Gates’ Prediction On iPods Works For Me

    May 14, 2005

There’s a lot of discussion over Bill Gates’ prediction that cell phones will eventually displace the iPod as the media player of choice.

Over at Strategic Public Relations, there’s skepticism: “…are we asking too much from a device where small size is clearly an advantage? I mean, several mobile phone models are starting to look more like a choking hazard than a wireless communication device.”

Gates would clearly love to see Apple’s share of the digital media player plummet as his Microsoft wireless phone platform swoops in to gobble up MP3 listeners. In his speech in Frankfurt, he even noted that Apple once held a dominant share of the home computer marketplace, but lost it as soon as someone with a more customer-centric approach entered the marketplace.

I don’t really care which company wins or loses, as long as I win.

The iPod (and its less-successful brethren) were all designed to accommodate commercial music. Now, some are adding photos and even video to the mix. What I want-and I believe more and more will want as the medium’s popularity grows-is one that accommodates podcasts. Neville has articulated a list of features he wants to see in a digital media player in order to make podcast-listening easier.

I’m already getting some of this in my Treo 650. I’ve purchased and installed a Palm app called Quick News, which retrieves RSS feeds, including enclosures. As a result, I’m able to grab podcasts with the phone and listen through the Palm version of the Real Player. The podcasts themselves are stored on the phone’s flash memory card. This eliminates the need to go through my PC followed by transfer to my iPod. I can grab the podcasts I listen to wherever I happen to be.

What’s missing is a higher-speed connection (coming soon and already available with other wireless phone services), automatic retrieval without having to launch the Quick News app and ask it to get the latest feeds, bookmarking of podcasts, and a variety of other features. And if phones are to displace iPods, they’ll also need to find a way to add many gigabytes of storage without turning phones into devices the size of bricks (like the used to be). I have no doubt Nokia, Motorola, and others are working on that as we speak.

So could wireless phones replace iPods? If they’re easier to use and add uses not available on the current crop of players, there’s no doubt in my mind. Bring em on.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.