Apple CEO Steve Jobs confirmed his company’s work with Motorola to produce the ROKR iTunes phone was a learning experience for his engineers.
“We wrote the iTunes software for that phone,” he said. “We see it as something we can learn from. It was a way to put our toe in the water, and learn something,” he said.
Asked about the phone's limited 100-song storage capacity, Jobs said: “I can’t answer questions on other people’s products.”
Apple’s leader did discuss the conceit of mobile phone networks and their hopes that if they launch their own music-enabled phones that combine with music download services they will be able to harness the ubiquity of mobiles with the essential nature of music.
“I’m not convinced that it will be successful,” he said, observing: “The network providers will charge a lot to download music to a mobile - maybe $3.”
Apple’s experience shows usability is critical.
When users download music through expensive mobile music services, the PC will still be required in order to back that music up, Jobs observed.
“You will have to backup the music on your phone using your PC. If you lose a phone then you loose all your music. If you get a new phone you have to transfer it all. It’s not clear that buying music over the air makes economic sense,” he said, adding: “People only use 5 per cent of the features on their mobiles”.
Video isn’t yet a personal tech
Discussing video on mobile phones and iPods, Jobs confirmed some moves in that direction, but stressed that the market isn’t yet right for personal video devices, such as the much-posited video iPod.
“You can already download movies on the iTunes Music Store, and some albums offer video as an incentive to buy the music. We also offer video podcasts, but will people buy a video device just to watch this video? So far they haven’t. No one has been successful with that yet,” he said.
Microsoft and others are focusing some effort on creating PCs for the living room, but Jobs warned of future flaws and pitfalls in such plans.
The living room labyrinth
“Making a component for the living room is easy to do, but it is the go-to-market strategy that is difficult. It’s not a technical problem, it’s a go-to-market problem.”
He described Intel’s recently introduced Viva range of PCs as “just an experiment”, adding: “I don’t think the convergence of television and computer is going to happen”, he warned.
Like many in the market, Apple is watching with interest as the battle between the two next-generation DVD formats, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD begins.
The company isn’t taking sides - yet. “We are waiting for the standard to settle down,” he said.