Apple insiders: Arrogant Apple managers are the reasons why iTunes Radio sucks, Ping failed, and Apple had to buy Beats

“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.

As we wrote back in November:

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.]

Related articles:
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

75 Comments

        1. Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik was one of the greatest chess players of all time. I am assuming our botvinnik here has taken the name after the great Soviet grandmaster.

  1. Sources. What sources? I give little credence to this story, without anybody having the guts to stand up and be counted.
    Ping, never used it.
    iTunes Radio? Sure always room for improvement.

    Trying a Beats trial right now. So far a really nice selection of Jazz. Rock of course is great. Needs a bit of improvement in Classical.

    1. It’s Buzzfeed – they don’t source anything. Would not be surprised if they plagiarized this entire article from someone’s blog like they usually do. Fucking scumbag of a website.

    2. And these sources describe iTunes Radio as “sucks” and Pandora as “awesome”. I think Pandora is pretty good, and iTunes Radio is basically Pandora but not quite as good, but neither “sucks” or is “awesome”. In fact, Beats Music is better than both.

  2. “The Beats Music team will report to Eddy Cue” who has been unable to get any meaningful deals signed since Steve Jobs left the planet. Barack H. Oblahblah is a more effective leader than Eddy Cue.

    Cook needs to get a clue. The problem is standing there right in front of him with two too many buttons on his shirt undone.

    1. Yeah I don’t get why they’re reporting to Cue when Cue obviously doesn’t have a clue on streaming music. I think we’ll see how good Cue is this fall when Apple’s ambitious iCloud plans kick in. If those don’t go off as advertised there will be a lot of angry customers.

  3. Cook was the guy who made the (supply/logistics) train run on time during the Jobs era and proved a competent day to day MANAGER of Apple while Jobs was out on sick leave. Cook was not and is not a leader, seems to lack the ‘vision thing’ and is presiding over the transformation of Apple from a lean, focused, hungry fighting machine into a bloated, entitled company full of people who see Apple as a brand to be milked for all it is worth.

    Does not mean he is stupid, clueless or evil. It does mean he is not driving the company forward with a clear vision for the future. That iTunes Radio like Ping before it is lame with the resources Apple has internally and the cash it has available is unacceptable and a sign the guy in charge is not kicking ass and taking names.

    Tim Cook cannot be Steve Jobs anymore than any combination of people can be. Tim Cook CAN be an effective leader that seeks, selects and strategizes a vision for Apple and then puts the people in place that can make it happen. Apple has the money to hire anyone they need and equip them with anything they need.

    No excuses.

    1. While I agree with all your points, I think that Cook has been doing exactly what you propose.

      Apple lost a very charismatic visionary leader in Jobs and no matter how much the exec team tried to prepare for it, his death left a huge hole.

      Cook has been leading the company through the equivalent of “mourning” and restructure while keeping Apple profitable and moving.

      Recent moves such as hiring Angela thingy to revive the apple store, beats to remake iTunes/iRadio with Iovine getting the deals and Dre scoping the curation ( pls don’t flame me, the guy knows his stuff). All the health hires, the announcements at WWDC on Monday etc etc indicate Cook has been recreating the been very successful indeed.

      Look at all the buzz and interest apple has generated over the last 2 weeks.
      Apple is not back as such, it never went away. It just needed time to move from Jobs’ apple to Apple as it is now.

      As MDM has repeatedly pointed out, those who underestimate Tim Cook do so at their peril. Or something along those lines.

      1. Btw, I know Apple has made some ill advised moves such as the Maps nonsense (it wasn’t that bad) , iWork remake, PCPX etc but all these screw ups were mostly bad management rather than faulty product.

        But haven’t stuffed everything up, I use Logic Pro for hours most days. My whole studio revolves around it and a whoopsie with the rebuild to modern code would have disastrous to the entire recording industry.

        Fortunately Logic Pro X was a really great upgrade, simplifying my workflow with breaking anything. Everyone I know loves it and is drooling over getting a new Mac Pro to run with it.

        Yes they fuck up occasionally but look at Google or Microsoft.

      2. I agree. I think Tim Cook has kept Apple going strong through the inevitable “Apple is doomed without Jobs” phase. Sure, there have been some mostly minor missteps (notably maps, for which Forstall saw the chopping block), but let’s not forget that there were missteps under Jobs as well (MobileMe, Ping, etc.). After the WWDC Keynote my mind is blown. Apple is doing a fantastic job and has a strong vision for the future. To claim that Cook can’t lead and has no vision for the future is ridiculous. He obviously is unhappy with the current iTunes Radio offering and so acquired Beats. Iovine may just be the man to fix Apple’s streaming dilemma.

            1. Grizzmick has made an agreeable comment.

              Use ad hominem attacks only on unrepentant enemies or those who are incorrigible. Grizzmick is neither one.

            2. John Dingler to the rescue.

              This is what curation and peer review is all about. Breaking up playground squabbles, establishing boundaries, dispelling misinformation, acting as rational arbiters, killing trolls.

    2. When was the last time u met Tim?
      You seem very sure of your opinion yet u are clueless!
      Tim is not a leader? Yet he has practically ran apple for the last ten years and deserves as much credit for where apple is today as does Jobs and many many people at apple !
      And he was the sole unquestioned choice by Steve to carry on leading the company into the future!
      Stop comparing everything to Jobs .. He is gone.. He did his share of great things and had his share of screw ups !
      Jobs did not have all the vision at apple… As a matter of fact he stubbornly resisted some of the best ideas and had to be convinced to pursue some of the most successful ventures of apple! convinced by other visionaries at apple ! But somehow all the credit went to Jobs ( one of the biggest mistakes he made imho)

      Apple is full of people with vision.. Cook is super bright , is a listener and a delegator… And so far he has done fantastic.
      Those who deny this are blind fanatics of Jobs who are delusional in thinking that Jobs never screwed up!
      Apple is too big to be micromanaged. Tims is the right guy! No question!
      Watch the stock crash like there is no tomorrow if he leaves anytime soon.
      Get off the jobs fanaticism and see Cook for what he has achieved so far in a very difficult transitionary times! And a future that looks ever more exciting for apple !

  4. “Arrogant Apple managers”

    Remember that story some weeks past about a former Apple employee that after leaving Apple because of the conditions posted in a blog those conditions of harassment of himself and other workers.

    And lets not forget what happened with iOS maps.

    Yea, this happens everywhere but somehow you would thing it would be less prevalent at Apple.

    1. Agree and would add with the recent departure of many top level executives, dumbing down of software, indifference to Pro users and tone deaf to the worst GUI redesign in Apple history — as DE put it — with all that idle cash, no excuses.

    1. Just a place where people of merit, tempered by a lifetime of experience in the trenches, and encouraged by one another as they chat over billiards and ale in their clubs, bemoan the depths to which the mighty have fallen, explaining their errors and offering tidbits that may help newcomers avoid such grievous failures.

            1. Add the depth of the trenches are a lot shallower in the suites than in the streets.

              Beer is still cold and pool is a level playing that does not discriminate.

              Private clubs, now that’s another matter …

      1. I hope that was beer talking. Hey Apple why search for talented employees…the geniuses you need are right here. I am sure someone here could even replace your CEO!

  5. “Arrogance”: A word used by ignorant people to describe those whom they envy. Or something like that. I personally find it to be a totally worthless, non-descriptive word. These days we have a plethora of more descriptive language with which to describe people we believe are acting superior to ourselves.

    ‘Arrogant’ is a word that has been as consistently thrown at Apple as the word ‘Doomed’. Both are worthy of laughter. Both are warnings of what could be if poor judgement prevails.

    IOW: This article sucks. Do try harder Aylin Zafar who reports for BuzzFeed. You’re far from understanding the situations you wish to discuss. Isn’t that the pathetic state of the art of tech journalism these days? At the very least, it’s the growing trend. Really sad.

    1. …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.

      NO. I have no such impression of Ping. It’s failure was due to Facebook being FAR superior as a social network. Ping was a meagre redundancy.

    2. Arrogance: an attitude of superiority, most conspicuously displayed by those using the word to characterise, in a derogatory sense, an actual superior to themselves

  6. Like Ping, the development of iTunes Radio suffered from a shortsighted strategy, sources said.

    I agree. I also have to point out that being shortsighted is an unavoidably universal human trait at all times of our existence. And of course, that trait has nothing to do with ‘arrogance’, unless of course we wish to define every human as ‘arrogant’. That’s a concept.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.