TV-PGJuly 25, 2003: BuyMusic.com just keeps digging its hole deeper and deeper; now it's trying to keep out anyone who doesn't use Windows and Internet Explorer. Meanwhile, a switcher defends the "Switch" campaign's effectiveness even as Apple removes the ads from its web site, and Microsoft admits that the systems of about 27 million of its customers crash at least three times a day...
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BuyMusic Stupidthon, Day 4 (7/25/03)
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Aaaaand the BuyMusic.com fun train just keeps on chug-chug-chugging along-- although the company sure doesn't want Mac users to know about it. Faithful viewer Eric Beyer was the first of many to inform us that, all of a sudden, Mac users can't even access BuyMusic's web site, let alone buy anything from it. Since Buy.com bigwig Scott Blum is evidently Microsoft's happy little bondage slave and based his iTMS ripoff around the Windows Media format, it's well-documented that nobody can buy and play music from his service unless they're running Windows, Internet Explorer, and the latest version of Windows Media Player; however, until now, users of other platforms and browsers could at least take a poke around and see what they were, um, missing. What do you reckon, did Blum's web lackeys finally notice that half of the site's traffic was coming from funseeking Mac and Linux users who couldn't buy anything even if they wanted to, and were just there to see how badly it sucked?

For whatever reason, trying to load any page on the BuyMusic.com site with anything other than Internet Explorer on Windows now takes you to this page, which thanks you for visiting and then politely informs you that "in order to take full advantage of BuyMusic.com's offerings you must be on a Windows Operating System using Internet Explorer version 5.0 or higher." (We assume by "take full advantage of" they mean "look at anything other than this delightfully entertaining but admittedly minimalist error message.") It then provides a handy link so you can "Download Internet Explorer Here," even if you're using a Mac and it's just told you that it's therefore just not going to work no matter what browser you use. We don't know what genius came up with that idea, but clearly there's some degree of rocket science involved.

Interestingly enough, BuyMusic is redirecting users of "bad" browsers and operating systems via Javascript-- which means that if you're using a browser with a Javascript implementation that lets you change how it reports itself (such as OmniWeb), you can tell it to disguise itself as IE 6.0 for Windows and you're in. Otherwise, a method that should work in pretty much any browser (we tried it in a couple) is just to disable Javascript entirely. Once you regain access to the site, you're free to go hunting for the one song in 300,000 that actually costs 79 cents, laugh yourself silly at BuyMusic's byzantine and inconsistent license restrictions, or email customer service with a question. Personally, we asked them why we're no longer allowed even to browse their site from a Mac; you may choose to ask a different question, such as "how does it feel to have no shame?", "is it a condition of BuyMusic.com employment that you sell your soul to the Dark Prince?", or "how much of your company's time and money am I needlessly wasting by asking you this in the first place?"

Or here's a good question to ask, based on a tip from faithful viewer j79: "Given that your service can't sell music to Mac users in the first place and you've gone so far as to try to block Mac access completely, should we interpret not just the initial but the continued presence of a link on the BuyMusic.com home page inviting visitors to purchase Toast Titanium for Mac as a sign of congenital stupidity, or was your idiocy brought on later in life through chemical means or neurological trauma?" Feel free to paraphrase, of course. But remember, they're there to help, so if you've got something on your mind, ask away!


 
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What Constitutes Failure? (7/25/03)
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There's nothing worse than a bored analyst. (Actually, we've heard that exfoliating with a Brillo pad and then dunking one's head in a bucket of Tabasco sauce is pretty bad, too, but it's a close race.) See, whenever a Macworld Expo rolls around, analysts are used to being pestered by the press for their learned and lofty opinions on all the new stuff that Apple introduces; unfortunately, since last week's show was pretty lacking in that regard, the analysts were denied delivering their accustomed allotment of media quotes and sound bites. And then Apple's quarterly financial results revealed that the company had pulled in its highest revenue in three years, which means that the analysts also couldn't opine endlessly about Apple's falling revenue the way they so often do. Which means they had to fall back on attacking Apple's stagnant market share and announcing that the Switch campaign was a dismal failure.

The thing is, not everyone agrees. Take, for example, Jeremiah Cohick, one of "the" switchers-- meaning, one you've seen on TV talking for thirty seconds against a glaring white background. As pointed out by faithful viewer Scubus, Jeremiah essentially argues that "Switch" didn't fail because it did exactly what it was supposed to do, which, you may be surprised to hear, was not to get Windows users to set their PCs ablaze and hurl them out of the nearest window before running out and buying a Mac. Seriously, Apple's a realistic company, and it surely realized that very few people, no matter how cute and telegenic, could persuade anybody to do such a thing in just thirty seconds of airtime. (Well, okay, maybe Janie Porche.)

In Jeremiah's mind, the Switch ads existed primarily to drive non-Mac-user foot traffic to the Apple retail stores-- in part by revealing to Wintel users that Macs are compatible in Windows environments and can save them a lot of hassle, but largely by becoming a pop culture archetype. Everyone knew about the Switch ads; everyone talked about them, lots of people parodied them, and the cultlike adoration of Ellen Feiss alone probably gave Apple more visibility and discussion among non-Mac users than the entire "Think different" campaign and all the arguments it spawned about grammar. Given the breathtaking numbers Apple frequently trots out about how many people stop in at its retail stores and the fact that fully half of the Macs sold at said stores are being bought by defecting Windows users or first-time buyers, "Switch" should be considered a success as "part of an overall growth plan," despite the fact that Apple's market share hasn't grown in the year since the campaign debuted. You could also think of it this way: isn't it possible that without "Switch," Apple's market share last quarter could have been, say, 1.8% instead of 2.3%? Especially in an economy in which paying a little more for a better computer is a luxury fewer people can afford.

"Okay, fine," you retort, "if 'Switch' was such a raging success, then why the heck did Apple just pull all the ads?" Okay, true, MacMinute did report that Apple has, in fact, yanked all of the "Switch" TV ads from its web site, but there's a perfectly logical explanation for that: they're just out being cleaned. Besides, the rest of the "Switch" pages are intact, including all the stories, the Top 10 Reasons To Switch, the Guide To Switching, etc. In fact, we wouldn't be terribly surprised if a new round of "Switch" marketing were to kick off once the G5 is readily available (so that Apple can play up the performance angle) and Panther is shipping (given that Mac OS Rumors reports that it'll have "no less than a dozen" new Windows compatibility features: Mail and iCal reading Outlook meeting requests, TextEdit opening Microsoft Word documents, etc.). But don't hold us to it, of course. It's probably just wishful thinking because we so desperately want to see Feiss 2: The Bummering sometime before we depart this earth.


 
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But You Knew It All Along (7/25/03)
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Okay, it's not like we didn't suspect it pretty much all our adult lives, but it's a whole 'nother can of creamed corn when you hear your suspicions confirmed by the authorities themselves. The Mac Observer tweezes out an interesting nugget of info buried in a New York Times article about Microsoft's annual meeting for financial analysts: "Mr. Gates acknowledged today that the company's error reporting service indicated that 5 percent of all Windows-based computers now crash more than twice each day." More than twice a day. And suddenly this isn't just the paranoid delusion of a Mac fanatic; it's a cold, hard fact for the Windows users of the world.

So just how many Wintels are messing their shorts three or more times a day, you ask? Well, we're not entirely sure; Microsoft claims to have 600 million customers, though not all of them necessarily use Windows. Let's make a conservative estimate and assume that 90% of Microsoft's customers use Windows of some flavor. That would mean there are 540 million suckers using Windows, 27 million of whom, by the Billster's own admission, have computers that crash on average at least every eight hours. Meanwhile, Apple claims there are 25 million Mac users worldwide. Yes, there are apparently more Windows users rebooting crashed Wintels at least three times a day than there are Mac users total-- which, in one sense, is pretty sad for Apple, but in a larger sense is just plain pathetic for Microsoft.

Now, usually down here at the AtAT compound we feel pretty good about Apple's marketing folks, and frequently rush to their defense when others castigate them for being ineffectual. But in light of this new data originating from Microsoft itself, we can't help but rethink our estimation just a smidge; after all, Microsoft having 27 million customers that crash thrice daily is pretty darn bad, but if Apple can't persuade said customers that they'd be better off switching to a Mac, clearly something's very wrong. Surely it'd be like selling water to a man whose throat is a little dry and whose hair is on fire, no?

Unless, of course, we've finally stumbled upon the truth of Microsoft's inexplicable success and market dominance: most of the world's population consists of honest-to-gosh masochists. The reason these people aren't switching to Macs is because they have a deep-seated psychological need for the humiliation and defilement that only Windows use can deliver. What can we say? It's a sick world out there.


 
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