Two pieces of news caught my attention recently – both related to the rapidly moving dynamics of this industry – and the consequences of taking your eye off the ball.
Apple has (quietly) announced that they would discontinue the iPod when current stocks run out. The reasoning is evident with every Apple iPhone effectively doubling as an iPod, plus the technology now being available across almost every audio/visual system on the market. However, we cannot dismiss lightly the impact that the iPod, in conjunction with iTunes, had on the way we access and consume music.
As we are aware, the performance of early MP3 recordings left a lot to be desired, but it was convenient, portable, relatively inexpensive, and opened up almost limitless access to music. The level of performance has improved to such an extent (and continues to do so) that it is now possible to stream your music at levels exceeding CD quality – depending on your provider and the equipment used.
This has led to an entirely new genre of music distribution – streaming audio – which in turn allowed for a plethora of new brands, with some such as Sonos becoming household names. As good as brands such as Sonos are, these have created an interest in even higher quality music reproduction, with many people subsequently moving up to better performance equipment. Recently Naim Audio, one of the best, and at the same time most expensive, streaming brands on the market, hosted a ‘trade-up’ offer on their equipment – and we were surprised at the number of people moving up from their entry-level systems (mostly Sonos) to this brand.
The iPod may be disappearing after 20 years, but it, along with iTunes, changed the way we access and listen to music forever.
The other related news was that Onkyo, a 75-year veteran of the A/V industry, has filed for bankruptcy. There have been numerous contributing reasons given for the demise of this company, but the primary motivation has been its inability to adapt to the new world of digital music distribution and consumption. Many established companies have introduced their variants of this technology (Marantz with HEOS, Yamaha/MusicCast, NAD/BlueStream, etc.), but Onkyo (and Pioneer who are also experiencing difficult times) never entered this market. This is a significant loss to the industry – in their heyday, Onkyo produced some of the finest audio components we have seen. We understand that the name will live on as it has been sold to a third party – but it will be Onkyo in name only.
So, this is the end of two iconic products/brands – one a victim of their success, the other simply a victim.