Apple has announced that six significant international airlines are installing iPod support in their aircraft from next year. The airlines are Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United. On these airlines, seat connections will power iPods and provide a video feed to the LCD displays in front of the passengers.
Oh oh! Until now, the iPod’s dominance in the field of portable music has seemed challengeable. Maybe the Microsoft Zune could do it, given that company’s muscle. But now? If the only support available for portable music players on international flights is for the iPod, and there are not yet enough of a single alternative interface to compete, then I see two likely outcomes, all of which depends on Apple’s policies.
The first is that Apple licences its proprietary docking interface to other manufacturers (perhaps it is already prepared to do this: I don’t know but I’ll ask). The other is that Apple’s competitors will sue for the interface to be made available to them on basis of competition policy. I think a few of the suits against Microsoft may well act as precedents here.
This could be interesting to watch.
UPDATE (Monday, 20 November 2006, 4:23 pm): A reply from Apple:
With regards to the eco system around iPod, companies can register with Apple to obtain a “Made for iPod” certification. This provides customers with the peace-of-mind that the individual product is in fact guaranteed to interface well with iPod. However, this is no requirement for companies to do this.Our dock interface incorporates both a hardware and software interface and it is proprietary. This is a key component of how the Apple experience is different to others in the market, as we do own all our own hardware, software and operating system.?
As for competitors and what they will do, I will leave it up to them to comment on how they intend to drive their business.
I think this means that Apple will not permit rival MP3 player manufacturers use its interface.