For all that Apple has done to transform mobile devices and personal computing, has it missed the real market opportunity? Hampered by ip and copywrite protections of content, it seems that iTunes has limited itself to just a delivery model. At the end of the day, iTunes appears to be content as another Amazon.
Here’s the thing, iTunes started out as this really cool way to grab music, videos, movies, and podcasts. It had some capability to show you what people and staff liked best, and pair your selections and purchases to other things you might like. With the release of the iPhone, you get a plethora of mobile applications. Yet, Apple seems stalled on iTunes as an e-store and electonic delivery service.
In the end, I think iTunes could be a nexus for social media and networking. If they could overcome limitations of sharing (can I at least pass over a playlist that syncs to another music library or encourages the purchase of a song?) and provide a social network interface that allows you to connect to other iTunes users, there could be some real power behind this app. Think Facebook meets YouTube, meets iTunes.
Here is what I see as major factors that are and can diminish iTunes as a broader player in the market.
- Apps will deliver content – think Netflix streaming films on-demand to your phone. Twitter already circumvents SMS.
- Direct sourcing of podcasts/v-casts from providers – already happening through browser.
- Greater ability to share and discuss media in other venues – Facebook
- Ad dollars are going to the application developers
iPhone’s newness and apps are probably the biggest drivers of customer loyalty today. But, Apple’s crowd is a trendy one. While there are loyal cult followers (I admit it, I’m part of the cult), there is a significant segment that is always looking to be at the forfront and social media is where they are today. Apple hasn’t always been the first, but it has been the best. Staying the best could get harder when they heavily rely on is hardware and delivery.
If Apple got it right, iTunes could expand into the social media arena consolidating social networks, content, and services in an interactive manner versus today as only a distributor. There may be money in the transaction, but that is an easy point to be squeezed. Apple’s proprietary perspective on its assets and constraints of contracts with media companies may be too restricting. As more and more companies thrive on an opensource model, that competitive agility could leave Apple in a lurch.
In the end, I’m thinking about myself. I love my iPhone. I love my MacBook. But, what gets me thinking about this is I rarely use iTunes anymore except as a music player, a way to get my apps, and to sync my phone to my laptop. There are cooler, better things, and better ways to get my communications, media, and appliations. I’m not typically at the front of the pack. So, that leaves me wondering where the rest of those iTunes users are.
I’ll ask you, do you think Apple missed the mark?
By the way, here is some news that Apple may be thinking about streaming media. But, is this just a service delivery enhancement?