I know what you’re going to say; “All companies want to make money.” Â As a red-blooded, meat-eating, American capitalist, I think that’s a good thing. But there seems to be a thought among computer nerds (and most Apple product users) that Apple is the white light to Microsoft’s Eye of Sauron (sorry…I recently watched Lord of the Rings). That simply isn’t true, and iTunes proves it. Â It also proves that you don’t need to have the best, you just need to market it the right way.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why iTunes is the bay window looking into what Apple really cares about most (hint: it’s money).
First, let’s look at iTunes’ bread and butter: Music. For the longest time, you could only listen to the music you purchased in iTunes on a limited number of machines. That’s DRM for you. When Apple finally decided to lift the digital shackles on the music we were purchasing (one of the last major companies to do so, by the way), it came with a price hike (from 99 cents to $1.29 in most cases). They still don’t sell mp3s, but support for AAC is pretty common. Let’s compare that to a Amazon Mp3, whom I’d consider iTunes’ biggest competitor. They are cheaper (generally 99 cents a song), have always been DRM free, and sells mp3s. They also have a daily deal where you can get a full album for about half the price. Plus, with their mp3 downloader, the music automatically gets added to iTunes, Zune Player, or whatever media player you choose to use.
Apple also makes a bunch of money with Apps. The iPhone and iTunes revolutionized mobile applications- that’s a given. However, they haven’t done much to change the purchasing of apps, taking a more “set it and forget it” approach. The barrier of entry for developers is a pretty steep one considering you need a Mac and $99 to get the SDK and to submit to the app store. Plus, while Apple has gotten better about accepting certain apps, there are no hard rules for what won’t get your accepted, so it’s still kind of a crapshoot.
For the end user that is downloading apps, I really don’t like that you can’t find as many quality free in the App Store as you can on the Android Marketplace; that is probably due to the $99 price tag that comes with adding your app to the App Store. My biggest gripe is getting refunds for apps that didn’t work as you expected. If we look at Android’s Marketplace, you can try an app for 15 mins and still qualify for a full refund. I would love if Apple did this, but you can’t even ask for a refund from your device. You need to go into iTunes, into your Purchase History, find the app you want a refund for, and ask for a refund. Then if Apple deems your reason worthy, they’ll refund your money; I’ve tried this once and think I got the refund, but they didn’t tell me if I did or didn’t. The app just shows up in my Purchase History is $0.00 now.
The last thing I want to look at is Ping, iTunes’ Social Network. I’m not surprised if you’ve never of it. It doesn’t integrate with Facebook, you don’t have much of a profile aside from “these are my favorite artists,” and all of your activity is what you purchased or like, which then encourages your followers to also purchase the song or album. It integrates with Twitter, which publishes a link to the iTunes Store when you post. Ping is less of a social network and more of a “look at what I bought” page, and it’s painfully obvious. There’s really no point in using it.
I understand what iTunes has done for the digital revolution (Ping notwithstanding). I also understand the importance of growth and taking care of your users. I don’t think Apple does that. Everything about iTunes is lackluster at best now. Genius is just another way to sell music (and does a terrible job at associating music in your library), Ping is just a way to sell music, and the music is more expensive that other digital retailers. The App Store has tons of apps that are mostly paid for, and they is no easy way of evaluating an app or getting a refund. But, since most people have an iOS device (which only work with iTunes, and vise versa) they are locked in to using iTunes. As far as making money goes, Apple is succeeding. I just wish they’d throw their users a bone.