HP: �We�re really excited about the iPod and we think we can really take it in new directions by creating our own version.�
Apple: �Why, yes, we would love to have you resell the iPod exactly in its existing perfect form.�
HP: �Exactly, we could come out with new colors, new shapes, add a bit of the ol� WMA. Hey, maybe USB On-The-Go so people could print album covers directly to our printers. You know, really differentiate it.�
Apple: �That sounds splendid. We look forward to having you resell the iPod exactly in its existing perfect form.�
HP: �That is so cool. The iPod�s really going to be central to our digital entertainment strategy. We�re thinking about a slot built into our Media Center PCs that pops out the iPod like a videocassette. And then we could put a series of blue LEDs � by the way, we love blue LEDs � on the side of the iPod to indicate when transferring of new music was done.
Apple: �You know what else would be cool? You reselling the iPod exactly in its existing perfect form.�
HP: �Oh, and speaking of form, we know you�ve got the whole �cultural icon� thing going but we�re also thinking of a more �extreme� version with lots of holes in it that you can put blue LEDs in. We�re thinking of calling them �piercings.��
Apple: �OK, just for that, you can�t sell any new models until we�ve had them on the market for at least three months. Oh, and if we catch you selling one within 500 feet of an Apple Store, we�ll switch Macs to Intel and let our machines run Windows.�
HP: �Ha ha, ok, just kidding, just kidding. Look, we know we�re going to be perfect together. Like, I dunno, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston. By the way, we�re thinking of calling our radically different version the HPod � no mention of Apple whatsoever. Pretty clever, huh?�
How will HP pick up the pieces? When HP dropped the iPod, Apple noted that HP had sold about 7 percent of iPods worldwide. That sounds like a trivial amount until one realizes that most of Apple�s other competitors have suffered similar market shares. HP has proven it can come from behind; it entered the PC market late and rose to dominate retail sales. Yet, while partnering with Apple may have been the second-worst way to enter the portable digital player, re-entering at this point competing with Apple would be the worst one.
Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis at NPD Techworld, a division of market research and analysis provider The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On, however, are his own. Feedback is welcome at email@example.com.