iTunes has been with us for over a decade now. It’s hard to remember life when “portable” music required physical media (CD, Cassette, Record, 8-track). While the video (see details to the right) is clever and funny it does bring home the point that things change, and change quickly. A decade is a long time for any technology and iTunes is no exception. While iTunes has grown to include movie and TV shows, iTunes Match and iTunes Radio, the fundamental push of iTunes is to buy something — after all it’s really an online store, somewhat disguised as a media browser.
However, the problem is that today’s youth don’t browse and buy, they stream. Streaming is the new way music is consumed, not purchasing. Pandora and Spotify were two entities that figured this out and have led this paradigm shift. Apple tried to respond with iTunes Radio, but if you do much searching or try it yourself, you’ll find that iTunes Radio is still a second place step-cousin to a quality streaming experience.
Apple is at a crossroads with iTunes. There have been suggestions that iTunes needs to be broken up into different media segments with a store for movies, one for TV shows, one for music and so on. While that probably should happen, it still doesn’t address the primary challenger to Apple’s iTunes revenue stream: purchased music. As streaming becomes more of the main stream, Apple needs to figure a way to disrupt that paradigm shift or join it. To join it, Apple should purchase Spotify or Pandora and roll it into its own streaming service — much the way Apple purchased Casady & Greene’s SoundJam MP back in 2000 to be the foundation for the original iTunes software on iPods and Macs.
By purchasing one of the big players that truly understand streaming, Apple would accomplish a few items: First, it would eliminate a major competitor stealing its iTunes sales. Second, it would get an infusion of technology that works and that people like. Apple can then work to make it better, folding into the Apple brand as being fun to use, and hard to live without.
A decade. It’s about 100 years in the technology world, and Apple really needs to rethink iTunes or it will soon go the way of the stage coach.
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