Apple vs. Apple: Dumb and Dumber

There are so many things wrong with the development of Apple Records suing Apple Computer AGAIN, which I am at a loss of where to begin. The Helter Skelter insanity of corporate law blurs the line of what is criminal and what is just plain stupid. Let’s start here:

Dumb: Apple Computer

Let’s face it, the world’s best computer company, headed by one of the world’s best inventors, building one of the world’s greatest inventions, and with the highest paid CEO in the country, does some really dumb things. In the battle between quality and quantity, I will always prefer quality, as I suspect most Mac users do. Apple delivers the best product, but always does it in such a way as to sabotage any chance to gain in quantity and cash. While part of the market share issue has to do with the fact that the product is so good that it lasts forever, most of it has to do with how it positions itself in the marketplace.

The Apple Music store is an astounding success of technology. The company has sold 5 million songs, and made itself a tidy profit of approximately 2 million on a side-line business. By most measures, those profit numbers would be an astounding success too, but not in regard to Apple. Despite sitting on 4 billion dollars in cash, Apple leaves much more cash on the table than it puts in its pocket. The Music Store is an other example of their paradoxical ability. The legal battle with Apple Records, which will cost them a good chunk of the store profit to settle, is just the small potatoes.

When the Music Store was first released, I complained that it excluded small record labels and should have been linked to the radio feature in iTunes. Apple has since then followed a strategy to include independent labels. It is also working on a Windows version of iTunes. No radio link in the plans, as far as I know. As the catalog gets bigger and more users can get in, the numbers of songs sold will continue to soar.

Damn, that is one side-line business I wish I could have, and that is exactly the problem. I can’t. Apple doesn’t empower everyone equally.

As the Music Store collection grows, Apple will be hosting more and more music, streaming more, and picking up all of the associated overhead costs. They will be buying their own servers to sell someone else’s product, and their own products will obsolesce and need support, repair, and replacement. Call me crazy, but I thought the reason Apple got into the server market was to sell them, not to buy them from themselves.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for Apple to be selling the servers and the technology of the Music Store to the record companies? Shouldn’t the label host their own music, and sell their own product directly to their own customers (perhaps via internet radio), at whatever cost they choose? I doubt a lot of independent artists want 99 cents per song; they just want to be heard. Apple has a chance to break the music monopoly, and make more money in the process, and it hasn’t, as yet, taken it.

Computer vendors provide back-end support to businesses, not front-side sales. Apple Computer could be selling hardware and software, both technology products, and charge a licensing fee per song. Instead, it is doing the labels work for them, protecting the political status quo, making less profits, penetrating fewer IT departments, and is being sued for its troubles. Dumb.

Apple Records: Dumber

If Apple Computer is the TECHNOLOGICAL phenomenon of this era, then the Beatles must be the ongoing CULTURAL phenomenon to match it. Apple Records is a company that was born out of the music and political revolution of the Beatles. For a great insight into this corporate experiment, read this post at the MacWorld forum. It is pretty easy to understand why the only long-term political success of the crazed revolutionary 60’s was the movement to follow Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead around from town to town sharing music. Comparatively, the Corporate Dead is a manned lunar exploration, where the Corporate Beatles are an episode of the Junkyard Wars hosted by Monty Python.

John Lennon, a poster boy for Apple Computer, preaches revolution and power to the people. Apple Computer, has the goods to actually deliver the power, claims to want to in its ad campaigns, and instead chooses to become a corporate lapdog and protects the music monopoly.

Then, in the irony of all ironies, Apple Computer gets sued by the now unrevolutionary corporate record company it protected, who also chose the same Garden of Eden icon to represent itself. Both are arrogant in protecting something that is not theirs.

Copyright and patent protections are the bane of modern society, and these two conservative false revolutionaries deserve each other, but you and I are going to pay the price of this foolishness. And as we can now see, they do too.

Music is a collaborative process. We claim to protect the artist, when what our laws really do is protect the record manufacturing process by granting them a monopoly. With computers we no longer need manufacturing, but we are still bound and gagged!

If Adam and Eve had a corporate lawyer, maybe they never would have been evicted. If the people had power, you would not need to be reading this. If these two global giants could actually Think Different, or at least share a bite of the apple, then maybe we could leave less to our imagination. I know none of us is perfect, and after all the gifts that both organizations have bestowed on humanity, I feel ungrateful to ask for more. But how about it guys, can the revolution you promised me start now?

The Revolution won’t be televised; it’ll be on the web. All you have to do is encourage sharing. Jerry has already proven it is possible. Let’s do this before my generation passes on.

Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one,
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will live as one.

Steve Consilvio

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