Is Apple too rigid once again?

Apple’s iTunes has been massively successful for two reasons, I think. First of all it got popular thanks to the iPod, of course, but also it did sell well because of a very simple pricing model that Apple could enforce on the content providers. I think most customers loved this (except for linux users that did not like the idea of being locked into a proprietary solution, of course).

On the other hand, according to rumors, the TV shows and movie side of iTunes never took off and I believe the reason was that Apple wanted to enforce a certain pricing model and most likely studios were not so happy. The result of this is the NBC is out of the game, the Apple TV never took off and while I enjoy from time to time to watch video podcasts, having shows would be better. Also, did I mention that in countries other than the US most movies and shows are not available?

Now Amazon’s music download service (Amazon MP3)is not yet selling as good as iTunes, but they have been able to sign all the major labels to provide un-protected music and they are using MP3 that while less efficient than AAC it’s still a good format and is supported by all portable music players. Looks like Amazon is suddendly a few steps ahead of Apple and I can’t think why the next step should not be to sell movies and shows.
Apple still has one advantage, the iPod and the Apple TV, but they need the content. The iPod was successful prior to the iTunes store because people could load their own music, the store was a subsequence.

If Apple wants to keep up with Amazon, they need to become less rigid and think about the business they can build around iTunes and not only on selling the hardware. If they can make iPods and Apple TV’s and iTunes store complementary, they can probably stay ahead of the competition.

Music on your phone

M:Metrics has just made a new press release with some juicy data about mobile phones and the use of these devices as music players: MOBILE MUSIC USAGE IS CLIMBING, BUT NOT ALL MUSICPHONES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

I’m particularly happy about this press release because while I’m not an expert analyst, I was actually involved in the creation of this press release. My contribution was needed because of the issue of identifying the devices that should actually be part of this analysis. We hear every day about music phones, feature phones, smart phones, etc, but what are they? Which are the detailed features or characteristics that make up a music phone?

Internally we discussed a lot about this and everyone provided his own view. The devices taken into account in this analysis are the result of our internal discussion.

Sometimes it is really hard to build a list of devices defining a set of rules. When you first define these rules you will end up including some device that you did not want or miss one that you wanted to be part of the list. An example is the Motorola V3, it can play MP3’s, it can be connected to the PC and you can sideload songs from your computer and you have a tiny music player, but does this make it a music phone? In my opinion it does not. The music player is slow and ugly. You can’t build playlists, you can move to the next or previous song, but you have to go back to the main list. It has a lot of memory, but doesn’t really compare to the 2-4GB of an iPod Nano, it’s nearer to the first versions of the iPod shuffle.
Compared to the Sony Ericsson W810i, the V3 is nothing when you compare music-features.

So what is the difference? When does a mobile phone (that was born as an apparatus to make and receive calls while on the move) turn into a device to also play music? Is it the little walkman button that make it an iPod competitor?
Should we talk about Music-optimized? Music-optimized it means that it had all those features that you would expect from an MP3 player, the appropriate keys to start and stop music, to skip to the next song and then all the interface and features to build a playlist, to see the available songs in an easy and quick manner.

It is all very interesting, because of course the fragmentation that exists in the mobile space makes it really hard to define a single rule that will match all these requirements. Is the iPhone part of this family? It doesn’t really have a key that you can press to start music. Is a blackberry a music-optimized device simply because I could use the rocker to move to the next songs with an appropriate software installed?

Very interesting discussion and collecting very different points of you. If you have your own opinion of what a music-phone and a music-optimized phone is, please let me know.

Download Music and More At The Pump

Thanks to Dmitry I have found this great press release about a company, Dresser Inc, that has presented a new gas pump with ringtones included.

According to the Dressr this is the Future of Fueling.

Luckily they have partnered with a solid company, Microsoft.

Read more about the OvationĀ² iX directly on their site.

Here’s also a picture of the “revolutionary” gas pump.

OvationĀ² iX

Mr. Dan Harrell, vice president of Global Product Architecture for Dresser Wayne, said:

Working with Microsoft has enabled us to bring unrivaled innovations to consumers the gas pump. With our latest fuel dispenser and Windows CE-based applications, consumers can now be more productive and enjoy some of the same online luxuries right at the pump that used to be confined to their PC. What was recently a mere concept is now becoming a reality in which consumers can experience a new world of interactive fueling, whether it’s downloading media, getting printed directions, or reading the latest news headlines while filling their tanks.

I had thought Apple was innovative, but this certainly demonstrates how Microsoft can reach places where no one else has goes, yet. I wish I had thought about this before!
Thank you Microsoft for opening all these new doors to me and thank you Dresser Wayne for making this a reality.

3 music store

While browsing on 3’s site in UK I noticed a nice banner that invites the visitors to enter a new online shop.

3MusicStore is now open and already has 500,000 titles. What is so interesting? Is that the site sells everything for 99p, about 1.4 Euro. It’s a little bit higher than services such as iTunes, that sells songs for 99 eurocent (and 79p in UK), but 3MusicStore adds something. Something that seems very interesting to me. All songs purchased on the site can be downloaded both on the mobile phone AND on the PC. This service clearly opens the gates to MP3 phones such as the latest Sony Ericsson devices (W810i, W850i, W950i, etc).

So how is this different from iTunes? Well, I have it on my phone, I can be on the move, hear a song I like on the radio, open the site on my phone and buy it.
Later I will go home and also download it on my PC.

This is certainly a big hit in the iTunes+iPod concept that Apple has. Sony Ericsson is certainly scoring a point here.
I wonder if the iPhone will turn into reality and if Apple will sign a deal with 3. Wouldn’t it be a perfect couple?

On the other side, Italy shows that while we are ahead on the TV matters, we’re behind about music. 3 in Italy offers a service that only shares the name, 3MusicStore, unfortunately songs cost 2.5 Euro each and videoclips cost 3 Euro each. Dual-download (phone and PC) is not available. There are selected songs that cost only 1 Euro, but it’s a limited offer for a limited time (this week there are 8 songs from Jamiroquai). Hopefully the Italian site will soon follow the UK path!