iPod and radio unite

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iPod and radio unite

iPod and radio unite

Last month, inVocus reported that while some jobs in radio will disappear and formats may go stale, radio itself is safe from becoming an obsolete tool in an increasingly technology-dependent age.

That theory gained credence on Sept. 9, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs debuted the new generation of the iPod Nano – complete with FM radio tuner. The radio industry cheered. The National Association of Broadcasters sent a public “thank you” letter to Jobs. Stations like WTOP-FM in Washington, D.C., began giving the new Nanos away in contests. In a marketing strategy, All Access reported that Apple had even offered to engrave the logo and callsigns of radio stations on the radio-friendly gadget.

With all the anticipation over an FM receiver in the latest Apple player, you’d think no one had attempted this kind of technology before. But it has been done. In fact, it has been done by Apple’s number one competitor: Microsoft.

In November 2006, Microsoft debuted the first edition of their portable MP3 player, the Zune, complete with built-in FM radio capabilities. In September 2008, Microsoft released the Zune 3.0, which allowed users to tag songs they were listening to on the device, then purchase and download them off of the Zune Marketplace – Microsoft’s equivalent to the Apple iTunes Store. Just last month, Microsoft released the fourth generation of the Zune, Zune HD, complete with a built-in HD radio.

So a full year before the radio industry went crazy for Apple’s FM-ready iPod Nano, Microsoft already had an MP3 player waiting on storeroom shelves, with even more capabilities than the Nano now boasts. All of this ultimately begs the question: why all the excitement over something that is technically outdated? The answer is market share.

In the first half of 2009, Apple’s line of iPods, iPod Nanos and iPhones accounted for roughly 70 percent of the MP3 market, while Microsoft’s Zune only held 2 percent of the market. ipod5The popularity of the iPod Touch and iPhone continued to increase, and then this week the radio industry got even better news when rumors began circulating that Apple was developing software to finally utilize the FM receiver already built into iPhones. The new software upgrade would allow users to tag and download songs off of the iTunes Store, putting the iPhone at ranks with the already-dated Zune 3.0.

It’s hard to say whether the radio industry should be blessed that Apple has finally added an FM tuner to their iPod collection, especially when the technology has been available for several years and has even been utilized by their competitors. But when the market share leader of a technological device that has threatened the radio industry since the iPod gained popularity finally acknowledges and reaches out to you, it’s hard not to get excited. So party on radio … party on.

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