The Digital and Streaming Music Money Pit
The advent of iTunes and the iPod was a goldmine for Apple. These helped turn the Apple brand into the empire it has become. The software side of things (iTunes app and store) as well as the hardware side of things (iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, iPod) made the mp3 platform what it has become. It has become the industry standard as a player, and the innovation of “simplicity”. Where the big time leader, Sony had mp3 players with 26 functions, Apple’s innovation reduced to 6. Simplicity, ease of use, design that retains style and form, were the branding markers that Apple developed and have retained throughout the innovation of the iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini, and the long list of Macs and MacBooks.
In a decade the Mac platform has become the most popular laptop on the market. It’s desktops continue to outperform and rival the PC desktops. The iPad has lost its dominance, but the thing that keeps Apple in a favoured position is the “cross platform and OS ecosystem”. Even the iOS that is used on iPhones, iPods, and the iPad, continues to influence the Mac OS development on the Macs and MacBooks. The other competitors do not even come close to the integration, and the flexibility of iOS and Mac OS, and the huge abundance of apps for the Apple user who wants to integrate his iPhone with the iPad Mini and his MacBook Pro. It is the ecosystem that keeps me from parting and going for a rival piece of hardware. It motivates you to remain part of that Brand and ecosystem.
Answering the Challenge from Spotify
Now Apple comes along, like it did with the mp3 revolution, and is making headway to really impact the music streaming business and to innovate and be a pioneer. Just over the last year Apple bought Beats and began the push to make its own streaming business that other competitors had begun to take for granted. Unlike Blackberry, the smart phone innovator that stopped innovation, lost their bearings, and almost went under when iOS and Android began to challenge and eventually overtook it, Apple has seen its iTunes business, and iPod business essentially plateau. One way to compete again in the music stream of things is to tweak what you do have, and in Apple’s case, buy a great company like Beats, and innovate again to provide a music streaming service, that complements and strengthens the existing digital music services you provide. It further enhances and promotes the Apple brand, and provides an “all in one” integrated ecosystem for Apple loyalists and Apple users.
The main challenger to Apple is Spotify, of which I have not been a fan. To be fair, I don’t see the point of paying money, to have streaming audio selections on my mobile device (iPad). I don’t use a smart phone and don’t intend on getting one. My streaming audio, when I want it, is found on Songza (which was bought by Google). It is a great app that provides my digital music stream at no personal cost to myself. So why would I, a pragmatic person, want to spend more money for a service I won’t be a regular user of.
Just how connected to the “instant stream” do we have to become? Is this kind of need for the “instant connection” driving the increase of people being diagnosed as ADHD? We have a lack of focus and a horrific problem with concentration in our task oriented daily routines, be they at work, school, home life and social life. There is this madness to be “wired” and “connected” through the use of “wireless” streaming to our phones, mobile computers and tablets. I for one don’t really give a rip about Apple and its “streaming music” offer.
Apple is looking to make money and expand its brand. Like the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, and now the iWatch and this new Music Streaming Service, Apple will again push the envelope and put the cost low enough to seduce users to “buy in” and become part of the ecosystem.
There will be those faithful Mac Addicts (like me) who have been there a long time (myself, since 1988), and we have been loyal and faithful and supported a lot of things Apple has innovated and brought to the market. We have been the pragmatic, and we have bought the apps and the hardware that we want and use, and find value in. Like other ecosystems, there are parts of the software that we really do not have a choice to remove, but we do have the choice of not using and may in fact choose alternative software that is either cheaper, or better yet, free.
How you live your life and how you spend your money will dictate just how “brand loyal” you are. I have issues with smart phones and the assault on privacy through social media and how addictive the whole digital connection universe is affecting people and how they relate with other people and also society at large. Look at all the distracted drivers who are connected to their phones, eating and drinking and ending up in accidents. Look at all the time social media takes out of your day. I know it affected me badly enough, that I closed my Facebook and Twitter accounts. It is all too time consuming and presumes real connections with real people, which it isn’t. It is all another distraction to distracted, disjoined and disconnected lives from flesh and blood relationships and connections. So, as much as I love Apple, you won’t find me with an iPhone. You won’t find me with an iWatch either.
In the case with the Apple Music Streaming Service there is a slight difference. This is one of those that I refuse to even try out. You could not pay me to try it out. Apple may force it on me as part of iTunes, but I will not be using it. My music streaming will continue to come via Songza. Just the same way I use Flickr for my photos (1 free Terabyte vs 5 free Gigabytes with iCloud), and do not have anything on iCloud, it will be the same with my music stream.
Sometimes, even in the beauty and richness of the same ecosystem is just not good enough.
It is a good thing to be wise and swim against the stream, and choose what is cost effective for you and what pragmatic and what you enjoy. As they say, don’t drink the Kool-Aid. I will catch you as I go against the stream, how about you?