Yahoo & Friends to Challenge iPod

    April 9, 2007

A new consortium of challengers has banded together to dethrone Apple as the undisputed champion of portable media devices. Yahoo, Sandisk, and Zing have teamed up to release a new wireless mp3 player that the companies hope will steal away some market share from the iPod.

Yahoo & Friends to Challenge iPod
Yahoo & Friends to Challenge iPod
Yahoo & Friends to Challenge iPod

Every few months it seems a new device comes along that carries the hopes and dreams of the anti-iPod camp, only to fizzle shortly after launch. And in the grand scheme of things, the Sansa Connect doesn’t show any signs of deviating from the pattern. Sure, it has WiFi connectivity, but in the end there just isn’t enough there to convince users to ditch their iPods.

If this tune seems familiar, it’s the same refrain that Microsoft was belting out when it was hyping the Zune.

Nick Wingfield of the Wall Street Journal outlines the strategy:

Yahoo and its partners are gambling that they can have an impact in the market by offering a new class of connected devices that are different from iPods but with similarly tight links between hardware and Internet music service.

A key feature included in the Sansa Connect, a black device sized like a small stack of business cards, is wireless technology that’s commonly used to provide Internet access through home networks and countless cafes, hotel lobbies and other public "hot spots." If Sansa Connect users are within range of a Wi-Fi network, they can connect directly to Yahoo’s music services.

There’s a catch, though. You can’t download individual tracks when accessing the store from the device, but can only snag pre-packaged clusters of content. Also, the service is subscription based, so you don’t really own any of the tracks. Lack of choice and music non-ownership aren’t going to help the Sansa Connect’s reputation.

Om Malik gives his take:

The triumvirate believes that a couple of features (wireless connectivity and PC less downloads) can give them a leg up on Apple. If those were must have features, then Microsoft (with Zune), Toshiba and Music Gremlins would have much higher market share. And why hasn’t Apple added similar functionality? Maybe it is just so that consumers are happy with the elegant simplicity of iPod line of music players.

There’s some hype surrounding the Sansa Connect, but in the end it doesn’t appear Apple has anything to worry about.