Cashing in the chips.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Jeff Smulyan, Bud Walters and other industry leaders who are solidly behind the next radio initiative, more and more carriers and manufacturers are committing to lighting up the FM chip in their smart phones, thus opening up the wondrous world of radio on the ubiquitous devices.

Alas, the toughest nut to crack—if indeed it can ever be cracked—is the high and mighty crowd from Cupertino. But I think there is hope. It all depends on whether Apple is in business to do business, or just be Apple, regardless of the consequences.

There are significant signs that the Apple hegemony is just about over. Through their own arrogance, they have allowed other players to do what they do, but better and, in some cases, more innovatively.

We know, for example, that taken as a whole, Android smart phones outsell Apple devices.

And look at tablets. Mr. Jobs was able to create an entire product category where none existed, and the Apple product is still the most elegant realization of the genre. However, the market is flooded with competing products that have better specs for less money, and people are realizing it. In addition, the sales of tablets have plateaued and are beginning to decline. After all the magic dust settles, people are realizing that tablets are not really computers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft—written off as staid and musty and old-school—scored a number of advances in software and hardware that are starting to gain traction among consumers. Windows 8, and now Windows 10, are not bad operating systems, and have one killer characteristic: they allow the marriage of a full-pledged computer and a touch-screen tablet. With the marketing muscle of a number of PC manufacturers behind them, they are selling thin, light, powerful hybrid machines that can work as tablets or computers, all the while acting like full-pledged computing machines.

Apple has responded a little by making its latest line of laptops unbelievably thin and light, but they do not have touch screens. One gets the impression that Apple would rather go out of business entirely then be perceived as following Microsoft in any way. (Which is a problem, because Microsoft decisively one-upped Apple in the look-and-field department with its introduction of the now-prevalent “Metro” look.)

It took me a while to get there, but the foregoing is solid evidence that when given a clear choice of superior options, the public is more than willing to eschew the once-cool (and way more expensive) for the practical (and more reasonably-priced) alternative. I believe that Apple’s refusal to activate the FM chips may well become a non-issue if everyone in the Android world gets with the NextRadio program.