Playing catch up is never fun. Ask John Elway. Or Steve Jobs. For now, Apple is the runaway leader in selling portable music players and selling music online.
Can Microsoft catch up? Will they? Here’s how. Aim different. Up to now, Microsoft’s aim has been poor. They’re shooting at a rapidly moving target and missing.
Apple’s success with the iPod is the target. The target has legs. Microsoft has poor aim. So aim different.
There are a few axioms in business regarding new markets. Since Apple has established and matured the market for portable music players and online music sales, for the sake of argument, let’s say Microsoft is new to the market.
Their objective is to gain market share, sell more players and more music and videos, and become profitable (MSFT has enough money and is used to losses, so profit doesn’t have to be a short term motivation).
Business professionals will tell you that a number of tactics must be used to gain share, sales, profits, if your’re late to the party.
Microsoft’s iPod killer must cost less than iPods. That won’t be easy as Apple has a strong lock on the flash chips and hard drives, so they get best pricing.
Microsoft’s iPod killer must work better than the iPod, iTunes, iTunes Music Store. Again, not easy. Apple has made it seamless and the market responded appropriately.
Microsoft’s iPod killer must have a unique value proposition. Being ‘Microsoft’ doesn’t count anymore. There’s too much hate and suspicion aimed at the Windows maker. They’re not cool. The iPod and Apple are cool. Cool sells.
Value propostions could include lower prices on music, broader selection of music and videos, an easier to use interface, a free player with every new Windows Vista box.
See how easy it is to develop and sell a new product while trying to carve market share away from the sales leader? Piece of cake. Bad cake.
In an article for ExtremeTech, Jason Cross writes, “Microsoft should be aiming at where they think Apple will be in a year. Instead, their next-generation music offering seems to be striving to do 80% of what iTunes already offers.”
See? Aim different. Microsoft’s (and their portable player maker buddies) have been aiming at where Apple is now, and not even hitting that target.
By the time they get new features, new products to market, Apple’s moved already. Microsoft must figure out where Apple will be in about a year.
Then, not only do they have to be there with the latest and greatest, they also must duplicate all the cool that Apple has already. That’s no mean feat.
Two years ago, Jason wrote, “iTunes Bad, WMA Good,” and proceeded to blast away at all that was bad with the iPod, et al.
Today, Jason has joined “the Dark Side” and switched to an Apple iPod. A new 60gig iPod with video. Why?
Jason says, “Why did I jump to the Apple music ship? Simply put, I’m tired of waiting for Microsoft and its partners to get their act together. iTunes simply has features that the competition can’t match, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to catch up anytime soon. It’s got the best overall interface, the best-designed music store, and some easy-to-use features that I really care about.”
That sums it up for most iPod users, Windows or Mac. Apple has built a very big mountain for Microsoft to scale.
Unless Microsoft learns to aim different, about all they could do to challenge Apple is to give away a portable music player and a free one year subscription for all the music in the world with each new copy of Windows Vista.
That’s aiming different.
Right on target. Oh, one more thing. That iPod hearing loss lawsuit? Guess what? iPoding says the suit is being handled by an attorney who works for Microsoft.
Carol Mary Miller
Something else not mentioned, Tera. Our teenagers didn’t want portable music players for Christmas. They wanted “iPods.”