Can Anyone Dethrone King i?

Steve Jobs became an iCon (see what I did there?) of the 21st century

The i has been on top for quite a while now. There is no use in arguing that the products that have been introduced to the market by Apple Inc. particularly those by Steve Jobs (may he rest in peace) have changed the market as we know it. But they have been in control for quite a while now, and there are plenty of companies that would like a peace of that pie.

Here are a few stats to explain what I am saying.

  • The iTunes store launched in 2003 with some 200,000 songs available for purchase. Since then, the library has grown to 20 million songs.
  • Apple announced in February of 2010 that it had sold its 10 billionth song, a number which is, by now, no doubt much higher.
  • Over 300 million iPods have been sold worldwide since they were first released in 2001.
  • Over 140 million iPhones have been sold worldwide since the launch in 2007.
  • Over 40 million iPads have been sold.
  • Apple has a total revenue of over $100 billion per year. They have over $75 billion cash on hand, which is more then the federal government.
So now the question becomes: can anyone best the iPod and the iTunes store? Their dominance of the music market has been astounding, but with Apples future uncertain, the time to ask this question is now.

A Visionary

As you probably recall, Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently died from cancer. To the average consumer who knows very little about Apple corporate culture, this may seem like a trivial problem. One CEO dies, just put someone else in the spot right? Well it just so turns out that its not that simple. Back in the late 90s Apple was stuck in a rut. In fact they were on the verge of being bought out. The return of Steve Jobs (the saga of which is a whole other topic) brought Apple out of the mire and grew it to what it is today.
But Apple doesnt have Steve Jobs anymore. One might argue that Apple without Steve Jobs is nothing.  No doubt other companies have noticed this and are trying to take advantage. Although Im not at liberty to divulge the information of various companies (cause I know EVERYTHING about ALL of them) I can tell you for certain that this is the case.
OK, not really.
Where Apple will be in two or three years is not up for debate. They will no doubt be a highly successful company. The question is where they 5-10 years from know. Steve Jobs had (at least we think) several years worth of products planned out. Apple can continue with those products. What we dont know is if Apple can come up with new stuff for after those few years that will keep the customer base.

The Competition

Everyone and there brother either has, used to have, or plans to have some sort of music service. Apple has iTunes, Google has Google Music, Microsoft has Zune. You have Amazons MP3 store, and Rhapsody. All of these services have high quality Mp3 downloads for similar prices, yet iTunes has risen to the top. Although why is for another place and time, the question of whether it will last or not still lingers.

Can They Hold On?

For all hopeful competitors out there, I have a sad little fact for you. iTunes will remain on top for a few years to come. But keep an eye on them. I will predict that Apple is going to hit a bit of a rough spot in 4-5 years. Whether they will pull through all right, I cant say for certain. But that may be just the right time to give them a nice broadside hit.