Tuesday, September 19, 2006

iTunes Will Flourish In A Non-DRM Market

I just read an article extolling the virtues of Yahoo's encouragement of the major record labels to offer non-DRM, pure-MP3 music downloads. It seems they got a deal a while back to sell a non-DRM Jessica Simpson song. And, now, they've gotten a deal with Warner to offer a non-DRM album (Jesse McCartney's Right Where You Want Me. Good for Yahoo, and, smart of Warner. My problem came when I read the writer's ideas about how a mass move to non-DRM music downloads would spell "the end of Apple's monopoly" on legal music downloads. Right.

Apple Sells Convenience And Selection

The wide spread FUD that iTunes has some sort of hypnotically induced irrational hold over its customers just drives me crazy. I wish the whole world could take a basic business class, and develop the sensibility to simply see that Apple has succeeded with iTunes because they have done a great job relieving customers of hassle, and offering them easy to use selection and functionality. No voodoo dolls or magic potions involved. Apple has just consistently done a great of pleasing its customers.

Should the record companies wake up one day soon, have a fit of rationality, and realize that a completely DRM-free MP3 based download marketplace would auger the beginning of a new era in legal download growth, Apple would gleefully shift its library away from the Fairplay restriction it now implements at the behest of these same record labels. And, with the present file movement and usage restrictions then gone, iTunes would continue to lead the marketplace.

iTunes does not get new customers by "locking them in" to some "proprietary" file usage scheme, as so many anti-Apple writers pen each day. In the absence of DRM, iTunes will still be the most convenient, easiest to use, and most popular download store. That's my opinion. What's yours?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Apple iPhone: Online Comments Are Wrong

As the background buzz leading to what many hope will be an Apple launch of a cell phone gets ever louder, and the blog and news story comments get ever shriller, I thought I would take a few moments to post a few comments of my own. My comments are as much about the comments as about the phone, itself.

The Wrong Voices

At web sites from iLounge, to MacCentral, to Spymac and the rest, every time some mention is made of an impending cell phone coming from Apple, the commenters come out in herds. It is clear that there is much interest in such a product... at least among the late-night online forum junkies of the world. And, the most prolific and insistent of these voices seem to beat the drum of 'more features, more capabilities' in expressing their vision of just what an Apple branded cell phone will be. Hmmm... my hunch is that Apple is not listening, and has a much different vision for this phone product. In fact, a little look at recent history just might draw upon these forum-junkie comments as data from which we can extrapolate what the coming phone might actually be like.

The Voices Always Point The Wrong Way

Let's face it, the people posting comments around the web are not Apple's core market. These guys and gals are technology addicts of the worst sort, for the most part. Certainly the loudest of the bunch are so hung up on leading-edge this, and state of the art that, that they have lost all perspective of Apple's actual business model. And, these folks are nowhere near the type of people Apple actually wants to buy its products. Most consumers are not technology geeks. Most consumers are actually put off by all the very features and capabilities and gadgetry that these online pundits adore.

When the buzz was that an entry level Mac was finally coming, these same people started the 'more features, more capabilities' chant. When the iPod first launched, the same people hammered the 'it won't sell' and the 'more features, more capabilities' nails. All along through the Jobs-era Apple, these same people have percussively reiterated their ideas of how things should be. And, Apple has held true to its own vision, and has ignored these comments, and has simply done what they do well: an entirely different approach based on simplicity, nice styling, and feature set reduction. I expect the potential cell phone product to be no different.

The People Who Sleep At Night Buy Phones

Apple's target consumer market is not the late-night forum addicts of the world, it is the more normal people who actually sleep regular hours, and live regular lives. Apple's consumer product demographic is Joe and Jane Everyman. And, these days, it is pretty clear that Jane and Joe are pretty put out with confusing, overly complex cell phones. I know. I am Joe, when it comes to cell phones.

Mr. Everyman wants a phone that is good looking, has an easy to use and easy to see UI, works well for making and receiving calls, and has basic address book, recent call, and caller ID functions. That's it. No more, no less. Since this is an Apple product, having it seamlessly sync its address book info to your nearby Mac is a certain feature. And, having it offer the full iPod music experience is a certainty. But, there is where it all stops, folks. Steve Jobs has rarely been happier than when he was on stage bragging to the world about how few buttons are on Apple's remote control for Front Row. This same man will implement the same philosophy on a new phone, style it nicely, and offer it as the solution to Joe and Jane Everyman's frustrations. I expect an Apple phone to have no buttons at all, only an elegant multitouch capacitive touchscreen, and lots of big, easy to punch icons.

And, to the shock of the online pundits and late-night commenters... Joe and Jane will happily buy the 'too simple' phone, in droves.