In what appears to be a futile battle Creative Technology is attempting to take on Apple.
Creative Technology is a Singapore based Company who grew up developing leading edge sound cards. Then about the same time that Apple was launching the iPod, Creative launched a similar performing MP3 device. The difference was chalk and cheese. The iPod was sleek, appealing and creative in the way that a user could manage content. The Creative offering was ugly, heavy and cumbersome. The rest is history. Apple is printing money selling millions of iPods a month while Creative is losing both money and market share with retailers all over the world choosing to sell an iPod over a Creative Mp3 offering.
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In an effort to hit back Creative is now resorting to copying Apple with the Zen Vision:M, a familiar-looking video player.
The similarly styled and priced device will compete directly with Apple Computer’s video iPod for a spot on every technophile’s holiday wish list. Creative plans to put the Vision:M up for sale this month, and with less than three weeks left in the shopping season, that makes the device a tough sell.
“They’re extremely late,” says Tim Bajarin, analyst with market research firm Creative Strategies, which is unaffiliated with Creative. “In this stage of the game, I’m skeptical this product will give them enough revenue to impact the bottom line for their next quarter.”
Excluding an investment gain, Creative posted a net loss of $9.3 million for its first quarter of fiscal 2006, ended Sept. 30.
“Though Creative is a worthy competitor, I think Vision:M will have zero impact on Apple,” says Bajarin, who adds that Apple sells about a million iPods a month.
Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo denied that his company copied the device’s design from Apple, telling the BBC in London that Creative had been planning the new player’s design for more than a year. Apple’s video iPod has been on the market for only two months.
While the $330 Vision:M has similar features to the high-end, fifth-generation iPod, such as a 30-gigabyte hard drive, it does tout the ability to play four hours’ worth of video, according to Creative. The video iPod can play only two hours. The Vision:M also supports a variety of audio and video file formats that the iPod does not play. These perks might be enough to convince fans of Windows PC-based products to purchase the Creative player instead of a competitor’s, Bajarin says.
Hoo has a history of making loud claims about competing with Apple in the MP3-player space. In August, Creative won a U.S. patent for an MP3-player interface involving the way multiple screens are used to navigate through songs. Hoo told the BBC that he plans to pursue this patent aggressively.
In November 2004, he famously announced that his company’s products would outsell Apple’s with the help of an expensive marketing campaign.
“He’s a colorful guy,” says Bajarin about Hoo. “But since what he says sometimes doesn’t happen, it impacts our ability to see him as truly credible.”
In 2000, Creative was one of the first companies to produce MP3 players, but in late 2001 Apple came out with its first iPod and quickly became the market leader.
Apple trounced Creative again this year when it launched the iPod nano in September. Creative had launched a product with the same name–the Zen nano–nearly five months earlier.