Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why did iPod win and Tivo lose?

Kevin Kelleher has a great article on Fortune's website this week titled "Why did iPod win and Tivo lose?" The author tries to explain why one of these technologically innovative products took off and dominated its category, while the other company fell behind despite its superior product. Kelleher writes:

Apple also had iTunes, its proprietary software that let iPod users purchase and manage their music collections. iTunes was much more than this, however: It was pitched to music labels as a viable response to music piracy -- certainly much better than any solution the industry had come up with. This helped Apple win over not just consumers, but the providers of digital music.
TiVo had no such allure to television programmers. Instead, its software made it a snap for people to skip ahead 30 seconds -- a little feature that scared TV executives into thinking the TV commercial was an endangered species. Few DVRs offered by cable companies allowed users to skip commercials without a complex reprogramming of their remotes.

I think that I would add two points to elaborate on Kelleher's argument. First, Apple developed an entire ecosystem around the iPod platform, working with various partners. That encompassed not only iTunes, but also a whole range of accessories. Over time, more products emerged and built off of this ecosystem. Apple understood that providing attractive complementary products could drive iPod to the top. Second, the cable providers ultimately controlled the touch point with the consumer. They had the ability to push their DVRs to the home, since they were actually in the living room installing cable or upgrading people to high speed internet, digital cable, etc. Tivo did not have that distribution advantage. Apple, on the other hand, had many ways to touch consumers more directly, including its own stores. After all, Apple opened its first retail store roughly five months before the iPod came to market.

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