Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Apple - Got to Get You into My Life

"Say we'll be together every day..."


Apple_Apple.jpg

Image courtesy of ECommerceTimes




How much do you want to bet - how much do you want to bet - that this will be Apple's new tag line, now that they've made peace with Apple Corps?

It's not such a big leap - think about how nicely it would fit, giving the Beatles estate yet another generation to pass its great music along to, and in such a cool, accessible, youth-friendly format. How can this not happen? All together, and slowly now..."All we are saying..... is give this a chance........"

I'm in Apple overdrive right now, mainly due to a couple of posts from Andy Abramson's blog. Stick with me here, and I'll try to weave all these threads into something good.

Let me first get to Andy's post about Apple and Cisco, and then I'll come back to what I just started. I think this was posted Sunday night, and when I read it, I said to myself that I need to leave a comment on Andy's blog. It really hit a chord for me, as I've been writing/commenting recently along similar lines. Andy - I tried twice to register so I could leave a comment there, and twice I just couldn't get this to go. So I was going to email you about this, and then I get wind that your post is getting some nice attention, and this great citing in NetworkWorld.

Well, with all that out there, I figured my own post would be the best way to support you. In short, I basically agree with Andy's position - both Apple and Cisco are oil to Microsoft's water. So, they have a common purpose - on a number of levels. Apple, primarily for the hearts, minds and wallets of PC users, and Cisco for both control of the enterprise and our TVs at home. And yes, the iPhone could be Apple's entree to the enterprise market, which Cisco could really help fast track. But I'm not so sure iPhone can really compete against RIM et al.

It's also interesting that both companies have recently done some repositioning of their monikers, with Cisco dropping "Systems", and Apple dropping "Computers" from their respective names. Both are very savvy companies for sure.

Regardless, I think there's another layer to this story, and one that will help get the iPhone trademark issue settled so the universe can unfold as the cybergods wish it to be. And it has little, if anything to do with the iPhone.

There's something bigger that Apple has that Cisco craves. It doesn't come from picking up a Linksys router at BestBuy, and it doesn't come from watching John Chambers hold court. And it's getting more valuable by the minute. It's the cool factor. Apple is cool - always has been, and they're cool with the audience that matters the most long term - the youth market.

Cisco will continue to make tons of money with routers and switches, but they paid a lot to acquire Scientific Atlanta, and the real prize is control of the digital home. And Apple owns the youth market, well, just like Cisco owns the enterprise market. My view is that Cisco wants to make nice with Apple not for the iPhone, but for Apple TV. Remember - that was the other announcement they made at MacWorld. Apple understands how to create the kind of end user experience that wins markets. Cisco can enable some of these pieces, but Apple is what makes it cool. And cool is what kids buy.

No doubt the iPhone gets everybody talking, and sure the Apple stores and the broad Linksys presence in big box stores would give them a huge footprint. And sure, turning your Linksys router into an iTunes jukebox to play your music anywhere in the house is fun. These alone could be enough. But I think video is the bigger - untold - story that's really bringing Cisco to the table. What Apple has done with music, they are now poised to do for video. It won't be easy, but they're in as good a position as anybody. And it doesn't hurt to have the Beatles on your good side. And Cisco has way too much at stake to be cut out by Apple. I think they need Apple in a big way here.

To close out this mode of thought, I wanted to come back to the image that's at the top of this post. I think it's really neat, and for me, it nicely captured what I was thinking with these two Apples.

Just as much, though, it's quite similar to the image that came to mind for me when commenting on AT&T's Unity plan. It just struck me then that the Apple and AT&T union - via Cingular - sure put Apple in pretty high company.

appleatt2.JPG





I'm just mentioning this because it could become another piece of the puzzle, especially if the iPhone/ATT&T relationship goes well, and moves beyond voice into IPTV. Then things could really get interesting.

Enough for now.

One last quick thought on the iPhone, and why they launched when they did. Aside from upstaging CES, it set the bar real high for the vendors announcing their new models this week at 3GSM. After all, being a GSM phone, iPhone is a global product, and ultimately they want to play on the 3GSM stage. North America is not the end game for iPhone, and by launching so soon, it buys Apple some time to see what's coming from Europe, and possibly re-tool. Andy gave a hint of what's being announced at 3GSM yesterday, and I'm sure all the GSM vendors are wondering how much a threat iPhone really is.

And just before I go, and to bring things full circle with Apple and the Beatles, I wanted to comment on yet another Andy post - one that's been getting a lot of attention. This is Ted Wallingford's post about iTunes.

There's definitely merit to the idea of using iTunes as a platform for launching new music, much like YouTube is doing for home-grown - mostly crappy - video. To some degree I agree with Andy, Ted, Alec and others, and with music being my biggest passion, I should probably have a separate blog for stuff like this. Basically, all the pieces are there for iTunes to do this, and if Steve Jobs has his way in dispensing with DRM, then there's nothing getting in the way.

Well, except for the most important ingredient - the music itself. And, as Andy points out - the old guard. They're not about to give up on their PSTN and legacy networks, so to speak. That's a long term transition. That aside, it's about the music. When things are free or almost free, and self-produced - you get what you pay for. It's a bit like the hangups that journalists have with bloggers. They would say we're amateurs, we're not objective, we don't check our facts, we're not accountable to editors, etc. It's the same with music, and it's exactly what you get with YouTube.

If you remove all of the professional infrastructure and know how of the business, I don't think you'll get a very good product that will hold the public's imagination. Yes, you'll get tons of very niche music that appeals to a very narrow audience, and no doubt there will be good music in there. But ultimately, if you create a free-for-all, that's what you'll get. Most people just don't have the bandwidth to wade through all this just to find some new hot tunes. It won't take long for Google to come up with search algorithms that will guide us through this new universe to help identify songs or bands we think we may like.

I think you can see where I'm going, and I'd better stop. The Grammys on Sunday have put me in such a bleak mood about the state of popular music, I'm having a hard time seeing how iTunes can be our savior. Believe me, I sure wish it would. Thinking about the music giants we lost last year - Ahmet Ertegun, the Godfather, Ruth Brown, etc. - and what's out there now - it's just hard to see if there's a corner for music to turn. Ever since MTV, when we stopped listening to music and started watching music, the experience has completely changed, and music has really become a visual medium.

And on that note, I'll just say one more thing related to Ted's post. While iTunes could help reinvent - or even reinvigorate popular music, if I'm Steve Jobs, and if I had to choose between investing in this path, and making a deal with Apple Corps to license their catalog on iTunes, it's a no brainer to me. Maybe he'll do both, but judging from the music that's out there today and the enduring quality of the Beatles ouevre, I don't think the indie approach stands a chance. The Fab Four is safer, surer, better and after all, he's in the business to make money, not music. We all love music, but making money at it is another story.

"When I find myself in times of trouble..."



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1 comment:

ipcom said...

Posted by: gzino

Re: your solid Cisco analysis - Cisco recently acquired Five Across - could be a step in the direction that you outlined.