None other than the colorfully creative New York Times is reporting that Microsoft “copied” Apple’s wildly popular iTunes Music Store.
Writer David Pogue, as pro-Mac a name as you’re likely to find writing for the Times, admits that “Microsoft’s site, derivative though it may be, looks nice and works well.”
Surprised? Don’t be. Our Jack Miller admitted as much a couple of weeks ago in his review of the MSN Music Store. Of course, Jack pointed out that it doesn’t work with iPods, and the Times noted that, too.
The excitement ends quickly, as Pogue concludes, “For the Windows-only, non-iPod crowd, it (MSN Music Store) joins Napster, Wal-Mart and others as a pleasant, if somewhat superfluous, addition.”
As much as I relished the word “superfluous” when discussing anything Microsoft, it’s tough to find anything to disagree about in the Times article.
That’s not the core of the Apple-centered content, though.
Microsoft admits they copied Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Again.
Pogue quotes an un-named Microsoft manager (don’t you just love those “Deep Throat” sources?) who was willing to comment on Microsoft’s efforts to develop a music store to compete with Apple’s hat trick, iTunes, iPod, iTunes Music Store.
Whoa. Is that cool, or what?
The only thing more stunning would be for Bill Gates or honcho Steve Balmer of Microsoft to say something like, “You know, those folks over at Apple are just too cool. We can’t do anything like that no matter how hard we try. So, well, we quit.”
I’d like that.
To be fair, Pogue also points out the major differences between iTunes Music Store’s music format and Microsoft’s proprietary music.
Here’s where it really gets interesting and why its news. Microsoft is admitting that they needed and wanted to build a music store to compete with iTunes.
By most accounts, most reviews, and most by those who tried the MSN Music Store, Microsoft has a long way to go to even match the features, ease-of-use, and cross platform compatibility of the iTunes Music Store. There are few critics of Apple’s effort. There are many, many customers. That’s the opposite of Microsoft’s efforts.
Pogue writes the same thing. He uses more words (they must pay by the word over at the NY Times).
Now, let me get this straight. Microsoft has admitted that Apple is the standard and they wanted to copy the iTunes Music Store. They only offer half as many songs on the MSN Music Store as Apple. They offer music in a different format than Apple so it won’t play on the iPod which represents about 60-percent of all portable music players.
How am I doing so far?
Then, the MSN Music Store charges the same amount of money for songs as the iTunes Music Store? Does anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture?
Pogue fails to point out an axiom of marketing. To compete with a marketing leader (that would be Apple’s iTunes Music Store) a company must develop a product with a better value proposition; more features (beneficial ones would help), at a lower cost.
Yes, of course I’m assuming that the competing company would do so legally; not something Microsoft seems to enjoy.
I checked and that’s not something the Times’ article mentions. MSN Music Store has fewer features, appeals to a smaller target market, and is the same cost.
Disappointingly, after sifting through all the rubble of Pogue’s view of the Microsoft attempt to copy Apple, again, Pogue simply concludes that comparing the two stores is “…not a completely valid test” while admitting that MSN Music “…is NOT, in fact, ready to compete head-on with Apple’s store.”
Go back to that marketing axiom above. If they can’t compete up front, where does Microsoft plan to compete? Can you imagine the car loads of goons and musclemen lining up at the headquarters of music industry execs; ready to strong arm them into lower prices, better licensing deals, and exclusive rights?
2004 is not 1984. IBM is not the Goliath to Apple’s David. Right now, the best product has the lion’s share of the market. The iPod, iTunes, iTunes Music Store (unlike Mac OS of years past) is fully compatible with Mac and Windows.
Microsoft won’t be successful competing with Apple in the marketplace for music. Let’s see how much they compete behind the scenes where the light of day cannot reach and where Microsoft often seems to play best.
To read Jack’s detailed review of Microsoft’s MSN Music Store, Click Here. To share your thoughts with other readers, click the Comments link below.