprint and has a career that spans over eighteen years in telecom and technology. He welcomes your comments at [email protected]

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