Silly report prompts silly conclusions

Perhaps some of the Macalope’s readers from across the pond can tell him, is there something in the water over there? Or did Jonathan Ive do something really, really horrible that everyone in the UK hates him for and then have to flee to the U.S. and we just don’t know about it because we refuse to read the British press because of our fervent belief that Zed is a sodomist who is dead and not the last letter of the alphabet?

Via MacSurfer, the Macalope read Personal Computer World’s Clive Akass’ latest post on the iPod. Clive links to a PCW story on a recently released report by Jupiter Research that shows that just five percent of iPod tracks were purchased through the iTunes Store.

Now, before the Macalope goes off on Clive, it seems possible that the story Clive links to was subsequently changed because it’s very clear to the Macalope at least that what Jupiter is talking about is the total percentage of tracks on an iPod’s hard drive, not purchases.

From the story:

A survey by Jupiter Research has discovered that an average of just 20 tracks on an iPod are bought from iTunes – about five per cent.

From Clive’s post:

Figures from Jupiter Research indicating that iPod owners buy only five percent of their tracks from Apple’s ITunes online store…

The difference between “bought” and “buy” is rather important in this instance.

It seems rather unstartling to the Macalope that in the 3+ years of the iTunes Store’s existence that it hasn’t surpassed the 20 years of the CD or the orgy of downloading that took place during Napster’s heyday.

What would have been meaningful is a representation of overall music purchases, not music ownership, and the trend of online buying.

Even with the questionable meaningfulness of the statistic that drives the Jupiter report, there are some really odd conslusions they draw from it.

The report warns that the ‘free’ concept is still very important to most digital music users and advises that newer services should look into offering ad-supported ‘free’ services, like the forthcoming Spiral Frog service.

There are few problems with that. First, people’s time is not free. In fact, to many, it’s their most precious commodity. Second, another conclusion you could draw from the continued prevalance of music ripped from CDs is that people like to own their music and ad-supported services give you zero ownership. “Free” to digital music pirates also means “free to play anyway and anywhere I want.” Plus, the Macalope can’t help but wonder how that question was phrased.

“Hey, kids! Who likes free music?!”

“I do! I do!”

So, the report concludes that people prefer CDs (the most expensive option but it lets you do what you want with the music) and pirating (the least expensive option which also lets you do what you want with the music) to iTunes downloads.

It then recommends the most restrictive type of service currently imaginable, short of having to pay a dollar and watch an ad every time you want to listen to a song.

And get a punch in the gut.

People pay for this research?

But let’s get back to Clive because the Macalope knows you want to see how silly the rest of his post is.

Trust the Macalope. It’s very, very silly.

Neither will the iPod work with any online music store other than Itunes, which is rather like a CD player being restricted to playing disks only from the device’s manufacturer.

Clive could not have picked a worse analogy as the iPod actually will play music ripped from anyone’s CDs (with the possible exception of a smattering of DRM-ed CDs).

But, like it or not, in Apple’s business model, the iTunes Store is the handle and the iPods are the razor blades. Apple gets you in the door with that neat iPod all the kids are talking about and then wants to lock you in by getting you to buy your music off of iTunes.

Even so, it’s a rather velvety lock. You can always burn your songs to CDs and re-rip them.

The Macalope finds it odd that the people who complain about how restrictive the iTunes Store and the iPod are don’t complain at all about subscription models.  Or, for that matter, the Zune, which apparently doesn’t play PlaysForSure (antler tip to Daring Fireball).

The iPod bonanza, which has seen Apple sell 1.5 billion tracks online, is not going to last forever.

Hmm, yes, well that’s certainly setting the bar a little high. But the Macalope seems to remember this other company that’s held a lock on the PC operating system market for over fifteen years. No, that’s not an eternity, it just seems like it.

There are countless rival players that do not carry the same restrictions, and Apple has been slow to bring a portable video player or musical phone to market.

Uh, Apple release a portable video player almost a year ago. Called the iPod. Don’t let that whole thing about it not being the “true” video iPod fool you. It was, in fact, a video iPod.

And Apple is widely expected to release a music phone in 2007. As for that being “slow”, the Macalope remembers similar statements when Apple first released the iPod. But just like the MP3 player market in 2001, no one owns the music phone market right now.

The company could come badly unstuck if it tries to lock people into its video downloads when there are plenty of other sources available.

Yes, it would be a shame if Apple uses the same highly successful model with video that it uses with music.

If it starts to be perceived generally as being guilty of anti-competitive practices, it could lose some of the momentum it has gained over the past five years.

Ah, yes, the Macalope remembers when that happened to Microsoft and people took their copies of Windows to the ocean and threw them in to show their…

Wait a minute…

The Macalope is just a little uncertain why so many people think that what made Microsoft so successful will make Apple a failure. But they sure do think that a lot.

The silly cherry on top of this silly post is when Clive closes by commenting how fun it would be if Apple licensed OS X.

Fun for you, maybe…

  • Yuda:

    Furthermore, Mr. Akass is flatout wrong when he says “Neither will the iPod work with any online music store other than Itunes”.

    I get quite a bit of music online from It plays just fine on my iPod. Music from Magnatune also plays just fine. The “problem” is that music which is DRMed-to-the-moon-and-back from other online music store doesn’t play.

  • Here’s a conundrum for the Macalope….

    My iPod has about 20% of the music on it purchased from the iTunes store, by me, with my own money, yet the exact same 20% of music was downloaded illegally.

    Confused? Read on: To Steal or Not To Steal

    Ahh, what a funny old world we live in!

    (I’m hoping The Honorable Macalope allows URLs in comments.)

  • Hey, I just noticed, The Macalope enlarged the comments box.

    How we love The Macalope.

    Oh, and sorry for wasting space with a worthless comment!

  • John Muir:

    British Macalope reader stepping up to the hoof-toughened plate.

    Our press and our TV here are indeed really, really bad at high tech.  In fact let me rephrase that: a certain level of cute confusion and technopobia is more often than not the way these stories are presented with.  I think the new editors here in most national papers and certainly for the televised news including alas the BBC (who I otherwise really like), are convinced that technology is a turnoff to Johnny Average and that when they take the risk to even go there, it is essential to dumb it down like hell and/or insert good guys and bad guys and make it “dramatic”.  Note: Microsoft can be a baddie but Windows must not be criticised directly because it is on everybody’s computers.  No, seriously, every-body.


    About as technical an article as the BBC gets on comptuer security
    Does not mention Macs or Linux or indeed even Windows by name.  Yet the details mentioned are Windows specific.  People in the comments strike back with their own Mac and Linux notes.  But the editors pick out this true classic to keep it on message “Let’s face it, it’s new computer users who are the problem “.  Full time job in MS public relations for that man!

    And a rare article about Macs!
    Smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug!
    Well, thanks.  That was worth my time.  Glad I’m using such an obscure platform that even the malware industry doesn’t code for us!

    It’s not just Apple who get a bad press in our generally woefully inadequate mainstream press in tech stories.  Linux gets even less attention by and large.  The overall feel you get from it all is that you must be mad to use anything other than Windows, and yes, daily rituals are required to keep your machine from self detonating so please leave it to the children along with anything else with screens and buttons on it.

    Oh, but I forgot about iPod news.  Well, I’ll just note that the media loves the term “iPod generation”.  And they have a historic fetish for always supporting the underdog.  Refer to the abysmally poor editing standards and voila, the Macalope’s chosen story made 100% sense.  iPod = market leader = the enemy.  Zune = the knight in shining armour = victory for MS over Apple again, ooooh we could link that to the past and even conjure hyperbolae about opening OS X!  Pull it out of your backside reporting is de rigueur the moment facts and reason collide with lazy and prejudiced journalism.

    The sad truth is that we’re far from a techologically backwards country either.  A fair bit of our indy media including tech blogs and news sites are as good as anywhere else.  It’s just that our mainstream media seems to be undergoing some kind of collective midlife crisis of identity!  “Newfangled?  No!!  iPod?  DRM!  Zune?  Let’s just not mention that.  etc. etc.” ad nauseam.  I may sound like one of those tedious pundits moaning about media bias in America, but I think the Macalope and many others have started encountering the evidence in this case even while safely over the Atlantic.  It’s enough to drive a man online entirely, to American blogs (Daring Fireball and your very own, if I am right to presume) and French Mac News (Hardmac) … thank goodness for the internet!  Though I still admit to prefering our local coverage of world news…

    Hopefully there will be a generational shift sometime in the very tightly knit British TV and print media.  If not I can’t see an audience for this tripe as the years unfold and we’ve all left technophobia for the original Luddites.  Of course, “polemic” or more accurately “incompetent untruths dressed up as narrative” is a form likely to remain as long as journalists have fingers and editors crave audiences.  I can but dream of a decade or two from now when at least the lies have to be more subtle for anyone in their right mind to believe it at all.

    So, mobile phones give you cancer.  Do picture phones take your xray?
    No, they take your MRI.
    Oh, right.  My mistake.

  • Neil:

    Another Brit seconds previous comment.

    A good example now in video podcast form:

    iPod report starts at 13:22

    If y’all can’t understand the regional accent of the presenter, let me know and i’ll send in a transcript.

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