Yep. Even the Babe Ruth of consumer electronics gadgets (they both changed forever their respective games) faces pressure from the convergence of applications in smartphones, most specifically by its dastardly younger brother, the iPhone.
Apple reported selling 19.45 million iPods in the first quarter of this year—brisk business to be sure, but the lowest first quarter total for the iPod since 2006. Okay, so the iPod isn't going to disappear in the next few years or, probably, in the next few decades. But there is a clear trend line.
According to Gartner's Gartenburg, standalone, single-application devices such as music players can continue to command a significant market—albeit a declining one—as long as over time they get less expensive and continue to evolve.
"If [the music player] business wasn't a good business, Apple would be out of it," Gartenburg said. "They are still very much in it, refreshing that product every year, even though they have other products like the iPhone that function as a music player."
According to IHS, after peaking at more than 197 million units in 2007, the market for all digital music players is projected to decline from 180.1 million units in 2010 to 160.6 million units next year.
"The market isn't going away," Selburn said. "But for a market that was pushing 200 million units a few years ago, we are looking at about a 40 percent decline between 2008 and 2016."
Selburn says the biggest remaining advantage for single-taskers overall, and perhaps for the music player in particular, is that the apps-packed smartphones and media tablets also carry monthly data fees. For a 10- or 11-year-old kid—or anyone for that matter—who just wants to listen to some music but doesn't care to check email, tweet or update his/her facebook status, the iPod and its like are still the way to go, Selburn pointed out.
Digital music players "won't go away unless the data plan costs go away," Selburn said. "And that seems to be headed in the other direction."
Interestingly, though sales of the iPod and other music players are in decline, there has been a shift in sales toward higher-end music players, rather than the low-end, according to Selburn.