Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last 24 hours you know that Tim Cook (with U2 by his side) announced yesterday that U2’s brand new album Songs Of Innocence has been given to every single iTunes user. Apple says that this means the album is available to 500 million people, more people than have ever had free access to a full album. While many people are focused on the music industry implications of this promotion I have thought about it in the context of the concept of free and how the internet enables free as a business strategy better than any other medium of distribution.
For those of you who haven’t delved too deeply into the free concept I highly recommend reading (or listening to) the book Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. Interestingly enough, the audio version of the book is…free! Strangely enough I think that Free (the book) is worth paying for if you have to because it may change the context in which you view how free stuff can be used to facilitate growth of a business. More importantly, you may understand more about how the internet has created a great opportunity to capitalize on the free concept.
Now that the Aereo ruling has come down from the Supreme Court it’s safe to say that the television is where internet innovation goes to die. For those of you who haven’t been following the case, Aereo (a company that rented customers a tiny antenna for $8 per month and then transmitted the TV signal to them over the internet) was sued by TV broadcast companies for violating laws related to re-transmitting television signals. While Aereo took steps to respect the broadcasters’ rights (such as one antenna per stream and locational restrictions when streaming content) the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo was in fact violating the law, a ruling that means Aereo can no longer legally operate.
It’s fitting that around the same time as the Aereo ruling Google announced their next run at innovating on the TV via a product called Android TV. This after Google tried unsuccessfully to innovate on the TV with Google TV. Whereas Google TV tried to integrate tightly with existing cable boxes Android TV focuses on Android apps and games as the core of the system. In short, it eschews the TV part, which is pretty ironic, but typical of where this category of software is headed.
Today Amazon launched their Amazon Prime Music service as an extension to their $99 per year Prime offering that also includes two-day shipping, streaming videos and access to the Kindle Lending Library. With the launch of Prime Music Amazon wades into a crowded field of streaming music competitors including Pandora, Spotify, Apple’s iTunes Radio, Google Play Music and Beats Music (which is now owned by Apple). While the approach to and selection of streaming music differs between all of the above services there’s no denying that music lovers have a nice variety of options to choose from.
This rush into legal streaming of music is amazing considering that not so long ago (less than a decade) the prospect of ubiquitous streaming music seemed sketchy at best. At least for a while the music industry was hell bent on protecting sales of CDs by ignoring the growing demand for digital music. To give credit where credit is due I think that Apple cracked the armor of the music industry’s battle against digital with the launch and subsequent success of iTunes. (There’s also no doubt that Napster paved the way for iTunes.) While iTunes made digital music sales viable I believe that Pandora had the same effect on streaming music services. When Pandora first launched it was a computer based service but the service adapted with the technology of the times and made the move to mobile devices and just about all the smart TV platforms.
Recently I have noticed that more and more smartphone apps offer you the option to automatically back up the photos (and in some cases videos) that you take (or save) on your Android or iOS powered smartphone. Being a fan of backing things up I like the option to have the same file in multiple places…just in case. One added bonus is that fact that since the services behind the apps are competing to be your go to photo storage and sharing solution they each offer a generous amount of storage for free. There’s something of a space race going on with respect to offering free storage so I can see the limits to free storage continuing to increase as time goes on. Another added bonus is the fact that you can access and share your photos on via a computer as well.
While free and automatic are the two benefits of apps that back up your photos there is still a downside to using multiple apps. Backing up your photos takes bandwidth that you may or may not want to part with at any given time. Thankfully the apps have settings that allow you to: a) opt-in to whether or not you want to auto save photos; and if you choose to opt-in b) choose between uploads on wifi only or wifi and wireless data (4G, LTE, etc.). So you do have choices. The other potential downside involves the drawing down of your phone battery that takes place when files are uploaded. You can mitigate this problem by selecting to upload over wifi only. This works for me because typically when I’m near wifi I’m also near a power outlet.
One of the very important things that I have come to realize about business websites is the fact that each one needs a mission statement. That mission statement should then guide the design and development of the website so that the chief goals of the website are both measurable and attainable. My sense is that most businesses would say that the mission of their website is to drive sales but how you go about that is critical and needs to be a part of the mission statement.
For the most part what I see when I browse many websites, particularly those of smaller companies whose focus is offline commerce, are digital brochures. The focus of these sites goes along the lines of who we are, what we do, news and contact information. All of this is helpful to a certain extent, particularly to people who have never interacted with a business before, but it also certainly represents a gap when compared to the types of features that a modern website is capable of offering.
The tech world was aflutter earlier this week as Microsoft announced that (a mere four years after the launch of the iPad) they were releasing Office (specifically Word, Excel and Powerpoint) as native, touch optimized apps on the iPad. I have read a broad array of coverage on this development and none of it explored the broader implications of the move, which I happen to think are a way more important development that the arrival of new productivity tools on the iPad.
First and foremost, the arrival of Office on the iPad heralds the beginning of a major partnership between Apple and Microsoft. How so? Well, Microsoft is selling access to edit documents on the iPad (the individual apps are free to use as document viewers) as in app purchases. That means Apple gets 30% of the revenue. What Microsoft is selling though is not just full access to Office on the iPad. They’re selling Office 365 memberships which also include a license for full Office on five computers and five tablets. Please stop and think about that for a second. Apple will be getting a 30% cut of most new Office 365 licenses going forward. That is an absolutely huge win for Apple and a huge concession by Microsoft.
Having had a couple of weeks to ponder my experience at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive I have settled on the decision that viral marketing (and the content that enables it) represented the most ubiquitous theme that I recognized throughout the event.
I came to this conclusion after thinking back on the conversations I had with people I met at the event, many of whom told me they were in the business of media, marketing, media marketing or marketing technology. I also draw this conclusion based on the number of companies I saw whose goal was to help other companies harness the masses taking action (or not) on social media websites. Indeed, grabbing the attention of the masses online and moving them to act appears to be the holy grail of the internet business world these days.