Apple's design team remains world-class, and designers continue to discuss the work of the Jonathan Ive-led team.

FastCompany explains Apple set a new standard in the MP3 player market when it released the iPod, and to prove the point has interviewed six rival designers who discuss "designing their answer to an icon".

iRiver designer Young Se Kim stressed how vital good industrial design has become in today's age, saying: "Design is no longer an easy process that comes at the end. It's a matter of life and death, so it should come first."

Creative Technology CEO Sim Wong Hoo sums his company's competitive aims, to, "think about how to outcool the iPod", and focused on "extra features and a lower price".

Whipsaw principal designer Dan Harden works for Rio Audio, which suffered when iPods entered the market in 2001. As Apple kept producing great music players, Rio Audio and its design team had to construct a definite philosophical agenda in its competing products.

Harden said: "We decided that we had to be radically different from Apple. Where Apple was sort of the ivory tower, we were going to be the dark rebel. Where Apple was very geometric, we were going to be smooth and curvy."

Sony's general manager of brand design and strategy Ellen Glassman stressed that company's belief that consumers want choices. Dell's chief designer meanwhile said his company, "didn't want to focus on what everybody else did", and stressed a focus on "honesty of materials".

Archos founder and CEO Henri Crohas is no Apple fan, it appears. He said: "I do not share the opinion that Apple's design for the iPod is any good. That's because I define great design in terms of fantastic machinery. And if you look inside the iPod's technology, it's quite common and unimpressive. It isn't anything special."

He added: "Apple may have won a battle when it comes to music, but it remains to be seen whether it will win the war against Microsoft."