What does selling an animation studio have to do with the future of the music industry? And what can Apple's competitors do about it? The murmur on the street is that Steve Job's Pixar deal with Disney not only increases his power base, but also makes it more unlikely that a hoped for iPod killer will emerge soon.
Record labels have been concerned for some time about Apple's dominance in the growing digital download market. This dominance is even more stifling because of Job's unwillingness to license his proprietary applications to others. The iPod/iTunes combo is such a user friendly combination of form and function that no other platform, device, or download site has been able to get much traction.
Now that Jobs is has jumped a number of rungs up the Hollywood ladder, his ability to steer content towards iTunes - including popular video content - has increased exponentially. Everyone wants to be part of the in crowd and Jobs is now certainly the leader of the pack.
Sony would seem the most like to create a competing device and accompanying service. They are the only music and film company attached directly to a device manufacturer. But Sony's recent attempts have faltered due to mediocre design, faulty software and a reputation for draconian copy protection.
And in the long run, would other music and video companies trust that they were getting fair treatment from a competitor? One of Apple's advantages was and is that as an outsider - a tech company not an entertainment company - they could communicate and deal with everyone. Plus Apple was both an established tech/software company and a manufacturer/distributor already.
Companies like Yahoo, Napster, AOL, and Real provide distribution, some exposure and little else. Creative has come closest on the device side, but seems to lack the resources for a greater battle. Dell who might have the resources has always been a follower rather than an innovator.
With no iPod killer anywhere in sight, the Jobs juggernaut moves forward.
But in the interim, why aren't Real and the others doing more to sell compatible devices and even offering rebates like XM and Sirius? Why hasn't Creative or Dell partnered with MusicNet on their own seamless download site like iTunes? Why aren't the record labels, who are finally learning the power of digital promotion and starting to reap some benefits from digital distribution, working more aggressively to bolster Apple's competitors?
From the basements Burbank and the heights of the Capital Tower all the way to the boardrooms of the Tokyo, the dream off the iPod killer lives on...