Apple's media event on Tuesday may have lacked the "wow" moments of the past. Music played only a minor role. But music companies should look at the new products and lower prices as evidence that Apple can maintain mobile market share as well as its leadership role in digital downloads.
Apple's new iOS operating system showed plenty of innovative features not found on competitors' operating system. The new Siri voice-activated assistant is a visionary technology. iCloud provides a simple way to remotely store media and access it from multiple devices. And the 8-megapixel camera in the new iPhone 4S could be a difference-maker for some consumers.
Sales and distribution will make a difference, too. The iPhone 4S will be available through Sprint as well as previous Apple partners AT&T and Verizon. And the lower prices for the iPhone 4 and 3GS models should help Apple compete with low-priced Android models.
Add up the new products features, new mobile carrier and lower prices and you get a likely impact on music and media companies. More Apple devices means more consumers acquiring media through iTunes, more using Apple's iCloud storage service and fewer consumers using the products, stores and services of competitors such as Google and Amazon.
Even the updated iPod Nano could help Apple maintain its strong lead in digital music. Don't write off the iPod just yet. As CEO Tim Cook pointed out during the presentation, Apple sold 45 million iPods from July 2010 to June 2011. They may be less expensive than earlier versions, but an actively used iPod means regular interaction with iTunes and potential for purchases of music, video and apps through Apple. Even if all iPod buyers are existing Apple customers, at least they are staying within the iTunes ecosystem rather than fleeing for a competitor.
One iOS feature could be bad news for BlackBerry. iMessage, Apple's new messenging service, works across all Apple devices, meaning that a message from an iPhone can go to an iPad or iPod Touch using WiFi. BlackBerry Messenger has been one of the company's key differentiators and a popular alternative to expensive text messaging plans. The stock of Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry, is down about 65 percent in 2011 and actually reached a 52-week low of $19.29 during the Apple event.
Perhaps BlackBerry can find solace knowing that it isn't the only company being kicked while it's down. The US Postal Service came face-to-face with Apple's innovation when the company unveiled a new app called Cards. The user creates a greeting card using the Cards app and Apple prints it and sends it anywhere in the U.S. for $2.99 or anywhere in the world for $4.99. Cards will debut October 12. This is not really a music industry issue--unless you count the royalties music publishers could lose from greeting cards that play music when opened.
(photo by Adam Tow)