Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Damn. Sorry All Around

Okay, that was fun. A little foray into politics can spice things up a bit, but let's get back to irresponsible babbling, shall we?

Amazon is getting into the online music store game. They want to take on Apple. Doesn't everybody? They're going to sell some songs cheaper than iTunes. All the songs will be DRM-free mp3s. They'll play on any mp3 player, including the iPod. Some of the songs will be 256 bps.

They're going to free the consumer from that oppressive lock-in Apple has with the iTunes store and the iPod.

People aren't buying iPods because the like the iTunes Store. They're using the iTunes Store because it's awesome and it works really well with their iPods. They're using iPods because iPods are cool. Every other mp3 player is a cheap alternative to the real thing. All the frigging price breaks in the world won't change that.

Apple makes things that just work. They also happen to look pretty groovy. The fit and finish is tight and smooth. Apple worries over little details like eliminating visible seams in product cases. Did you see the box the iPhone came in? It was a work of art. The box said, "You are about to hold something really classy in your hands." Steve Jobs, hence Apple, cares about meaningless bits of aesthetic trivia that other companies ignore.

Apple's obsession with details that other companies don't even consider is what makes Apple products the class of their genres. Steve Jobs brought the concept of proportional spacing and type ligatures to the computer screen. WYSIWYG started on the Mac, and it is still only available on the Mac. Nobody else has ever gotten it completely right. Have I mentioned today that Vista sucks. It's only loosely related, but I like to say it.

This is why Amazon's music store will ultimately fail to compete. They might make some money. They might even gain a little market share if they can differentiate their offering from iTunes in some meaningful positive way, but I don't like their chances.

These things may be positive, but are not meaningful to the iPod using majority:

  • Ten cents a song.
  • 256 bits per second.
  • No DRM.
These things may be meaningful, but are not positive for iPodders:
  • Launching another application to get songs.
  • Using a different (and less elegant) interface to download songs.
  • A reduced selection of songs resulting in multiple searches to find what I can already find in one place.
  • Fiddling with downloaded song files.
  • Not even half as cool.
All things considered, Amazon's new music service doesn't sound too promising. That is unless you're an Apple stockholder. In that case it sounds just wonderful; it will be one more illustration of how really superior Apple's user experience is. In turn the stock price will go up. Again.

While we're on that topic, Apple's stock hit $150/share today. One of these days maybe Rich Kaarlgard will admit that he bum doped everybody last December when he advised Apple stockholders to take their profits and run. I offered a bet right here, then, that Apple would get to $120. After Apple hit that mark, I offered the same bet that Apple would clear $150.

My guess is that Rich Kaarlgard has never read this blog. If he does, I'll extend the same bet for the coming year. One box of Henry Clay Brevas a la Conservas and a fifth of Laphroiag against your favorite scotch and cigars (or rough equivalent). I'm betting that Apple will hit $180 before the end of calendar 2008. In fact, I'll go one step further. I'm not going to sell a single share of Apple. Partly because the capital gains would be murder (my cost basis on the shares I own is practically zero), but mostly to make a point. No. Mostly because I love to look at those five digits under the line "Value."

I'm buying Ford, too. No particular reason except their stock is at rock bottom. If they don't go bankrupt, the stock almost has to go up. I've spent more on a dinner tab (once - Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary) than the price of 100 shares, so why not?

Now if you'll excuse me, my favorite Carpenters song is playing.