Apple owes much of its success to the original iPod, which made MP3 players mainstream and spawned an entire family of devices that continues to dominate the market. The iPod lineup currently spans four models, including the Shuffle, Nano, Classic, and Touch. According to TUAW, however, two of those models could be on the way out. Rumor has it that the iPod Shuffle and Classic will be discontinued before the end of the year.
The screenless Shuffle has always been a bit of an oddity, so I won't be sorry to see it go. The Classic holds a special place in my heart, though. With the exception of the ridiculously expensive 64GB Touch, the Classic is the only iPod available with a high enough storage capacity to house my entire MP3 collection. I've yet to see an MP3 player match its blend of high capacity, small size, and excellent battery life.
As smartphones with music playback capabilities become more popular, and cloud-based services move MP3 archives into the cloud, there probably isn't much demand for ultra-high-capacity MP3 players. Folks interested in filling the Classic's capacity with movies would probably get a better viewing experience from the larger screens in smartphones and especially tablets. Those devices have much more potential for magical new features that captivate keynote audiences, too.
Although the iPod Nano and Touch will reportedly live on, I can't help but wonder if standalone MP3 players will soon be relegated to niche status. The other night, I was looking around online for potential replacements for my girlfriend's now-dead 2G Nano, and it seems like there are fewer options now than there were just a few years ago.