“iPod and iTunes are digital music’s top act, but the hip Richard Branson’s marketing muscle makes him a challenger to be feared,” Alex Salkever writes for BusinessWeek. “The honeymoon was nice while it lasted — Apple’s digital-music honeymoon, that is. On May 8, Brit billionaire Richard Branson jumped into the game with an announcement that his Virgin constellation of airlines, cell-phone networks, and media stores would soon add a digital-music business to the portfolio.”
[MacDailyNews note: we believe Salkever meant March 8th, not May 8th above – unless he’s got his time machine working again.]
“I don’t know the particulars of the reaction at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. But if I were Steve Jobs, I wouldn’t take this threat lightly. Virgin is the first potential challenger with branding moxie that can match even Apple’s. The group, which posted revenues of $7 billion in 2003, also has far better natural distribution channels for digital music than Apple. The upshot? Steve, get ready to face the A-team,” Salkever writes.
[MacDailyNews note: Salkever is the same writer who described Apple’s iPod mini thusly, “Far less capacity in a slightly smaller device for nearly the same cost? Sorry, Steve, this tune is off-key.” Apple racked up 100,000 pre-orders and iPod mini is currently sold out in many locations worldwide.]
Salkever continues, “Branson, chairman of the British conglomerate, is a master marketer. He has brought hip and fun to stodgy fields such as airlines (preflight massage, anyone?) and mobile-phone service (who else offers personalized daily predictions from cartoon character Sponge Bob Squarepants?). True, he flopped with the introduction of a soft drink, Virgin Cola. But overall, Branson and his irreverent marketers have had a golden touch, particularly when it comes to reaching younger demographics.”
“…Virgin Digital will use Microsoft’s WMA music standard and has no plans to build Apple-compatible software. In other words, Apple users are out of luck. Plus, Virgin Digital will allow customers to rip purchased songs into the popular MP3 format without any accompanying digital-rights management limitations,” Salkever writes. “Jobs & Co. should take note and start looking for new distribution partners to prepare for battle with one of the few companies that can rival them on the hipness scale. It’s time for Apple to start dancing a little faster if it wants to hang on to its crown as the king of digital music.”
Full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: Microsoft’s WMA is not a “standard.” The closest we have to a “standard” in legit online music downloads is the market-dominating format: AAC/Fairplay from Apple’s iTunes Music Store. “Apple users are out of luck?” First of all, we use Macs, not a company called Apple. If Salkever means Mac users are out of luck, we guess we’re just going to have to be content with the best music player, iPod and/or iPod mini, and the best online music store, iTunes Music Store. Mac users will survive on those bits of luck just fine, thanks.
Related MacDailyNews articles:
Virgin to launch jukebox software, online music store by August – March 08, 2004
Virgin Digital President predicts Apple iTunes Music Store demise – March 08, 2004