Apple must be smiling whenever one of their competitors bill their next MP3-player as an iPod killer. It reminds everyone who the market leader is and invites them to evaluate the product on Apple’s terms.

If you’re going to be an iPod killer — and not just a great new music player — you have to first out-Apple Apple at all the things that makes the iPod special. That means superior industrial design, an iTMS-beating catalogue of content, and a better desktop experience than iTunes.

That’s almost an impossibly tall order. Which is of course why it hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t happen any time soon.

That doesn’t mean that there’s not room for other entries in the music player department, just that you’re going to have a hell of a time making it if you think cloning the market leader and saying you did it better is the way to do it.

Now replace Apple and the iPod with the gorilla and blockbuster in your niche. Are you setting yourself up to be a Zune?