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Apple's Mistaken Approach In Attacking Android

Forbes logo Forbes 12-11-2015 Ewan Spence, Contributor

Following its announcement at this summer’s WWDC event, Apple has released an Android client for its streaming music subscription service. Apple Music is currently labelled as a beta in the Google Play Store. Having seen Apple’s approach to both Apple Music as a service, and this Android application, I’m left wondering what Apple’s endgame is with Apple Music.

The iTunes Festival at SXSW 2014 (picture: Ewan Spence)© Provided by Forbes The iTunes Festival at SXSW 2014 (picture: Ewan Spence)

Apple Music does give Tim Cook and his team possession of ‘the last audio mile’ from the handset to the user, but it has taken an immense effort to do so. Previously Pandora and Spotify were the champions of this area, and in many cases Apple was able to take the standard thirty percent slice on the revenue generated by these applications for almost no outlay.

Apple Music required a huge infrastructure to be built up. It required talent hires at all levels. It polluted the iOS music player with its streaming options, bolted on yet another element to the bloated iTunes desktop app, and corrupted countless iTunes libraries as it tried to force users to sync their music to the cloud. It even tried to trade on the goodwill of musicians to pay for the three-month free trial through their ‘exposure’.

Apple has burnt a lot of intellectual capital to get Apple Music to the table, and I’m not sure it was worth it.

This is where the question of the end-game comes in. I can’t see Spotify or Pandora loosing out to Apple Music in a head-to-head comparison. I can’t see Apple Music being able to offer a significantly different catalogue, and I can’t see Apple removing the leading competition to Apple Music from the iTunes App Store. Apple Music will struggle to be seen as anything other than a me-too, second-best product.

Next: What about Android?

I’ve argued that Apple’s Android application could be used to bring Android owners into Apple’s cloud system. Music has a huge emotional connection for users and with three months to build up playlists, download albums, and have a mix of owned, subscribed, and personal tracks there was every chance that new users would feel they have little choice but to stick with Apple Music.

But the implementation of Apple Music dilutes that potential. Anyone looking for streaming music on Android is likely already using a service. Once more you have Spotify and Pandora, alongside Google’s own offering of Google Play Music. Apple has to bring users from those services over to Apple Music to make this an effective approach. Open up Apple Music and do you find the Apple experience, do you find everything that makes iOS a popular OS?

No, you find an app that follows the Android style guide from Google, that acts like every other app, and hides its Apple-ness very effectively. Google has the confidence to ignore the iOS conventions when it writes apps for iOS, why has Apple not followed suit?

iTunes Festival (image: apple.com)© Provided by Forbes iTunes Festival (image: apple.com)

Has Apple disrupted the music streaming business on iOS? I’d argue not. The offering is almost identical to the competition, the pricing is similar, the catalogues are similar, and the only choice users really have is ‘who do i give my ten dollars to this month?’

Android has exactly the same issues. The streaming services have similar pricing, structures, offerings, and catalogues. Apple has focused on building a music service that is the same as everyone else’s music service. It has chosen the same road as the services it is trying to beat, and now the potential to use Apple Music to leech users from Android has been neutered.

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