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Should Blacks Care that Apple Has Sold 100 Million IPods?

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Should Blacks Care that Apple Has Sold 100 Million IPods?


Should Blacks Care that Apple Has Sold 100 Million IPods?

Should Blacks Care that Apple Has Sold 100 Million IPods?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Technology analyst Mario Armstrong and Farai Chideya talk about African American consumers and Apple's ubiquitous portable music player. Do national technology trends play the same way in the Black community?


On to consumer news. Our tech contributor, Mario Armstrong, has some big things to say about those little white headphones everyone's wearing.

MARIO ARMSTRONG: You know, iPod just announced, or Apple just announced that they just sold their 100 millionth iPod. And I think I was actually that costumer, because I just bought, a few days ago, like right after or right before the announcement, rather, a brand new spanking video iPod, and I'm just loving it.

I have, you know, my music, which I always had with my previous iPod, but now I have video and I'm downloading TV shows, downloading clips of stuff that I'm doing, and it's just really, really cool. I can see why people really have just adopted 100,000,000 of these things. Okay.

CHIDEYA: Do black folks really use stuff like iPods as much? Because someone here at NEWS & NOTES was saying, well, yeah, I go to the gym and a gym with mainly black clientele, and everybody's got their Discman, you know? So is there a different adoption rate you think in different communities, whether it's based on preferences or, you know…

ARMSTRONG: Yeah, yeah…

CHIDEYA: …any number of factors?

ARMSTRONG: It's an interesting question. When you start talking about technology adoption as it relates to ethnic groups and the demographics of that because, you know, that also reflects in how companies position their advertising, how they position their products, what features do they add in products, because different people like different features, depending on how they socialize, how they interact. And so it is important to understand what that demographic breakdown is.

I can tell you two things; one anecdotally, and two based off of a recent study that was done. The anecdotal evidence that I've seen just going into, you know, major cities, I'm seeing people use it. I've seen music players, I won't say iPods, because I don't always know what they're carrying and just because they have white headphones doesn't necessarily mean it's an iPod that's in their pocket.

But I have seen a tremendous growth in the adoption of more blacks using these types of devices. I've even seen, anecdotally, in the school system, people that I've spoken to. And I have witnessed in the classroom start using podcasts. I've seen educators using them for putting podcasts on these Apple devices. And so I have seen, anecdotally, a lot of an up-tick in the adoption from blacks.

What I will say is that a recent study just came out about the new iPod phone that's planned to come out in June from Apple. And they are saying that over a - they did a research study; this is done by Solutions Research Group.

And 16 percent of Americans over the age of 12, they say it's approximately 40 million people responded to a survey that they thought an iPod phone would be a great idea for them personally. But here is the interesting note: 53 percent of likely iPhone buyers would be female, 47 percent male; African-Americans and Hispanics were the two ethnicities that expressed above average interest in this device.

CHIDEYA: Well, you know what, I'm just waiting for the rap video were some new hit of the week is waiving his phone in the air and, you know, shouting out like you just don't care; then we'll know they've made it in the black market.

Let me come at you with a couple of complaints that I have heard, and not so much about the iPod per se, but about iTunes as a system. One is that DJ Spooky, Paul Miller, has looked at, you know, how the format has changed and now apparently there are MP4s instead of MP3s, which allows for some different rights and permissions. Can you…


CHIDEYA: …tell me anything about that?

ARMSTRONG: Yeah, well, this is getting into this whole sticky issue of what continues to be a sticky issue in the industry when you talk about digital files, and that is digital rights management, otherwise known as DRM. They use those words quite often, digital rights management. So there are these issues.

And recently, Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, really just lit a fire with a statement saying we as an industry need to get pass this digital rights management stuff. It is holding the innovation cycle back. It's holding consumers back. And his point is that all music should be DRM-free. And in fact, I believe it's the music group EMI who has now said, yes, Steve, you are actually right, and we're going to now offer our music as free with no digital rights behind that. So it will be interesting to see if any of the other major music labels follow that lead of EMI.

CHIDEYA: Well, Mario, as usual, it's been fun. Thanks.

ARMSTRONG: It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Mario Armstrong is NEWS & NOTES tech contributor. He also covers technology for member stations WYPR and WEAA.

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