Archive for April, 2005

This could get ugly.

Thud responds to my statements earlier today regarding the “competition” for the iTunes Music Store.

So, from a “should we develop for Mac� standpoint, here’s what I see:

  • Small market.
  • Difficult market to penetrate.
  • Apple likely to get peeved if I compete with their service.
  • Apple’s means of competition include both lawsuits and sudden OS changes.
  • Remember the Mac Clone makers? Remember how fast they were put out of business? That could be us.

In other words, if I was a large software manufacturer I think I could be forgiven for fearing I’d lose my investment down an Apple Stealth Upgrade.

None of these are trivial concerns. Almost all of them have nothing to do with an anti-Apple superiority complex; they have everything to do with Apple’s unwillingness to play nicely or by anyone else’s rules. So instead of asking people why they don’t have a Mac version, I think it’s worth asking Apple: why don’t people feel comfortable writing for Macs?

I may be wrong, but I can’t shake the feeling that Thud has responded to my rebuttal question by merely rephrasing the question I was rebutting. My earlier comments were not meant to suggest that Apple is playing fair or has a right to do what they do because of the way other companies act, but rather to point out that companies are missing an opportunity to steal a bit of Apple’s thunder.

But allow me to respond to the bulleted items in Thud’s post, first. In order:

  • Small market, yes, but according to the figures for the past few years, a rapidly growing market that – thanks to the new switchers – is no longer nearly as cultish as it used to be.
  • The idea that the market is difficult to penetrate is based on old information and on an old prejudice that Mac users are willing to swallow anything that Apple puts out. The fact is that this market is expanding and is starved for new products. Switchers in particular are used to having options, and many faithful Apple users – myself included – are starting to feel that it would be nice to have options to the software turned out by Apple.
  • Apple has a history of getting peeved at competition. Microsoft, however, is also likely to get peeved – and this hasn’t stopped people from developing for Windows.
  • Fair point. Saying that Apple is a little trigger happy when it comes to lawsuits is kind of like saying Judge Roy Bean hanged a couple of people, and Apple does like to jump on third party alterations of their software – hard. As they did with an earlier attempt by Real to make their own DRM music iPod-compatible.
  • Mac clone makers were generally speaking on the level of the lowest of the low PC makers, using non-standardized schematics and cheap part to make products that barely ran. Most ran out of money and consumer goodwill long before Apple finally pulled the plug on their hardware licensing.

I think as one of the Mac faithful (which I still am, even if I’m not as ready to drink the Kool-Aid as I used to be), I make a fairly good indicator of what the market is ready for. I would like to see competition for Apple, and the cult can’t completely shut down new competitors. And I think that it’s very telling that while Real has no plans to extend their product into Apple’s desktop market, they continually release new versions of their workaround to put their music on the iPod every time Apple shuts them out. Apparently, they’re not worried about their investment in getting on the iPod going down the hole.

But the fact remains that Napster and Real continue to bill themselves as “competitors” for the iTMS, when they haven’t even taken the first step that Apple took to make the iTMS truly competitive – taking it cross-platform.

All of the reasons that Thud gives for people being reluctant to develop for Apple could be reversed and applied to Apple’s decision to develop for a Windows platform, with the exception of “small market.”

  • The PC market has been downright vicious to Apple and its products in the past. Even the iPod was initially greeted with sneers, and many PC platformers still call it an “overpriced toy” and jeer at anybody who suggests they might want to buy one. Putting out an iTunes with the music store included for Windows was no guaranteed sale.
  • Microsoft has a history at getting annoyed by anybody competing with them or delivering a product that they don’t offer, themselves. And before anybody pulls out the old chestnut about Microsoft “owning” Apple, Microsoft’s shares account for nowhere near a controlling share of the company. Microsoft is still – as always – a competitor of Apple’s.
  • Microsoft’s means of competition include both lawsuits and sudden OS changes, as well. Microsoft also happens to be fond of a slash-and-burn approach to competing companies – buying them out and closing them down.
  • Okay – there’s not really a parallel for the Mac clone builders, either. But I think Thud has the wrong idea of what happened to the clone builders, anyway.

Apple’s iTunes Music Store might only support the iPod so far, but it supports Windows users without forcing them to switch operating systems – which, given Apple’s emphasis on getting people to switch, would not have been that much of a stretch. The Windows-based music sellers, however, have seen fit to design their systems in such a way that not only do you have to buy one of their supported mp3 players (to use their to-go service – which is what their marketing insists makes them “competition” for Apple), but also to require you to switch operating systems.

Should apple license out their DRMed AAC format? Yes. Should the iTMS support more than just the iPod? Yes. But it’s more than just “Apple’s unwillingness to play nicely or by anyone else’s rules.” Microsoft is unwilling to play nicely or by anyone else’s rules, and these systems still run on Windows. Real has a history of playing neither nice nor by any defined set of rules. Napster began life as a rogue, illegal p2p network. The entire computer industry is filled with buccaneers and scalawags out to grab any advantage they can – Apple is not alone in this. In fact, if developers developed solely for people who played “nicely or by anyone else’s rules,” then the only operating system anyone would develop for would be Linux, fercryin’outloud.

I do not charge Real and Napster – or even Microsoft – with an unreasonable hatred of Macintosh and its users. That would be ridiculous. In the end, it’s an operating system.

What I do charge them with is poor business sense. Microsoft is just as likely to lock out Napster and Real tomorrow as Apple is – and they have done similar things in the past. Apple users are starved for options and are not as likely to reject new software – and many would see Rhapsody or Napster as a service to get in addition to the iTMS, as opposed to a replacement for it. Macintosh versions of Napster and Rhapsody just. make. sense.

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

Come and Visit the Exquisite…

I don’t know. The iTunes affiliate links may not be long for this site. It’s nice to be able to link directly to downloads in the iTunes store, but with recent events it gets harder and harder to recommend the service. I still dig a lot of the things iTunes does – like the fantastic free monthly downloads of the Street Official Mixtape, the ability to add your own playlists to the iTunes store, and the Discovery Downloads. And there’s something beautiful about the convenience of iTunes – and something a bit scary for my bank account.

But there’s the recent issue I’ve had to deal with concerning missing tracks, and my recent discoveries regarding Apple’s policy toward exclusive tracks. I understand that it helps to sell more full album downloads, but it doesn’t leave a fan much choice in the matter as to whether they want the digital album or an actual, physical CD with complete liner notes.

And there’s the fact that I have yet to find a way to voice my complaints directly to Apple. Anybody have a link to a customer feedback form? That works?

I’m not the only person starting to get frustrated with the iTunes Music Store. My brother has voiced his own catalog of complaints recently and has been a vocal