The iPod "Lean Consumption" Model


iPod Rivals Ready for Prime Time at Last

This article was posted today at cnet I own, and absolutely love my iPod. It's perfect for the gym, when I'm traveling and many other times. It is incredibly simple, very intuitive to use and works seamlessly with the iTunes software provided by Apple. I was also able to quickly and easily load my CD collection onto my computer with only a couple of keystrokes per CD using the software.

It was no surprise for me to read today on cnet news that the iPod is far and away dominating the portable audio market. Advertisements are everywhere and it seems generally accepted that the iPod is THE portable player to own. Last quarter 6.4 million iPod's were sold -nearly 70% of the market.

The article talks about rivals to Apple who are quickly introducing competing products. They are focusing efforts on consumers who are looking for more choices to Apple's 99c/song iTunes Music Store for on-line music purchases. The iPod is currently not compatible with growing on-line music subscription services that allow consumers to listen to an unlimited amount of music for a monthly fee.

What I learned from the article was that virtually all other devices use Microsoft technology and carry the company's ‘Plays for Sure' logo. This logo is intended to show compatibility among all the devices and on-line services that Microsoft's products mesh with. The only catch is that full compatibility with subscription services has not been achieved. According to analysts paraphrased in the article, “the extra work of matching different companies' devices and services may well keep consumers coming back to Apple.”

It seems perfectly logical that consumers will continue to look for alternatives to Apple's iPod / iTunes system. However, if competitors don't find a way to agree on an open standard to ensure compatibility I believe Apple's simple, proprietary system will continue to dominate. So far, it's the best example in the industry of a “Lean Consumption” model.

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Luke Van Dongen
Luke, an auto industry engineering veteran, blogged here from 2005 to 2006.


  1. Yes, Apple has certainly paid attention to the full customer experience and consumption model, even for us Windows users! You’re right, the Lean Consumption model says that people don’t want an MP3 player (or, more generally, a digital audio file player), they want portable music… the easiest solution is winning in the marketplace (in addition to the “coolness” factor).

  2. Apple also seems to be generally following a model in which they release incremental improvements based on consumer demand, rather than improvements based on what their engineers can create. Even though they are the market leader and wield influence over the direction of the market, they are not trying to built a device that can play music, make calls, give you driving directions, open your garage door… Build what the customer wants!


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