Apple Should Have Released The Music Store For Windows First

by Hadley Stern May 09, 2003

Apple is to be commended for the first weeks success of the new iTunes Music Store. The user experience is simply amazing. The kind of amazing that makes you feel when you first use it that this was a simple thing to put together. Like most well-executed design solutions the simplicity is deceiving. This is a complicated product matching hardware (CPU, the iPod, CD-burner) with software (ecommerce,  usage-management,  tag information) with aplomb. It is easy to use, fun and has the wow factor that only Apple can provide. It could well be the best example of what Macromedia likes to call a Rich Internet Applications (without using any of Macromedia’s technologies). As Dr. Dre so astutely observed Apple finally got it right.

One can’t help wonder, though, that if Apple released the Music Store for Windows they would have sold 50 millions songs in the first week instead of million. After all if Apple is, as reported elsewhere, going to develop iMusic for Windows why did it wait until the rest of the world can get a look and copy Apple before it can release a product of its own? All that is going to happen now is what has always happened to Apple, some other company, a la Microsoft (maybe even Microsoft) will come along and build this into a Windows application before Apple can. I would wager that this same company will sell songs for less, undercutting Apple and leaving the Music Store, along with the Quicktake, Newton, GUI interface, and many other Apple innovations in the garbage bin of Apple’s missed opportunities.

Releasing iMusic for Windows first (or at least simultaneously) would have been the most logical business decision Apple could have made. Yes it would ostrasize their most faithful users and contradict the switch campaign. For the first point Mac users are already used to having to wait for software that is released on Windows first and as for the second Apple already contradicted the switch campaign by releasing the iPod for windows.

As Apple moves into the music business it needs to play to win,  for the sake of its shareholders and its bottom line. Releasing the Music Store for the Mac first was a strategic blunder and one that will cost, in the long term, what Apple has always deserved, a larger user base. It would have been better for Apple to have waited the 2, 3, even 6 months it would have taken to have been able to release a Windows version at the same time than to allow all the innovation to be ripped off as it will surely be now.


  • This was mentioned on MacNET ( yesterday and the response was just a series of flames. It would have been wise to release both at the same time, now MS has time to build their own. Dumb dumb dumb….but typical

    Hampster had this to say on May 09, 2003 Posts: 4
  • For others to copy the Music Store, it may be more difficult than people are saying.  For a start, they will need to talk to the 5 big music labels. Not an easy feat.

    Also, people forget that no one knew how successful it was going to be.  Had it failed and Apple had launched both Windows and Mac, it would have done Apple more harm than good.  Not only that, but have wasted valuable R&D time when Apple could have been developing Panther and all the costs involved.  You could defeintely see Apple being criticsed for that had it failed.  Would the Mac community be as pleased if Panther was delayed so that Apple could develop iTunes for Windows? I think not!

    Now that it is successful, everyone wants a piece of the action and they can all switch to macs! 

    Ken Wright had this to say on May 09, 2003 Posts: 2
  • Hadley,
      I’m sorry your supposition is incorrect.  I believe moreso in what Ken has said.  Apple needed to test this out on a smaller market. Work the bugs out and ramp up service.  Attacking the largest market sounds nice but what if 10x the users attempted to login the first week and couldn’t do anything. First impressions are lasting the service would have been a failure.  Instead Apple reduced the test bed and had initial success. Now they can prepare to go Global and then to Windows. Raising the stakes at each step of the way. Their stock has already gone up 5$ so if this is a “Blunder” then I want plenty more.
      Microsoft would be the only threat here but I doubt you see them license WM9 with the same DRM policy. They tend to be much more restrictive. Who knows…perhaps Apple has a 1yr exclusive with the majors.  I think things are going just fine. By the time PC support is launched iTMS will have at least 4x the songs including some popular Indie Labels. Apple is doing this one just right.  Your scenario is wrought with peril in my opinion.

    hmurchison had this to say on May 10, 2003 Posts: 145
  • hmurchison, if, for a moment I were to believe you about the server farm issue, then perhaps Apple should have had iTunes for Windows waiting in the wings, ready to release at a time of THIER choosing, not hiring the team NOW.

    You can only pretend so long and make excuses so long, but in the end it’s still a major mistake by Apple not to have iTunes ready now. And people think Jobs was such a master with those record executives, what rubbish! Show the record exec how to make money and he’s there, Jobs didn’t sell the idea, the idea sold itself, and now Gates and simply this to the presentation: “We have 20x the users base, we have 40 billion dollars in the bank, and we can push this in front of 300,000 million users 10 times a day”

    The record exec response “Where do I sign”

    Just watch. Remember, when Jobs had NeXt all the PC makers came to him to license his OS instead of MS. The only proviso was to kill his “cube”, which wasn’t selling anyway. He said “no” and the world adopted MS. Since coming to Apple he’s had one hit, the fruity iMac, and many flops, the “cube” comes to mind and the 15” flat-panel iMac, so where’s the next hit? Music? Hardly.

    Let’s all see what the sells figures are in 4 weeks, when credit card statements are delivered to all the first week users, then we’ll talk.

    Hampster had this to say on May 10, 2003 Posts: 4
  • Hampster don’t believe me believe Common Sense.  Apple has roughly 26 Millions users. Thats a drop in the bucket for PC users. 5% of PC users is more than Apple has in total. This is of course going to result in a higher load. Yes, perhaps they should have had a Windows Programmer signed up but the decision to go Windows on these may have come late.

    Hindsight is 20/20. Had this bombed upon it’s debut we’d be saying “Thank God Apple didn’t waste resources tying to bring this out Globally or to Windows”. Now that it’s a success everyone is trying to lambast Apple for being later with Windows support. However those sitting in the armchair have no risk here. Apple does.  You are falling to the same ill misconceptions that everyone does.  Since Microsoft is so large they’ll have “something whipped up soon”. This is false. Apple was able to leverage it’s existing infrastructure to make iTMS as easy as possible. Think about this.

    Apple has run the Apple Store for years now. Where’s Microsofts version of Online store. It doesn’t exists. Apple’s and Akamai have had a great relationship over the years in efficient bandwidth and streaming. Where’s Microsofts “Akamai”?  Apple uses Veridiscs “Fairplay” DRM which is much less draconian that WM9. How’s MS going to match Apples DRM which is quite fair by most standards.

    Apple says they’ve worked on this for a year and Windows support is coming by years end. That’s only a bit more than 6 months. There are no competitors of any clout that can derive a system equal to or better than iTMS in 6 months. It’s not going to happen.

    I think it’s obvious from your fabrication of NeXT and Steve Jobs in general. That your computer knowlege is quite weak. MS never wanted to license NeXT. It’s always been a two pony race with Windows far in the lead and Apple.  There is no need for us to talk. What I offer are salient thoughts. What you offer is thinly veiled slander against Apple and Steve Jobs. 

    Anyone else want to engage in some “decent” discourse?

    hmurchison had this to say on May 10, 2003 Posts: 145
  • <<<MS never wanted to license NeXT. >>>

    Quite correct, and I didn’t say that. IBM, HP, and the rest wanted to license NeXt instead of MS, that is a historical fact. They didn’t want to sign up with Gates, they wanted NeXt because it was a better OS at the time. Jobs blew it, and he knows it.

    Don’t be afraid to talk to me about this, I wrote my thesis on Apple in 1996. I know Apple history far better than most.

    The fact remains had Apple delivered iTunes 4 for Windows he still “could” have allowed Windows users to use the Music Store even a week to 10 days after the initial launch.

    Don’t be such an Apple Apologist, Jobs has made many mistakes, he’s not the idol you make him out to be.

    You’d to wise to read everything you can from the Micorsoft Hardware Conference this week, Gates has been convinced to emulate the Mac even more than ever before. He wants style and sizzle in both case design and GUI/software design, and he’ll get it. All he needs to do is throw 2,000 employees at this music idea, if he so desires, and he’ll catch Apple inside of 3 months. Record companies don’t care about the MS DRM tactics, they just want to sell tunes, now that Apple has proved people will pay they don’t care who’s hawking it for them.

    Get a clue man, and open your eyes.

    “thinly veiled slander” ? You’re not serious, what did you do, hear that on “The Practice”? LOL

    Hampster had this to say on May 10, 2003 Posts: 4
  • Jobs largest blunders IMO have been.

    Apple Lisa (thousands buried in UT landfill)

    Apple III(jobs demanded they design internal hardware to external case)

    I think Jobs has made mistakes. And if what you say is true then that may have been a mistake. The Cube was not a just didn’t take off like Apple had hoped. I knew it wouldn’t be a big seller but it’s already achieved Cult status.

    Steve has grown quite a bit. He’s still Brash and Brazen but it’s tempered much nowadays by Age and Experience.  Jobs has never been a fan of mine. I admire his Marketing ability and attention to detail but I realize that he can be a charlatan of sorts(Read Apple Confidential…he’s a riot).

    However…I remain convinced that starting out with a small test market is the Standard for debuting producs or Services to the public. It happens this way everywhere. From Telecom services and products to Games(Remember when ID released Quake 3 Beta to Mac users and Linux first?).

    As for Winhec….MS and Intel have been telling us for years about new “Fresh and exciting HW Design that’s coming” While Apple has been producing these designs.  Look at Windows XP and Intels P4. Same old same old nothings changed.

    Back on Topic.

    Does anyone think Microsoft can debut a product within the next 6 months that will supplant iTMS?  I don’t think they can. They would have to have had an offering in the works(I doubt it) and set up the approprate infrastructure and modify Windows Media 9. That’s ALOT of work. It ain’t happening folks.

    hmurchison had this to say on May 10, 2003 Posts: 145
  • I think it IS possible if Microsoft chucked a bucket load of money into it….Windows XP is a blatant rip off of Mac OS X. And XBox.  When did “X” become so popular anyway?

    Windows is so bloated now that there are many holes and flaws that are starting to crop up.  Perhaps of export an iTunes for Windows Apple might be better to export Mac OS X for Intel? It would kill Windows over night and Microsoft knows it.

    Apple has certainly made mistakes and continues to make them. Apple’s marketing can definitely be more aggressive like that of Microsoft, being so in your face. 

    Ken Wright had this to say on May 10, 2003 Posts: 2
  • <<<Windows XP is a blatant rip off of Mac OS X>>

    Absolutely correct here too. But then again, Gates got a job building software for Apple for the sole purpose of getting a prototype of the first Mac, in order to rip off the interface. It’s the way Bill succeeds. Nonetheless, Gates and Jobs have different ideas about success. Gates gauges success by money and dominance, whereas Jobs gauges success on how cool he makes technology and remains a pop-star to the tech world. To each his own.

    Will Microsoft sit still and not challenge this iTunes Music Service? That’s unlikely, unless the sales drop dramatically once the shock of spending a couple of hundred bucks a month on singles wears off. Initial success means very little, witness the demand for the flat-panel iMac. At first they couldn’t build them fast enough, then when the sales literally died off Jobs hurriedly built a 17” version to goose sales. Which was the right thing to do, the 17” iMac is a killer machine for the consumer. But sales are not brisk any longer, even the 1ghz at $1799 isn’t selling all that well. But I love mine grin

    Ken is right, MS has the resources to do it,  Gates won’t allow Jobs to take that market for himself if it turns out to be a real market. So we’ll see. Gates is far from stupid, but it takes him a long time (like Jobs) to realize he’s made a mistake. He just might back away from his outrageous ideas for DRM, especially if Apple’s more relaxed DRM works.

    I won’t go as far as Manzione goes in thinking that Apple will eventually fold up their tent, but Apple will never rise above 10-15% of market share no matter what they do, then again, I don’t Jobs care much about winning that war anymore.  But, like Manzione, I think Apple shouldn’t be focusing so many resources on something that brings in a gross revenue of 34 cents a song when there are other, more important matters to tend to, like desktop sales.

    Apple’s marketing has always been too clever by half, always has to be something “out there” instead of head on marketing like comparing typical tasks on both platforms and showing people just how much better the Mac experience is. Why does Apple have to deliver it’s message in a way that a 1980’s yuppie would understand? Show the potential switchers how easy it is to use, and how stable OS X really is. I always imagined a commercial where a split screen shows two people working on each platform with a clock in the lower part of the screen showing how long it’s been since the computers crashed, and then showing the “blue screen of death” happening at the end of the commercial and the PC clock resetting itself. Now that would be effective, don’t you think?

    Hampster had this to say on May 10, 2003 Posts: 4
  • You need to think of things from the perspective of the companies that own the music. They’re far more willing to participate in an “experiment” on a test market (the Mac user base) than on the entire PC market. This means that Jobs could get them to agree to things for Apple Music Store that they haven’t ever before been willing to agree to. And now that the AMS is perceived as a massive success, Apple’s positioned perfectly to extend the store to Windows.

    As a second issue, Apple’s in the business of building a platform and a brand. As long as Apple can ship category winning products for the Mac first, get massive publicity, then ship a version for Windows that’s forced to be inferior due to the limitations of Windows, that wins on all fronts. Apple’s product makes money, the Macintosh platform looks better, Apple gets great PR, Apple gets tons of sales outside of the Mac market, and ultimately Apple converts more customers to its platfom. And while Apple loves to sell iPods and music to non-Mac customers, they love even more to convert customers to the Mac because they turn into loyal, life-long customers.

    Also, the music industry runs on Mac’s, not PC’s. And they like and respect Apple.

    Finally, don’t underestimate how much the music industry won’t allow MS to gain any control over their business. They’re not stupid people, and they’ve seen what MS has done to everyone else in its value chain (i.e. buy or kill them). The last thing they’re going to do is give MS a foothold in the music business.

    laird had this to say on May 10, 2003 Posts: 2
  • Hamster you’re basing your arguements on unlikely conjecture.  The LCD iMac sales dried up but how does that relate to buying music. One is a large purchase and the other is a consumable commodity purchase. Bad analogy which won’t support your hypothesis.

    Gates will probably attempt to compete.  Bill is infamous for using other’s ideas..but then so is Jobs…on a smaller scale(great artists steal). However each has their strength. Apple has the iPod and MS has the WM9 format.  I’m curious to see how this battle is played out.  Microsoft hasn’t been too successful taking markets recently(X-Box) so if Apple gets entrenched I think they’ll be fine.

    You’ve made another error. Apple gets .99 Gross Revenue per song of which they keep an estimated .35 we don’t know what the actual profit is because we have no idea what the cost to run iTMS is. Apples hardware sales will improve once they ship competitive hardware.  However lets in two years Apple is generating 2 Billion a year in iTMS revenue. Well that would be a third of their total gross revene for 2002. Certainly nothing to sneeze at.  More Revenue ..more profits could lead to lower cost Macintosh computers which would in turn fuel more Hardware sales. Business 101.

    I am eager to see Europe, the rest of North America and Windows users gain access. I’m eager to see how large the music collection offered will grow to. This service has the markings of a winner all over it.  I’ll be using it by years end myself.  I’m not sipping too much koolaid but i’m optimistic about the “Foundation” Apple is laying with OSX and they way it’s branching out to new areas(iPod iTMS ). 

    hmurchison had this to say on May 11, 2003 Posts: 145
  • According to Matt Deatheridge, Apple is earning between 15 and 20 cents per song.

    Hopefully the iTMS will help to chip away at Apple’s biggest problem: perception of the masses. A few weeks ago I was using my tiBook and some moron I work with said, “It looks like a toy.” another chimed in, “They all are!”

    Does a toy go months on end of heavy use and not crash?

    Even people my age (30) commented and criticized the iMac when it first came out. How it looked like a toy, a Nintendo system. Nintendo’s GameCube is suffering the same problem. The xbox looks COOL, like a component, the GameCube is purple and has a handle. (Apple similarity #1) It’s irrelavent that Nintendo’s offering isn’t claiming to be anything more than what it is: a game system.

    The Mac OS is “cutesy”. Thankfully in 10.2 the smiley face mac on start-up was changed to a Phillip Glass style start-up screen. Jaguar is beautiful and the dock works well but those accustomed to the bland, dank, flat, pixelated world of windows, the Mac OS is probably too much to take at once. The idea of an OS being easy on the eyes is somehow cutesy. the smiley face Mac is Apple’s Mario. Nintendo can’t get away from being thought of as a kid’s system. Despite Metroid Prime, Eternal Darkness, PN 03, Soul Calibur II, Resident Evil, etc… (Apple similarity #2)

    Apple innovates, microsoft copies
    Nintendo innovates, sony and microsoft copy. (Apple similarity #3)

    The Macintosh isn’t as fast/powerful as windows. No basis in reality. My Quicksilver G4/933 out performs in Photoshop my girlfriend’s Sony Vaio 2.2 gHz desktop, both purchased around the same time. The xbox’s specs are higher overall than the GameCube’s but the xbox is prone to bottlenecks and does not use the resources as efficiently as the Cube. Nintendo also makes profit on their console, while the xbox is costing ms money for every system sold. (Apple similarity #4)

    Macintosh computers cost too much. This is less true than ever. Ever look at the insides of a cheap dell? Now, that’s a toy. The chassis of a Macintosh is a tank in comparison and the way the boards and cables are arranged is astonishingly easy to work with. The G4 tower line is for professional users, build a wintel box the same way and the cost difference is minor.

    Anyway, hopefully the masses will see the iTMS and say, This is good, Apple is good, MUST. BUY. MAC.

    David Demers had this to say on May 13, 2003 Posts: 1
  • Of course Apple should *not* have waited until it had the Windows version ready! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard in awhile. First, does anyone even know if the labels would have allowed such? Second, the Windows version is not going to be trivial given that Apple owns neither the OS nor most of the MP3 players. But most importantly, it’s critical for Apple to continue making the case that Mac owners are somehow advantaged.

    pbreit had this to say on May 30, 2003 Posts: 3
  • You know what Apple doesn’t do? Push it’s cheaper machines. For Joe Internet Surfer, the eMac is an amazing machine for less than $1000.

    Do you EVER see ads for it? No.

    Instead you see commercials for this supposedly all-powerful G5 (whose first 64-bit home computer status will be VERY short lived) that costs so damn much. Any Windows user with a little bit of time could go make a DP Athlon system with a ton of fast RAM a kick-ass video card and a mega-sized hard drive for like $500-$600. Better yet, say they, they can do something similar when the 64-bit AMD chips come out.

    That’s NOT good for Apple. And if Apple were to just give in and let other companies develop hardware (and if Apple would let this be done properly this time) they’d do a little better, I think. But, gosh, then they’d admit a fault. Can’t have that!

    You also have to realize that MS has billions in unspent money to toss at R&D while Apple might have millions if they’re lucky. If Apple is like any other modern company, all the wrong people are getting too much of that money.

    Waa had this to say on Jul 29, 2003 Posts: 110
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