Look Who's Buying What (2/1/05)

Oh, my my my-- how do you solve a problem like Maria? Or slightly more to the point, what do you do if you're the world's most powerful software company desperately trying to unseat your competitor from the digital music catbird seat by forcing your own proprietary music format on everyone through sheer market ooomph, but even your own employees opt for your competitor's tech instead of your own? Just think how the bigwigs in Redmond must feel; they sunk all that time and money into their insipid little "PlaysForSure" FUD campaign, and even people on their own payroll are passing up the dozens of WMA-based portable music players in favor of buying and using various iPods. Oooo, that's gotta sting.

No doubt you've seen it by now, but on the off chance you haven't, faithful viewer Xur and the Codan Armada alerted us to the existence of a WIRED article all about how "Apple Computer's iPod is wildly popular among Microsoft's workers"-- to the "growing frustration and annoyance of Microsoft's management." One "high-level manager" in Redmond estimates that 16,000 of Microsoft's 25,000 employees are members of iPod Nation, an intolerable situation that's got managers "increasingly sending out memos frowning on [iPod] use." Oooh, memos. We bet they were sternly-worded ones, too. Scary.

To appease management hysteria, some employees have reportedly taken to putting their 'Pods into "stealth mode" and wearing less conspicuous headphones while grooving on Microsoft's campus, but evidently the one thing they won't do is toe the party line and ditch the iPods for WMA alternatives. Indeed, if anything, the reverse scenario is happening far more often; the same manager claims to have "heard from several executives who dutifully bought Microsoft-powered players, tried them, failed to get them working, and returned them in favor of an iPod." Redmond, we have a problem.

So it sounds to us like Microsoft is getting a little nervous about the Format Wars, having witnessed so many of its own troops succumb to the enemy. Apple, on the other hand, must be giggling like a schoolgirl; when your biggest ideological competitor turns out to be cutting paychecks to so many people buying and using your product instead of their own, clearly you're doing something very, very right. Here's hoping that consumers at large stay at least as smart in their digital music player purchases as Microsoft's own employees seem to be.

By the way, the backlash from those media pundits who happen to be proud members of Bill's Bootlickers Brigade is immensely entertaining, so poke around a little and listen to them sputter apoplectically about WIRED's shoddy reporting and lack of evidence-- it's fun. The single best moment, though, definitely comes from our ol' buddy Paul Thurrott of "Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows" fame; as noted by faithful viewer Macintosah, at "Paul Thurrott's Internet Nexus" he froths uncontrollably for nine paragraphs before offering up this gem of irony: "I'm tired of this style of journalism. People like [WIRED columnist] Kahney just demean my profession."

Uhhhh, yeah. This from a guy who, just to pick a single handy example, blithely editorialized in his "reporting" by referring to "Microsoft's superior Windows Media Audio format" as he claimed that Hewlett-Packard's deal with Apple was predicated on the condition that Apple add WMA support to the iPod by mid-2004. HP more or less proclaimed him to be a raving loony, and a dead wrong one at that (and so did history, since mid-2004 is long gone and iPods are still WMAless); so we suppose that if anyone knows about shoddy journalism and the hazards of single-source reporting, well, that'd be Paul all over...

SceneLink (5162)
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The above scene was taken from the 2/1/05 episode:

February 1, 2005: Word has it that Microsoft employees are all about the iPod-- and management is none too thrilled. Meanwhile, availability of iPod shuffles and Mac minis is even worse than we could have possibly imagined, and Apple Korea attempts to bring the iPod above its less-than-1-percent market share by slashing prices and inciting a price war...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 5163: Where Da Tiny Things At? (2/1/05)   So much for things being different this time around, right? We know we've already raised the subject of the iPod shuffle's demand exceeding its supply by insane degrees despite Apple's valiant attempts to avoid repeating last year's iPod mini debacle, but we'd really hoped it was just a launchtime bubble that would flatten out in a week or two...

  • 5164: Are You Sure This Is Apple? (2/1/05)   These days it seems like everyone you see is sporting an iPod of some flavor-- that is, unless you happen to live in Korea, where white earbuds are reportedly about as common as forehead tattoos of the haunting visage of the late great Jim Varney...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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