Business > Your Money > Gates vs. Jobs: The Rematch”>A relatively interesting New York Times article looks forward to the upcoming battle between Jobs’ already well-established iPod and Microsoft’s apparently planned entries into the portable audio market.
"And Mr. Gates makes no secret that he expects to beat Mr. Jobs in that market as convincingly as he did in personal computers."
The article goes on to debate the apparent pros and cons of Apple’s iTunes service, and the competing services like Napster-to-go ad infinitum.
I may not have made my feelings on the digital format wars yet, but let it be said that I think it is a flawed idea in most ways, unless someone truly revolutionary enters the market. You hear constantly how iTunes has passed this or that phenomenal sales barrier, almost as if they’re trying to convince themselves and the public, "Hey, it really could work…… uh….. erm….. maybe……"
I’m not old-fashioned but I do think people want something tangible when they purchase something. You want something that you might spill coffee on and ruin, not something you might accidentally delete.
Let me go on, though. I do *not* think the format is a bad idea – I think it is wonderful. I’ve been one of the biggest proponents of digital media from the very beginning. I just find the wars between the different stores as almost missing the point. Modern music needs a new economy, a complete overhaul. I’m not saying anything revolutionary here, and it’s been said before by many others. I’ve been tossing about the idea of a net-label idea for quite some time now, and the right way to approach it. I believe that the best music *can* still be free to download, and the artists can make money from live shows or other alternative forms of income.
Keep in mind, I am an artist and DJ saying this, saying I wouldn’t entirely mind giving away everything for free if I had another way to make money in doing so. I’m not some MP3 ripping group saying "INFO WANTS TO BE FR33!!1!!"
In a system where the music is free but the artist still makes enough money to support themselves (whether by live shows, advertising money, whatever business model you think of), the artist has more power. The consumer has more power. The only people who have less or no power are the record companies and distribution companies. While I would shed a tear for some of the distribution companies that have kept their nose to the grindstone for years, the record companies and their executives need to all retire to another line of work because, for at least 20 years they’ve done more damage to radio, TV, and music in general than help.
So, in speaking about the "online stores" of digital music, Gates and Jobs both imply to me that they don’t understand the new landscape of music, and that simply a "virtual" version of an outdated idea will not accomplish anything but prolong the ultimate resolution, or revolution, if you prefer.
Personally, I think actual CDs (or something similar that is tangible) have a better chance of outlasting digital stores than vice versa.
To the real question: who will win the war of the hardware, since some sort of digital, portable listening devices will be here to stay? Who knows. The popular answer right now would be the iPod of course, but I don’t think the answer is quite so simple as what has the head start. The iPod has a massive head start, and it’s seen as quite sexy, so the challenge for Microsoft would be to make something sexier while costing less – is it possible? Probably so, but Microsoft has never been that "sexy" a company with the possible exception of the X-Box.