Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids
CDWow have started offering music downloads (Wow Tunes!). Centerstage on the promotional flyer was an iPod Shuffle, which is stupid because the entire download service is based on the platform by od2.com using Windows Media Player. You can’t even visit the download site without using IE6 on Windows.
Of course, you have to have some sympathy with CDWow: what other image could they use except an iPod? And herein lies the problem. The iPod isn’t too far away from being the next brand to crossover into general usage (like Hoover or Google). The only music downloads that work with the iPod are those from iTunes, and likewise with Windows Media Player and od2, etc. od2 don’t actually sell any music, they just provide a platform upon which other music shops can be created (like Wow Tunes!, mycokemusic, HMV, Virgin, Wanadoo, etc). We’re seeing a proliferation of online music shops based around Microsoft technology, which is soon going to make iTunes look like the odd-one-out.
Apple can leverage the domination of the hardware by the iPod to drive people towards iTunes. On the other hand, Microsoft can use their browser and operating system dominance to make Windows Media Player, and consequently their PlaysForSure players, the defacto music standard.
The question is, given that this situation is inheritly unstable, which one of them is going to control both markets?
update: it just occurred to me that maintaining dominance in the player market requires Apple to constantly innovate and satisfy the whim on the customer. It always needs to produce the best players. In constrast, maintaining dominance over the music format just requires Microsoft to have the most shops and the most artists.