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Well, iTunes may be doomed after all

"When music I'd purchased didn't appear on all my authorized machines, I wrote Apple customer support wondering why. The reply I received came close to accusing me of trying to steal music from the Music Store, and sternly warned me that, if I didn't back up my music and then lost it, I'd be hosed: Apple would not allow me to redownload the music I'd purchased in the past."

Bad, bad move on Apple's part. Their support desk should have it drilled into them that they'll be handling people who grew up with cassette tapes and CDR's - they will need to be taught Apple's approach to digital music.

Treating them like pirates from the get-go will simply encourage another large company to provide the service with a more customer-friendly approach.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Oops - link
http://reviews-zdnet.com.com/AnchorDesk/4520-7296_16-5102125.html?tag=adss

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Hmmm. I was under the impression you were allowed to download the same file a few times once you'd bought it.

anon
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

In their case they have taken the Store approach.  Once you leave, it is not our problem.

I would have thought they took the Ebook idea.  I need to identify myself uniquely and they know what music I can legitimately download.  Especially when you consider that at some point Apple will want me to upgrade.  Then what?  Pull the laptop drive out or sync over wire?

Yep, another good idea doomed by poor implementation.

MSHack
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

So, when you go to a bricks-and-mortar music store and purchase a CD, do you expect the store will let you walk out for free with another copy of the CD if you happen to lose it or destroy it sometime down the road?

You buy the song. If you lose it, you have to buy it again. Makes sense to me. Apple advises you to back up your purchased music, and a while back I wrote to Safeware, the computer insurance company, suggesting that they offer downloaded music insurance for people who buy a lot of music online and want to protect their investment. I don't know if they followed up with that.

Apple has most definitely thought through the process of upgrading computers, by the way -- I believe there are instructions on their site for how to "deauthorize" your old computer and "reauthorize" your new one.

Brad
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Okay, after 20 years of being able to play CD's anywhere, let's say you go to a store and buy a CD. On the way home you put it in your car CD player to listen to it. When you get home, it won't work in your stereo, boombox, or PC CD player.

You go back to the store to complain. This is when you find out it's a new "one device only" CD. But meanwhile the customer service person is asking if you shoplifted the CD, and she checks with her manager to see if she should notify the RIAA about your attempts to steal music.

The point is - the merits or drawbacks of the DRM scheme aside, is that a smart way to treat your customers? IMHO, if you're going to move forward with more restrictive DRM setups, you MUST be open and up-front with your clientele about how it works (see Philo's "Our sales would plummet" law). In addition, you must train your support staff to deal with people who aren't used to DRM - be pleasant, supportive, and offer to help.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Brad wrote: "So, when you go to a bricks-and-mortar music store and purchase a CD, do you expect the store will let you walk out for free with another copy of the CD if you happen to lose it or destroy it sometime down the road?"

No, I wouldn't, but your analogy is flawed because the cost to Apple of sending you another copy is approximately zero, and the whole point of services like iTunes is to make it as convenient as possible to legally purchase music so that you can listen to it.

Exception guy
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"No, I wouldn't, but your analogy is flawed because the cost to Apple of sending you another copy is approximately zero.."

The cost to a record company of producing a single CD is approximately zero as well. Not quite as close to zero as a song file, but in the accounting scheme of things, it's peanuts.

"... and the whole point of services like iTunes is to make it as convenient as possible to legally purchase music so that you can listen to it."

Right, they've done that. They just haven't made it easy to download the same file twice without paying for it twice, which is at it should be.

If you lose or corrupt one file, you're out $1.00. No biggie, buy another. If you lose a whole hard drive and you've bought $500 worth of songs, that's different. But it's YOUR responsibility, not Apple's, to be sure you made a backup of those files so you can have them again.

Brad
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Just to clarify my point of view - Apple has no *obligation* to provide good customer service. But providing poor customer service doesn't make good business sense.

That's why I say they're not going to make it - advertising may overcome bad buzz, but it's very hard.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

It's the labels, not Apple! Don't be pissed at Apple - don't you realize its a miracle they got the labels to co-operate at all? Ever wonder why it's been all these years and only now has anyone managed to get a legit download service up and running? The labels only agreed to let anyone download their precious music in file format exactly because Apple is sticking to their whims.

Any future iTunes competitor will be stuck with the same paraniod petrified Big Five labels, it's not bad "customer service" on the part of Apple.

Philo, what you want is the freedom of MP3s, so why are you even bothering with this licensed junk in the first place?  :)

dj lupo
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"Okay, after 20 years of being able to play CD's anywhere, let's say you go to a store and buy a CD. On the way home you put it in your car CD player to listen to it. When you get home, it won't work in your stereo, boombox, or PC CD player. "

Too bad it doesn't work like that anymore.  Copy protection sucks.  The last CD I bought won't play on my PC.  It sounds bad on a normal stereo.  Technically, it isn't even a CD. 

Even Microsoft gave up on copy protection - the research is a waste of money, and the end product is less useful.  The music industry will have to learn the same lessons the hard way, because they sure as hell won't listen to any techies anymore.

Scott Stonehouse
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

>Even Microsoft gave up on copy protection - the research
>is a waste of money, and the end product is less useful.

I don't know.  If you don't call their new "activation" scheme copy protection, what do you call it? Used to be, when you bought a Microsoft product, you could wipe your disk and reinstall the software as many times as you liked, and you could easily install it on a different computer when you replaced your old one.

Now, you basically get 3 installations on one and only one computer - and need to beg and plead for special permission to do any more, in the event of a corrupted OS install or a computer replacement - and you have no right to do so unless you are given special permission.

Furthermore, the crap calls home to MSFT to tell them what kind of computer you are running it on.

Sounds like copy protection to me, I don't know what you think.  Me, I'm sticking to Win2K and Office 2K just so that I don't have to worry about a system crash that I'll be unable to reinstall from.  After all, in a world where every jackass tech-support monkey is taught to have every customer reformat-and-restore for every trivial problem, it would be very easy to use up all my "legal" chances to install the software I'd bought - or did I buy it?  Perhaps I only rent it.

Trollumination
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

But you can backup the microsoft CD... there's no problem there...

Scott Stonehouse
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"The last CD I bought won't play on my PC.  It sounds bad on a normal stereo.  Technically, it isn't even a CD."

Take it back to the store and tell them it's defective and you want your money back.

Yes, I'm serious.  If people put up with this crap, they'll keep foisting it on us.  If people refuse to put up with it from the beginning, then they'll have to change.  Work your way up the chain of managers till you get what you want.

To illustrate: A while back my wife got me a CompUSA gift card.  When I unstuck it from its cardboard backing, I found that after x amount of time (a year or two), it starts losing money until it goes to zero.  Not acceptable.  So I took it back and politely explained that these were terms undisclosed at the time of purchase and I wasn't accepting them.  It took two or three levels of hierarchy, but I got our money back on a gift card that was supposedly not refundable.

(In fact I probably would have used the gift card in far less time than a year or two.  But a gift card that loses money if unused constitutes inherently damaged merchandise, and I won't accept it; it's disrespectful to me as a consumer.)

Kyralessa
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

A pretty good site outlining the issue.

http://www.fedge.net/emi/

Scott Stonehouse
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

>You go back to the store to complain. This is when you find
>out it's a new "one device only" CD. But meanwhile the
>customer service person is asking if you shoplifted the CD,
>and she checks with her manager to see if she should notify
>the RIAA about your attempts to steal music.

Yes, and your iTunes songs are three computer only songs. With a physical CD you can only use it at one place at the same time. With iTunes songs you can have them easily available in three locations PLUS AS MANY CDs as you care to burn and as many iPods that you own. I don't see how it's even close to a "one device only" CD. If you need quick portability, burn a CD or take the iPod. If you want it available on your computer, how many computers can you listen to at the same time??

>The point is - the merits or drawbacks of the DRM scheme
>aside, is that a smart way to treat your customers? IMHO, if
>you're going to move forward with more restrictive DRM
>setups, you MUST be open and up-front with your clientele
>about how it works (see Philo's "Our sales would plummet"
>law). In addition, you must train your support staff to deal
>with people who aren't used to DRM - be pleasant,
>supportive, and offer to help.

I agree that their customer support could handle this better.

Phil Larson
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Oh and I forgot to mention, you can move songs to another computer if you de-authorize them first. You aren't stuck after you've done it once.

Phil Larson
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

As for copying under the terms of fair use you can copy the physical CDs you buy for your own use (that's your own use, not your brother, sister or wife), whether that copy is for the convenience to play it in the car as well as the stereo at home without having to move it or whether its to back it up against the day the CD deteriorates.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Phil - I wasn't trying to say that's the way iTunes works. I was trying to make the point that when you try to change the rules, a wise merchant will be prepared for people to be upset and confused.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Philo, we don't have the exact quote, just Coursey's paraphrase.  Maybe he didn't explain the situation well.  And what were the exact words he construed to mean that he was being accused of piracy?

In other words, we only have one side of the story.

Jim Rankin
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

http://www.bigbluesmoke.com/

an article about another company that is doomed

Obvious
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Do you mean to say that Sun, who wrote the article is doomed? Or that MS, who the article is about is doomed?

On a related note, Apple had reports from testers throughout the testing cycle that Panther *destroys* external Firewire hard drives. They failed to fix the problem in time for release for whatever reasons, but they released it anyway (ie: wilful negligence). Now the fit has hit the shan:

http://www.macintouch.com/panfirewire.html

They've isolated it to a defective bridge component on the external, non-apple drives, but still, it wasn't a problem in previous releases.

I smell class action lawsuits coming. A lot of people have lot all their data. They do tell people to make backups before upgrading, but the problem is a lot of people backed up to their firewire drive.

Mac Fan
Thursday, November 06, 2003

Dealing with Apple is like walking down a dark street in a bad neighborhood at night. Always watch your back.

(and yes I own over $10k of Apple products...)

Dan Maas
Thursday, November 06, 2003

My sense is that Apple has been rushing out new hardware and software in order to keep up the buzz on the street, satisfy their investors, or both. But they're rushing at the expense of adequate QA/QC. The last three computers I've bought from Apple all had significant hardware defects, including my new PowerBook G4, whose screen latch won't stay closed. I haven't had any problems with Panther, but I've heard horror stories from others.

My advice with Apple is to wait for the second generation of any product before buying or downloading it. But the same advice goes for Microsoft, IBM, HP, and all the other makers of PC software and hardware. Hardly anyone gets it exactly right the first time. Software or hardware development is an iterative process. Some of the bugs get worked out in public.

Brad
Thursday, November 06, 2003

That, and iTunes loses money on each MP3 you purchase:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/33850.html

MR
Friday, November 07, 2003

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