Is iPod a Permanent Strategy Shift for Apple?

Here is a more in-depth look at Apple's new, more open strategy.

"The rules of engagement for the iPod market are new. They don't necessarily have to follow the same rules as with their old PC policies," said Roger Kay, an analyst at research firm IDC. "They may relinquish some control in order to gain access or control of a market that could be orders of magnitude larger than their old one."

It sounds like Apple might finally get it, but there is still trouble ahead.

Yet some dangers are inherent to this common-denominator strategy. A wholly unique iPod has been able to stand above the prosaic fray of consumer electronics, bearing a higher price for its advanced features and brand name. But as more companies release players with similar features, the iPod risks becoming a commodity, with profit margins driven down by competition.

As a result, the company finds itself at a critical crossroads: It must decide whether to follow the historically proprietary approach of the Macintosh computer or the more flexible business strategy of its successful digital music player. Apple declined to comment on these issues but has been open about its grand ambitions for the little music player.

Given Apple's outstanding innovation capabilities, the company could be a continous market leader even with a more open Windows-friendly strategy. Old habits die hard, though, and it will take courage and commitment for Apple to stay the road. I am sure that exclusive niche market mindset pervades the company, and nothing is more difficult that forging out a new path. Sometimes experience is a barrier, not a boon, to what you are trying to accomplish.