TV-PGOctober 20, 2003: The naysayers keep saying nay, but Apple announces a million downloads of iTunes for Windows and a million songs sold in just half a week. Meanwhile, Steve has a chin-wag with Newsweek about competing with Microsoft and why the iPod is actually dirt-cheap, and cut the disrespect, because those iPod silhouette dancers have names, you know...
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Doomed; DOOMED, We Say (10/20/03)

Welcome to Week 2 in the era of iTunes for Windows, and the weather is still a little stormy, but there are signs of sunshine on the horizon. Sure, Apple's support forums for the Windows users are just a little more active than is probably healthy, but after poking around a bit we found that there are quite a few occurrences of "I love iTunes!" sentiments interspersed with the "iTunes erased my hard drive, shot my dog, set fire to my car, spat in my Frosted Flakes, and won't even play my WMAs" complaints. And heck, as faithful viewer Mike "Bear" Walsh points out, at least there's a glowing review for the nerd set over at Slashdot.

Meanwhile, USA Today writer Jefferson "Where's my clue? Has anyone seen my clue?" Graham has published his own tepid review of the software, one that's admittedly far more well-reasoned than the ignorance he spewed in a chat session last Thursday after spending a maximum of 90 minutes "researching" the software. By the way, we were right about the cause of his incessant error messages; he had been trying to play purchased songs on a Thinkpad that wasn't connected to the 'net and therefore couldn't be authorized. Despite his insistence that iTunes for Windows contains no information on how to authorize a computer, faithful viewer Jeremy Boyd verifies that it's right there in the Help, just as it is in the Mac version. So much for "investigative" journalism. (And yes, we're more than a little disturbed by the Kafkaesque notion that we successfully troubleshot a problem with a remote Wintel. "When the AtAT staff woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, they found themselves changed in their bed into monstrous MCSEs...")

So how does the maker of Windows feel about iTunes and its Music Store's invasion of its platform, especially since the software, the service, and the iPod all blatantly lack support for Microsoft's Windows Media format? Well, apparently the company's just a mite uneasy about the whole thing; faithful viewer Gabe Roth pointed out a Microsoft PressPass interview with Dave Fester (Nepotism alert! Faithful viewer Paul Marshall asks, any relation to Microsoft's CEO Uncle Fester?), General Manager of the Windows Digital Media Division-- yes, Microsoft interviewed itself-- which, aptly enough, gives Windows users guidelines for "choosing a digital music service." Gee, and the interview is dated the day before iTunes came to Windows. What an incredible coincidence!

Predictably enough, Fester trashes the iTMS after answering "interview questions" obviously scripted for maximum anti-Apple propaganda. First he gushes over the "broad choice of innovative and appealing legitimate music services" (cough) now available to Windows users and makes a rash of statements like "what I think is great about most of the new services available on Windows is that being built on Windows Media enables such amazing choice." (Indeed, you get your choice of Windows Media, Windows Media, or even-- believe it or not-- Windows Media!) Then comes the slag: "iTunes captured some early media interest with their store on the Mac, but I think the Windows platform will be a significant challenge for them... iTunes will remain a closed system, where iPod owners cannot access content from other services... [and] users of iTunes are limited to music from Apple's Music Store." Ah, so this is what Microsoft considers "Information for Journalists."

So Apple's gonna have a tough time with iTMS for Windows, hmmmm? Gee, that's funny, because faithful viewer mrmgraphics forwarded an Apple press release announcing that Windows users downloaded over a million copies of iTunes in the three and a half days since the software's release. Apple also sold a million songs in that same half-week time period, compared to a million songs in a full week when the Mac-only iTMS debuted. Let's work a few numbers, shall we? Two weeks ago the iTMS had 70% market share of all legal music downloads, and Apple says that it's been selling about 600,000 songs a week. That would mean that all legitimate Windows-compatible music download services combined sold about 260,000 songs that same week. Meanwhile, Apple just sold a million songs in half that time-- if we ultra-conservatively estimate that only a quarter of those were bought by Windows users, then the iTMS still sold twice as many songs as every other service combined during the same time period. Man, what a dismal failure, huh?

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We Have The Technology (10/20/03)

Is it just us, or does anyone else find it a little spooky that the CEO of Apple Computer, Inc. can be interviewed by Newsweek (however briefly) and never once be asked about the Mac? And isn't it even spookier that, whether he was asked about it or not, Steve Jobs didn't even mention the Mac-- not once, in answers to seven questions? It's no joke, kiddies; Halloween came early this year, and Apple is in full costume as a music technology company; any semblance of its secret identity as a mild-mannered maker of personal computers got checked at the door.

Or is it a costume? Dunt-dunt-dunt-dunnnnnnnnnnn!

It's true; "the music thing" is a bigger and bigger part of Apple's identity, and the company's involvement with digital music is slowly becoming completely uncoupled from the Macintosh-- first with Windows-compatible iPods, and now with iTunes for Windows and a platform-agnostic music store. So it's not exactly a surprise that Newsweek wouldn't ask Steve a single Mac-specific question, but it still gives us the heebie-jeebies. Still, it's worth facing your fear and reading the interview, because it's fascinating to get a little more insight into this whole music push from Steve's perspective.

For one thing, there's his take on the competition: eventually it'll all come down to Apple vs. Microsoft, says he-- which shows you just how scared he is of the BuyMusics and Napsters of the world, i.e. not freakin' much. He is, however, justifiably a little edgy about having to go head-to-head with Redmond on the downloadable music front, and says "maybe Microsoft will decide not to [sell music online]. They don't compete with eBay, they don't compete with Amazon, they don't compete with a lot of people." Of course, you just know that Bill Gates is reading that right now, slapping his forehead, saying "Duh, eBay! And Amazon!" and adding a couple of rows to the end of CRUSH_EM.XLS. Here's hoping that Apple's strategy amounts to more than, in Steve's words, "maybe if we're lucky..."

On the topic of the iPod's $300-to-$500 pricing, we get this gem: "No, of course I don't think it's too costly." (This coming from a billionaire, of course.) "Fifty million homes have DVD players that cost that kind of money." That kind of money, sure, Steve-- green and wrinkly with ugly dead guys on it-- but maybe not quite that much of it. Sure, really good DVD players can cost $300, $500, and way more, but we're guessing that plenty of those fifty million homes have sub-$50 models they picked up at Costco. And yes, there are indeed "sneakers that cost more than an iPod," but there's also a bra that cost $2 million more than Steve Austin-- that doesn't mean we can all afford to dash out and get bionic legs that make that neat sound when we jump really high in slo-mo.

But lord bless 'im, the man hasn't lost touch with the little people: "We'd love to have a $100 iPod! We just don't know how to do it right now. We're constantly trying to make cheaper iPods. We're working on the next step." Psssst, Steve! Here's one way to go about it: 1) Make a $299 iPod. 2) Cut its price by $199. There's no step three!

(Oh, we're sorry-- did you mean a profitable one?)

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They Shall Overcome (10/20/03)

Just a quickie, here, folks, in the vein of a public service announcement. We've noticed an alarming trend among the general population to marginalize a very visible minority in our community: iPod Silhouette Dancers. You know 'em, you love 'em, you see 'em on TV, but gosh darn it, you haven't got the faintest clue of what to call 'em. "Black" is sort of taken. "Detail-challenged" sounds a little bit too politically-correct and condescending. "Shadow puppets"? That's... that's just wrong on so many levels. And if anything, it gets worse when you try to refer to a specific dancer: "Hot Pink Afro Lady," for example, is not a respectful appellation. At least, not by most standards.

So what should you be calling them, you ask? Well, how about their names? Yes, they have names-- they're people, too, you know, and only by using their names can you give them the respect they rightfully deserve. For instance, you really shouldn't be referring to this gal as "Green Chick with the Hair," because 1) you're making her sound like a William Shatner love interest, and 2) that's not her name. As faithful viewer Michael Cutts points out, "Green Chick with the Hair" is actually Sophia. Likewise, "Yellow Guy with Dorky Hat" is really Lee, "Disdainful Pink Lady with Bracelets" is Melissa, and "Purple Dude Looking at the Goodyear Blimp" is Emory.

So there you have it; they're real people with real names, just like the rest of us-- only with maybe a little more rhythm and a little less depth and variation of hue. Shamefully, Apple has seen fit to publish the names of only those four dancers from the print ads; the ones in both TV commercials remain unidentified and therefore objectified by society at large. Here's hoping that Apple does the right thing and lets us place names to faces-- er, shapes-- so that we can start appreciating the silhouette dancers for what they really are: real people who live, love, and squabble over who used the last of the matte-black body paint... just like everyone else on this big, beautiful planet. Hug one today!

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