Saturday, 28 August 2010

iTunes for Android

With Apple's next media event scheduled for this Wednesday, attention turns to iPod and iTunes, which traditionally get their annual refresh at this time of year.

In contrast to the rude health of Apple's Mac, iPhone and iPad businesses, Apple's leadership in music is looking shakier than ever before. iPod sales have been flagging. Optimists would argue this is not a problem because it is symptomatic of the cannibalization of the music player market by the smart phone market, and iPhone sales are more than compensating for any dip in iPod revenue. This is certainly true, however, it hides a longer term uncertainty in Apple's business, since the smart phone market is fundamentally different to the music player business that it is replacing.

In the music player business, Apple enjoys a massive market leadership with its iPod line. As a result, they have also been able to dominate the music download business. However, despite the iPhone's success, it seems unlikely that Apple will ever be able to dominate smart phones in quite the same way. And as music downloads are increasingly being consumed on smart phones instead of dedicated music players, this presents a serious challenge to the dominance of iTunes.

Apple may choose to accept a long term decline in their market share for music downloads. After all, their almost monopolistic control of this market has become a little embarrassing, and sometimes limits their ability to negotiate with record labels who are often inclined to favor smaller rivals in order to level the playing field.

If, however, Apple is reluctant to relinquish their music market share without a fight, then one suprise announcement that we can expect to see on Wednesday will be iTunes for Android. This may seem an unlikely prospected, but if you cast your mind back a few years, iTunes for Windows would have seemed equally unlikely. It is a strategy that Steve Jobs has jokingly referred to as "a glass of ice water for people in hell". Give users on a competitor's platform a taste of how much better Apple products are, and they'll come back for more. iTunes for Android could be Apple's beachhead into the heart of Google's territory, leveraging their famed halo effect to take the battle to the new enemy.

13 comments:

  1. I've heard that Windows users absolutely hate iTunes. They claim that it's bloated and slow and the worst software they've ever used. I hope this iTunes for Android will be a much better experience for Android users.

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  2. There will never be iTunes for Android, what would be the point? The Android will never have much market share, it's more like Linux. the iOS now has about 34% and that will only go up starting on Sept 1st.

    and to the above poster: "steffenjobbs" iTunes on Windows is only slow if the user is on old, obsolete PC hardware. it works fine otherwise.

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  3. First off, NO WAY is iTunes coming to Android. No way, no how.

    I can understand your train of thought based on iTunes for PCs and BootCamp, but you've really derailed this time. iTunes was ported for PCs strictly to advance Apple's own agenda of selling iPods to the larger portion of the market, which at the time was ~95% Windows.

    We all know iTunes is a loss leader with ultra-thin profit margins that just aren't worth giving up to the competition. iTunes is and will remain one of Apple's exclusive killer apps.

    The only reason why Android is gaining traction is because of Apple's insistence on AT&T exclusivity in the US. Once they launch the stopgap CDMA iPhone on Verizon in January (most reliable US mobile carrier), they will recoup some of the would-be iPhone customers from the Android camp. After Apple makes the iPhone as ubiquitous as the inferior Android handsets, people won't settle for a "just good enough" device that gets any reception in SF or NYC.

    Apple is in it to provide a superior user experience. Android, on the other hand is nothing more than a fragmented mobile ad-delivery OS. No way Apple helps them out -not while the Superphone Wars are far from being settled.

    It doesn't even make sense for Android because so much of its OS is designed with over-the-air synching and cloud apps in mind. I would put more stock on a possible Google service akin to Spotify or Pandora.

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    1. you are one of the main reasons people shake their heads and tells everyone they know around them the world has simply gone to shit.
      then they simply ask a rhetorical question what do you think makes them think that way and just why are people so fucking ignorant i mean they cant be that big of a dumb ass can they? sometime i feel like people are so caught up in the moment that they don't know how oblivious they are to they things going on around them and a lot of times i myself and a lot of people i know will say feel like the earth only thing that's difference is that i am the core of it along with the other few in the small group of us and you i am surrounded and buried by a bunch of hot heads and and cool waters with high flood waters revolving around me but as time past the core gets smaller and the earth gets bigger and more and more ignorant until im the only one left.

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  4. Hi Voice of Reason. I hear where you're coming from, and I agree it's a strange idea, but I genuinely think that extending iTunes onto other emerging platforms is the only way to guarantee its continued market leadership. If you look at the iTunes business in isolation, it's actually the only rational play. Not to do this, would be harming iTunes just to save face for other parts of Apple's business.
    Also, it's far better to take the plunge and do it now, from a position of strength, rather than do it sheepishly in a couple of years time, when it would look more like desperation.

    Final thought - this might be what the web version of iTunes is actually for - to offer iTunes on other platforms, without losing face.

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  5. I have never read such absolute rubbish. iTunes exists for one purpose only... to SELL iPods, iPhones and iPads.

    The revenue stream from iTunes music sales is very thin... But its the key for selling exclusively Apple mobile devices. Apple sell hardware with large margins.

    Why on earth would you make iTunes for Android? That would just boost sales of Android handsets

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  6. It's true that Apple's iTunes revenue is relatively slim a proportion of their overall revenue. But their market leadership in music downloads has been a key platform upon which they've built all of their recent growth - iTunes is the platform upon which iPod, iPhone and iPad have been built.
    Allowing their iTunes business to enter an extended period of decline, could do immeasurable harm to the brand. If someone is going to download music to listen to on a 3rd party device, it's surely better for them to do it using Apple's software.
    Even if Apple don't go the whole hog with an Android app, I suspect music downloads for 3rd party devices is a lot of what the rumored web-version of iTunes will be all about.

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  7. This article does not give one good reason why Apple should let Android phones have the same advantages as an iPhone.

    Its pretty stupid to assume that Apple should launch iTunes for Android because of the sheer number of Android based hansets out there.

    I will state it again in plain language:

    Apple make there money by selling Hardware that integrates seamlessly with the eco-system (iTunes/app Store) they have built.

    And it takes a lot more than just setting up a server system. It takes negotiations with major Record, TV and Film companies to convince them that digital downloads are the future and that their content is fairly safe from being pirated.

    Apple were the first company to set this up. Steve Jobs spent years negotiating with record labels.

    I just laugh at Android fanboys (I hate that term) who naively think that creating a competing service to the iTunes universe can be so easily achieved without a single thought to how a competitor will make money from it.

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  8. Firstly - I'm not an Android fanboy. I've never liked them, and never used them. I've been a proud owner of every iPhone since the first one was released. I think Android is an inferior product to iPhone, and Google has evidently cribbed heavily from Apple. The only reason that Android is successful is because Google gave it away for free, and it gives competitor handset manufacturers a chance to compete with Apple.

    But there is no denying that Android is successful, and its market share looks set to remain larger than that if iPhone.

    The reason why Apple would want to sell music downloads to Android users is because a lot of today's Android users were yesterday's iPod users, and Apple can not afford to lose these customers. If you keep them in the iTunes ecosystem, you have a far better chance of cross selling other products, such as iPads. And next time they upgrade their handset, you Apple will have a better chance of selling them an iPhone.

    iTunes for Android needn't equate to feature-equivalence with the iPhone. It could just be the iTunes store app, not the iPod app, leaving music playback, syncing etc to be handled by Androids own (presumably horrible) app.

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  9. iPod sales are not "flagging", except for the older non-iPod Touch versions. People don't want a one-trick pony when the Touch gives them so much more. That's why the Touch models have had skyrocketing sales.

    I don't see iTunes for Android happening. Once iPhone is available outside AT&T (preferably Verizon, but the more the merrier) then Android sales will drop quite a bit.

    Then there's Oracle's lawsuit against Google for them stealing Java code used throughout Android. Not looking good for Android...

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  10. Graham, your proposal is completely irreconcilable with Steve's Town Hall condemnation of Google. Besides, Apple's core values are -in Steve's words- about changing the world through state of the art boxes, not platform-neutral software.

    Apple's only concern right now should be that the bulk of US iPhone purchases are upgrades. I think the ATT iPhone has reached a saturation point in the US, and Apple desperately needs to unleash the device to all carriers in order to disarm Android. The greater the iPhone's marketshare, the greener iAds' pastures, the better the apps.

    Once Apple makes its long awaited launch on Verizon, then we'll see how much loyalty people really have to their confusing/inaccurate touchscreen/asymmetrical/cheaply-made/logo-laden Android phones with Windows 98-inspired, US-only apps.

    Maybe Apple intends to use iTunes in the cloud to make a push towards thin client type devices like iTV?

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    1. well sir it seems ur logistics are quite off see were u went wrong was when u thought u could predict the future and failed it is february of 2013 and it seems android just got a new weapon upgrade introducing the one and only phone to dare take a giant ass shit on the iGotShitOnPhones face the Samsung galaxy note 2 said fuck you iPhone how you like your corn with your shit and the iPhone said i don't care just please don't hurt me ill take it how ever you give it to me:).

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  11. Hi Chuck. Thanks for the input. I knew this would be a contentious idea :)

    The adverse reaction to it I think makes me less confident it will happen. The reason being that, while it makes perfect sense from the perspective of the iTunes business, I think the press and public would interpret it as a sign of weakness, and anxiety about Android's growing strength. Apple would score a PR own-goal as a result.

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