Music Technology

The music players that never hit the heights of the iPod

The iPod is dead. Well, to new customers. And so are these music players that could never compete.

Tedium posted a list of 10 iPod competitors that didn’t make it (although some of them came before the iPod), in honour of Apple calling an end to its line of music players. The one I remembered best was the Creative Zen, which an old friend had:

You know the line, the one to be written on Slashdot founder Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda’s tombstone: “No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

The Nomad, while a formative player in the MP3 space, was ultimately not the line that Creative put all of its energy into to take on the iPod (though it gave Apple plenty of fodder to compete against). That was the ZEN line of portable music players, which it sold through the mid-2000s with the goal of beating Apple, complete with a $100 million marketing campaign.

Sim Wong Hoo, the founder of Creative and the innovator behind the Sound Blaster, took on the iPod on multiple fronts, including in court and with some feisty words in the press.

“So I think the whole industry will just laugh at it, because the flash people—it’s worse than the cheapest Chinese player,” he said upon the release of the iPod Shuffle in 2005. “Even the cheap, cheap Chinese brand today has display and has FM.”

But even after throwing lots of marketing behind the ZEN line, it ultimately could not topple Apple (though the blow was softened after Apple paid Creative a $100 million legal settlement). Sim Wong Hoo eventually made peace with Apple—upon the death of Steve Jobs, he took out a full-page ad in Singapore’s largest newspaper honoring the Apple cofounder, who his company lost to in the market.

And the Zune obviously. Long live the Zune!

Hi, it's Luke, the editor of Sampleface! Why not subscribe to my Patreon and support the blog?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.