Creative vs. Apple

january 17, 2005

So, I wasn't that far off when I wrote on January 11 that "[t]he iPod shuffle looks (and acts) much like the old Creative Labs Nomad MuVo, but with a much better eye towards aesthetics." Because the day after Creative's CEO Sim Wong Hoo blasted Apple in the same way.

But Mr Sim says Creative is not worried about the new flash player from Apple eating into its market share. Said Mr Sim, "Actually, to me it's a big let-down: we're expecting a good fight but they're coming out with something that's five generations older. It's our first generation MuVo One product feature, without display, just have a (shuffle feature). We had that -- that's a four-year-old product. "So I think the whole industry will just laugh at it, because the flash people -- it's worse than the cheapest Chinese player. Even the cheap, cheap Chinese brand today has display and has FM. They don't have this kind of thing, and they expect to come out with a fight; I think it's a non-starter to begin with."
I agree with Mr. Sim about his assessment of the iPod shuffle, he maybe a bit harsh in the way that he is saying it, but it is true. Don't get me wrong, I am a diehard Apple fan (have been since the Mac SE), but sometimes the truth and sillines about what Apple does is hard to take and harder to avoid. But what Mr. Sim does not understand in the whole scheme of things is that the iPod brandname is still stronger than the Creative brandname and that, as I concluded in my posting, the iPod shuffle will sell like hotcakes when people can actually get their hands on it -- how do I know this? Because when my mom asks for an iPod shuffle for Christmas, you know that Apple has created something that the mass market truly desires. I know my mom would not ask for a "Creative Labs Nomad MuVo". Mr. Sims says Creative Labs is pumping millions of dollars into marketting their line of music players, but what he doesn't understand is that in order to compete his line of products have to: Be more aesthetically pleasing, have a UI that is easy to use, and have a name that is recognizable and memorable. The Nomad line of players are plain ugly -- even the recently released Nomad Zen Micro which competes with the iPod mini. As the iPod and iPod mini have continued to show, the consumer is equally (or even more) concerned about the looks of the music player as with the features of their music player. The mass market consumer wants a music player and an accessory. The UI of the Nomad players, starting from the original Nomad (the one that looked like a CD player) are terribly difficult to navigate and makes listening to music a hassle -- especially exploring music. Creative does not seem to understand this either. People like the iPod because it is easy to pick up and start using. My sister, who is not an electronics person was able to start using my old 1G iPod 5GB without a manual. She just picked it up and started using it. That is something that a normal person would not be able to do with the Nomad line of players. And the last thing is the branding of the Creative players. "Nomad"?? That sounds terrible. Their players have been on the market longer than the iPod and the word Nomad still does not have a nice connotation when said. And it is not as memorable as "iPod". "Zen" is better, but Creative continues to stick that word "Nomad" in front of it. Creative needs to drop that whole "Nomad" thing and pick something easily recognizable and memorable. Otherwise all their marketting is all for nothing. Yes, the iPod shuffle is nothing more than a first generation Nomad MuVo, but it has the marketting clout and usability behind it. It also has a very recognizable brand behind it, who wouldn't want an iPod? But on the larger scale of things, if Creative is going to complain about one of Apple's products, they better take a look at their own products. Because if they want to compete with Apple, they better start some changes on their line-up of products. All the marketting money that Creative is spending and planning on spending will not be worth anything if they continue to sell their current line of products. Consumers don't care about features, if they did, the iPod would not be the hit that it is now. Consumers care about image, ease of use, and recognition. I applaud Mr. Sim for coming out and saying what he did, but he should look at his own line-up first before complaining about someone elses.