MorningWord 6/30/15: Another $AAPL Turnover

by Dan June 30, 2015 9:49 am • Commentary

Apple is hoping that today is the day you rethink how you purchase, collate, store, interact and most importantly listen to music.  Apple did this once before with the iPod and iTunes in the early 2000s, but this time they are introducing a product in streaming music where many competitors already have a clear first mover advantage.

Apple Music, the company’s first foray into subscription streaming launches at 11am today. The first look I have read was by Re/Code’s Walt Mossberg (although after only one day of use and it was prior to the launch of their worldwide Beats 1 radio station).  The title of Mossberg’s first look is telling and may be read by happy Spotify users to just stick with what’s working for the same price:

Apple Music First Look: Rich, Robust — But Confusing.

Mossberg gives a tentative YES on whether he’d be willing to spend $10 a month on the new service. But it’s the last bit in the article that’s troubling:

But it’s also uncharacteristically complicated by Apple standards

Yes this is theoretically fixable and it’s a new product. But I still don’t get how Apple messed this up. Regular readers know that I am a very happy Apple customer, fully embedded in their ecosystem with iMac, MacAir, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, iCloud, iTunes Match while spending hundreds of dollars a year on iTunes for content and Apps. The strength of the Apple ecosystem has always been its ease of use. Hand an Android and an iOS device to your 3 year old kid or your 90 year old grandmother and see which one they figure out first.

But what I have found in the last few years, as Apple has gotten more and more ambitious on how the ecosystem interacts between devices, is that organizing my content on Apple’s services like iCloud, Photos and iTunes has become increasingly cumbersome. This is in contrast to their best public efforts at Keynotes to show the ease of calling up content across all of your devices.

I will most definitely be downloading Music today at 11am, and hope to be pleasantly surprised. But I will admit they have an uphill battle in the Nathan household when it comes to music. First things first, the iRadio released a couple years was a full-on disaster, while iTunes Match offered a cloud based option, its kind of clunky.  My 9 and 11 year old daughters have been very happy Spotify users and given the questions I have fielded since one of their Fav artists, Taylor Swift brought Apple to their knees a couple weeks ago on #ArtistPayGate I am hard-pressed to see them opting to switch unless there is something truly compelling about Music.

As for me, I am kind of Old Skool, from the Steve Jobs camp, I prefer to own my music with the dual thought that buying complete albums is the way my favorite bands are compensated the most, as well as a fear of having nothing to show for all the money I’ve spent on a service like Spotify when they get bought and their business model changed. I doubt most users, and definitely not families will pay for multiple music streaming services.  Although, Apple’s new offering does have an attractive family option for $15 a month for up to 6 users.

For my own selfish reasons I hope Apple succeeds here. If the new Music offering does as advertised and seamlessly integrates the music that I own that is matched in the cloud, then I will likely be a happy user, if the interface is confusing and complicated as Mossberg suggests than I will likely wait for future iterations and the kids will have their way with Spotify.

As far as Mossberg’s less than rosy first look, that took balls as he was likely one of very few tech reviewers to get a loaner iPhone 6 plus loaded with the new app and it’s nice to see that he didn’t pull punches despite his special access.

And lastly,  the most important thing to come out of the Music launch for Apple shareholders will be the potential for Android users to use it in the Fall.  Will this become a trend for Apple’s services that have been locked in iOS? Why not challenge Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger on Android with iMessage? Why not create a sort of interface (like they just did for Music) for Pictures and compete with Instagram on Android?  Why not create a short messaging function for Facetime and compete with Snapchat on Android?  Apple recently announced News to compete with the likes of Flipboard, where does a service like Twitter fit?   You get the point, this would obviously be a logical extension for Apple.

As Apple moves into in App Mobile Payments in the coming months/quarters, why not offer Apple services to non iOS users as they are doing with Music? Just as Streaming Music is a massive departure from iTunes architect Steve Jobs’ vision, offering Apple software based services outside of their operating system is a similar, and possibly critical, departure.  If this is indeed the path they go down it could be the decision we look back on as another one where going against the great Steve Jobs’ views was the right choice in order to stay on top.