“New information from two Apple sources suggests that, ahead of the Beats deal, the iTunes team was plagued by shortsighted management who ignored competitors while engineers used other streaming products rather than Apple’s,” Aylin Zafar reports for BuzzFeed. “Past and current employees in the company with direct knowledge of iTunes and Apple’s services Ping and iTunes Radio told BuzzFeed that Apple engineers involved with those products often preferred to use Spotify and Pandora.”
“In 2010 the company launched Ping, a now-defunct social networking and recommendation music service, and just last year entered the streaming market with iTunes Radio, which has received mixed reviews,” Zafar reports. “Ping, sources agreed, was designed to prompt users to click and buy songs, rather than to facilitate the sharing of playlists or discussion. ‘When Steve Jobs announced Ping everyone was really excited for a music network,’ one source said. ‘But the biggest reason why Ping failed was because Apple was not interested in making a network — they were interested in making a purchase pusher.’ Ping was quietly shut down in 2012.”
“Like Ping, the development of iTunes Radio suffered from a shortsighted strategy, sources said. ‘Pandora is an awesome radio that blows iTunes Radio out of the water. Seriously, iTunes Radio sucks and it sucks because of Apple’s arrogance,’ one former, mid-level employee said. ‘I was floored by the decision-making skills by management over and over again,'” Zafar reports. “Apple employees confirmed that management actively ignored iTunes’ streaming competitors, with some managers refusing to open or use Spotify. One source said that as recently ‘as last year,’ some members of management didn’t even know that Spotify was an on-demand streaming service, assuming it was just a radio service.”
Zafar reports, “After years of what employees called arrogant indifference to streaming, it seems that with Beats, Apple will be gaining a much-needed human touch, as well as a deep understanding of the music industry from the likes of Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor, and particularly charismatic deal-maker Jimmy Iovine.”
Read more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: Hopefully, this Beats deal will humble anyone at Apple who needs it while helping to cure Apple’s case of tone-deafness. Ping sucked. iTunes Radio doesn’t, but it can be much better than it is right now.
Cook needs to assign people to these projects who can do what he cannot, who can see what he cannot see, and make sure these people are as focused and obsessed as Steve Jobs. There may only be one person at Apple who can do this reliably: Jony Ive. Unfortunately, he may be too busy being chief designer of all things Apple (hardware and software) to also do what Jobs did so incredibly well: Focus on a wide range of products, experience each of them as the end user does, and not allow products out the door until they can perform as Apple products should perform. It’s highly likely there is not enough time in the day for all Ive would need to do (or even to do all that he’s supposed to be doing already).
Cook needs to find people who are obsessive about the end user experience and assign them to these type of projects. There should have been someone at Apple who became the planet’s preeminent authority on streaming radio, who knew every service, who used these services for hours each day, who lived and breathed and used streaming radio for months. This person should have been iTunes Radio’s shepherd and final arbiter, without whose approval, iTunes Radio would not be released. Was there such a person on this project?
In other words: Was Eddy too busy playing with his Ferraris to fanatically obsess over iTunes Radio’s user experience to anywhere near the degree Steve Jobs would have? Yes, we’re being flippant. It’s much more likely that Cue was working overtime on Apple iTV content deals. Still, the point remains: Cue was heading the project, so he’s responsible.
To state the obvious: Steve Jobs was one-of-a-kind and truly amazing. No hyperbole. Cook needs to try to replicate Steve Jobs as much as possible with a group of people, each of whom can contribute various elements of Jobs’ wide range of skills.
iTunes Radio works well enough for any company not named Apple, but there are enough good ideas – some painfully obvious – in the above article that it’s evident that Cook has not yet arrived at a reliable method of running products through a fine-toothed comb before presenting them to the public.
(We’re still stunned that iTunes Radio is so hidden within the OS X iTunes app. It’s in the main Music menu on iOS devices. Why not iTunes? And, why is the application “iTunes” on the Mac, but “Music” on our iPhones and iPads? Cripes. Consistency is your friend, Apple. On our Macs, iTunes Radio should be in iTunes Store’s top grey bar right between Music and TV Shows. No amount of transient promo banners in the iTunes Store can make up for that omission.)
In this case, as opposed to Maps, it’s early enough in the game to fix all of this. iTunes Radio is already our favorite streaming radio product (but, we appreciate its huge library more than most and we were also motivated to learn how it operates and how to operate it than your average user). We’re listening to iTunes Radio right now. iTunes Radio is currently U.S.-only, so the tweaks and fixes to improve the end user experience can be made before it rolls out around the world.
Even in its current state (very good, not insanely great), iTunes Radio will become the world’s #1 streaming radio service, thanks to basic math. Steve Jobs would not be content with that. Apple should redouble their efforts with the goal of making iTunes Radio the world’s best streaming radio service in every way.
[Attribution: MacRumors. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]
Underwhelming start to iTunes Radio lights fire under Apple; iTunes Store may get dramatic overhaul – April 9, 2014
The curious design decisions of Apple’s iTunes Radio – April 1, 2014
Apple’s underwhelming iTunes Radio turns 6 months old – March 5, 2014
Apple’s iTunes Radio is broken: Here’s how to fix it in a weekend – November 11, 2013