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March 12, 2009

What next for Spotify?

I, and I suspect everyone I’ve recommended it to, love Spotify.

It’s ludicrously simple, the adverts are reasonably unobtrusive, and it’s free.

But I can still hear the creaking of the floodgates. Spotify’s a step forward for making everything ‘free’ to the consumer, but I think there’s much more to come.

First up, a simple one: Spoken word. Spotify would be 100% better if it had comedy, drama and classic radio documentaries available. I suspect much of this material hasn’t been released on CD before because it wouldn’t be economic. Now it is. The long tail’s wagging and I hope BBC Worldwide et al will jump on board it soon.

Spotify logoSecond, a new medium altogether: Games. I’ve had a look, and unless I’m mistaken, there’s nowhere to rent PC games online. Even sites like Swapgame and Lovefilm will only let you rent console games. And then they choose to prop up Royal Mail rather than use something more modern like downloads. The idea of spending £35+ on a new game has always baffled me. My attention span isn’t long enough to justify that sort of outlay. And rather than a fee-paying model, why not rent the games out for free in return for some advertising?

Thirdly, a step onto other people’s turf: TV. Project Kangaroo’s skipped off into oblivion, and there’s still a big gap in the market for non-PSB online TV. Some services are on the cusp of getting it right – we have BT Vision and it’s great, if a little expensive. Surely the ad-funded model is the way forward?

The best thing about these ways forward, in my opinion, is that they could bring in much more money than just streaming music. There’s a lot of scepticism that an advert every 20mins will be enough to pay the conservative record companies what they want. Each of these three ideas depend on the support of industries who are likely to be much more open to ‘free’ than the music industry has been.

If I was Spotify, I’d Diversify.

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P.S. This article hints at Spotify trying to get on mobile devices. If I were working for Google, I’d be pushing Android to get exclusivity on it – it’d make the Apple. fall from its tree and splatter all over Cupertino.


September 12, 2006

iCrisis?

At the weekend, The Observer wrote that the iPod was losing its cool, saying the device was “too common to be cutting edge”.

Well Steve Jobs has hit back in the only way that Apple can: lots of new iPods. And I mean lots.

iPod ShuffleFirst up is the new iPod Shuffle, with 1Gb of memory. It’s that little grey square on the right. Yeah, it’s a lot smaller.

The iPod Nano comes in various new flavours (and up to 8Gb) while the main iPod is 60% brighter and comes as a 30Gb or 80Gb beast.

The prices have all come down as well, which made me think they were making room for a super iPod with full widescreen at around £300-400. But it appears they’re not ready for that yet (although it’s rumoured to be in development).

They’re also got something called iTV (working title, which is useful or they might have some Brits heading for the lawyers), which is going to be a box linking your PC/Mac to your TV. It’s a nice idea, but is hardly cool. If it included a hard drive and worked as a PVR as well, that’d be more like it.

I’m not an iPod fan for the reasons that the Observer mentioned – they’re just too ubiquitous, too simple (no FM radio) and evil when it comes to Digital Rights Management and moving your MP3s from one player to another and back again. There’s a sense that iPods are just a loss-leader, there only to make you spend more money on iTunes, rather than giving you some stuff that you’ll never have to pay for later (like the radio). I went for a Creative Zen Micro instead, and am quite happy with the choice.

But are Apple really in trouble as the Observer says? I don’t think so. Sure, they’re finding it harder to innovate nowadays, and the only changes they’re really making to the hardware has been the size of the hard drive inside it. Sure, you can download movies with iTunes (but only if you’re in America), but that’s software, and software isn’t cool.

iPod NanosThe reason people get so weak at the knees about a possible iPhone or a widescreen iPod is that they’re just such cool products that it’s amazing Apple hasn’t made them already. But I don’t think teasing us for a few more months – or years – is going to hit Apple’s bottom line too much.

Apple’s marketing budget is truly enormous, and Creative have proven – for me at least – that you can have a superior product at a better price, and still not be able to flog it.

But, there’s a development around the corner which might just put the cat among the pigeons, and not surprisingly, it comes from the ‘other’ Silicon Valley mogul. Microsoft’s Zune is out soon, and is expected to do everything an iPod can (and perhaps more, such as serious gaming). With Bill Gates’ billions behind it – and considering the recent success of the Xbox 360 – there’s no knowing how much damage it might do to iPod’s fortunes.


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