Apple’s iPoD Strategy believes that Apple’s iPod reflects a new found realism and openness:

The company has long held the philosophy that its software and hardware should be tied almost exclusively to the Macintosh computer for both quality and profit. But it is developing and marketing the iPod with uncharacteristic openness to work with Microsoft’s Windows software and other technologies.

Like archrival Microsoft and other technology leaders, Apple has identified the digitization of home entertainment as a primary engine for growth–and, in its particular case, as an opportunity to reclaim the glory of its early years. However, while it envisions the Mac at the center of a network that encompasses music, videos, photography and other media, Apple is entering foreign territory in expanding its product lines with the iPod and other devices.

[Apple] finds itself at a critical crossroads: It must decide whether to follow the historically proprietary approach of the Macintosh computer or the more flexible business strategy of its successful digital music player.

Apple may have a unique chance to avoid a similar fate, if it can figure out how to turn the allegiance of the iPod generation into abiding affection for a broader range of products. Many consumers increasingly associate the company’s brand more with the digital music player than with the 20-year-old Macintosh brand.

Business Week has a cover story on Apple:

Just as the Mac revolutionized the computer industry, Apple is once again in the business of changing the world. This time, it’s the world of music. Its diminutive iPod, which can store 10,000 songs in a device smaller than a deck of cards, is the most radical change in how people listen to music since Sony Corp. introduced the Walkman in 1979. Then there’s Apple’s online music store, iTunes. It was established only after Jobs became the first person to persuade all the major record labels to make their music available — legally — on one Web site. Since late April, 30 million songs have been downloaded from Apple’s store, and the trend may one day spell the end of the compact disk.

For years, Jobs’s perfectionist approach to product development has been experienced only by Mac users. But now, massive changes are roiling the worlds of entertainment, computing, and communications, giving him a broader stage. Increasingly, content — that magical lifeblood of movie studios, record labels, and publishers — is being transformed into digital form. At the same time, the Internet and wireless networks are evolving to deliver those bits almost anywhere, at speeds never before possible. Couple all that with disk drives, semiconductors, and high-resolution displays that are growing ever smaller and more powerful, and technology is liberating entertainment from its past. How we watch movies, look at photos, listen to music, even read a book promises to change profoundly in the next decade.

No one may have a better chance to make order out of this chaos — and then profit from it — than Jobs. He bridges the marketplace: He has a hand in the worlds of computing, music, and movies to see how they’re evolving. He has the track record with consumers: His string of hits includes the original Mac, the candy-colored iMac, and the iPod. He has the pieces: Apple not only has a combination of software and hardware skills unique in the PC business, it also has strong product design and one of the world’s best-known brands. And he has the silver tongue: When the record companies had dug in their heels against the Net in Napster-induced terror, it was Jobs who persuaded all the major labels to put their music on iTunes.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.