Microsoft is good at co-opting other peoples’ technologies, we all know that. It’s when they start pushing their own ideas that they usually end up tanking. Microsoft Bob? Internet Explorer Channels? Who knows, maybe these bad ideas weren’t original either. But if nobody is rushing forward to take credit for their failures, it’s not too hard to see why.
To me, there is a fundamental lack of understanding about what people want. They want things that work. They want problems fixed. They don’t want a bunch of stuff nobody was asking for in the first place.
In an interview with USA Today, Bill Gates had this to say about subscription services for digital media:
I tend to be very optimistic about subscriptions because they just give you so much freedom. Take the capacities in devices, where you can get like 9,000 songs on them. How many people are going to pay $9,000 (at about $1 per song)? You’ve got me and a few others.
So people are going to have devices that aren’t very full, or they’re going to have music that they haven’t paid for, or they’re going to have a subscription. I think people really want to be honest.
This is wrong on so many levels. First of all, nice of him to remind us how rich he is, huh? He should have said, “you people are poor”. Anyway, Mr. Gates, I think your math is a little off the mark. Sure, if someone was to start today and go out and buy 9000 songs at a dollar a piece, that would be fairly expensive. I like this example because it’s so realistic. What about the fact that many people with an mp3 player already have an extensive cd collection? Nine grand sounds like a lot, but that’s $9000 spread out over many years. Which is why you buy a 40 gigabyte mp3 player. So that you have room to fill it up, over time.
One of the reasons for the success of the iPod and iTunes, in particular, is the fact that they let you own your music. People like owning things. I don’t know the particulars of Microsoft’s subscription policies, but I don’t want to have to make sure that I’m hooked up to the internet to play “my” music.
Who’s asking for this? These are bad solutions to made up problems. The music industry just had a great year. They saw a problem with illegal downloads and they dealt with it. If people are stealing music, sue them for it, even if they are ten years old. Don’t come up with a convuled and anti-intuitive page one re-write of the whole concept of music buying, just because you think you’re smarter than everyone else; that you know what they really want.