I still feel pretty left out because I am not an Apple-head, but the rave reviews keep coming in about the new Apple music service. A point I missed in the initial release is that while tracks are $.99 each, most albums in the catalogue are available for $10. The price is still at least 50% too high for both, but at least albums are less than the cost of a typical new CD in the store.
So price is still a big problem, selection is large but spotty – a problem that will improve with time, and obviously, the fact that it is Apple-only excludes 97% of all computer owners – but that issue is supposed to be resolved this year (note comment 19 on this post). But I am coming slowly around.
- EVERY so often some gifted thinker stares at a long-entrenched product or tradition, and with sudden inspiration redesigns it and changes the world for the better. Thanks to these little moments of brilliance, society now takes for granted such advances as self-adhesive postage stamps, seedless watermelon and waxed dental floss.
In 1984, Steve Jobs, Apple Computer’s co-founder, pulled off just such a stunt with the Macintosh, whose icons and menus banished the cryptic commands of DOS to the great computer museum in the sky.
Now Mr. Jobs and his team have taken another dysfunctional, user-hostile product and bashed the ugliness out of it: the downloadable-music service.
….iTunes Music Store, succeeds … You can buy any of its 200,000 songs for $1 each; it’s the first music service that requires no monthly fee. You can also buy an entire album for $10; it’s the first music service that makes downloading an album less expensive than buying a CD. And you can do almost anything you like with the music you buy (like copying it to CD’s, to other Macs or to iPods); it’s the first music service that doesn’t view every customer as a criminal-in-waiting.
Using complex background technology to create simple-seeming products has always been Apple’s most important talent, and the iTunes Music Store is a classic example. The truth is, you can’t exactly do anything with the music you buy. For example, you can burn your downloaded music onto as many CD’s as you like, but only 10 consecutive times without rearranging their playback order. It’s a precaution that prevents mass production of illegal CD copies, but couldn’t possibly inconvenience everyday music fans.
Similarly, you can copy the songs onto as many as three computers, two more than the rival services permit. After all, if you’ve paid for music, you should be entitled to listen to it at home, at work and on your laptop.
….When you click on the Music Store icon, the iTunes window changes to resemble a Web page. A Browse button lets you drill down from a genre (like Blues, Rock or Books & Spoken) to a performer, album and song. A Search command lets you type in any part of an artist, song, album or composer name. Top 10 lists, Staff Favorites, New Releases and other links round out the main screen. The cover art of the album for the song you’re examining is always on display.
Once you’ve selected some songs to consider, you double-click on a song’s title to hear a 30-second preview. (The music even fades in and out gracefully, a typical Apple touch.) One click on a Buy Song button adds it to your collection in the form of an Advanced Audio Coding file.
….Among the Music Store’s many grace notes and pleasant surprises, the most amazing is the balance it strikes between the apparently irreconcilable interests of the three interested parties. The record companies get a reasonable amount of money. The bands get both exposure and protection. And the once-neglected customer finally gets what online music libraries should have been delivering all along: high-quality recordings, free from the viruses and deliberately corrupted files that increasingly poison the wells of free music-trading services like KaZaA; the freedom to cherry-pick songs without having to pay for a bunch of grade-B filler; the liberty to spend as little or as much as one likes, whenever one likes; and the flexibility to copy the music to other computers, iPods or CD’s.
At this very moment, executives at Pressplay, MusicNet and their ilk are surely sprinting into hastily assembled meetings to discuss how they can mimic Apple’s model. [NY Times]
Though not there yet, we are moving in the right direction.