The company that introduced Ellen Feiss to the world, Apple, became, within one week’s time, the largest on-line music retailer. Just days after the introduction of the 99-cent iTunes Music Store, Apple has had a reported one million purchases. What is all the more remarkable about this is that Apple represents only about 5% of the PC market and is perennially considered to be on the brink of corporate oblivion. But sticking with the method that the company started with—providing innovative products for people who care about innovative products—it has proven, once again, that better really is better and that people—some people—do care about quality, whether it is in product or process (which the iTunes store arguably is: the music is the same as that which can be otherwise obtained, but it is the whole interface and downloading process that Apple software developers have devised that make the difference).
What is somewhat telling about the way thinking tends to go on in most organizations—which isn’t nearly as clever as that as at Apple—is what’s reported to be occurring within some software development companies at the behest of some people within the recording industry. According to an article in the May 4, 2003, New York Times, “Software Bullet Is Sought to Kill Music Piracy” by Andrew Ross Sorkin, “Some of the world’s biggest record companies. . .are quietly financing the development and testing of software programs that would sabotage the computers and Internet connections of people who download pirated music. . . .” Download something that you’re not supposed to, and find your computer temporarily (or more) fucked up. Great. Sorkin observes that this covert action may not occur—or at least “parts of it” won’t—”because they could be illegal under state and federal wiretap laws.” Given the track record of corporations during the past 18 months or so, with major executives facing the opportunity to learn how to dance behind bars, presumably this illegality is not a big hurdle.
Sorkin describes one of the programs, “freeze,” which “locks up a computer system for a certain duration—minutes or possibly even hours—risking the loss of data that was unsaved if the computer is restarted.” Or consider this one, called “silence”: it “scans a computer’s hard drive for pirated music files and attempts to delete them. One of the executives briefed on the silence program said that it did not work properly and was being reworked because it was deleting legitimate music files, too.” Great. The Music Industry checking out and messing with what’s on your computer. People sometimes worry that the government has some sort of Big Brother mentality. What Eisenhower identified in the 1950’s as the “military-industrial complex” is obviously more of a threat.
There’s Apple. It has spent its time and money coming up with new and better ways and means. On the other hand, there are the Neolithic music companies, trying how to further alienate their customers. Clearly, stupidity is no barrier to getting influential positions within some brand-name organizations.
We’ve been discussing the Apple Music Store on the boards for a while already. Also, see Paul Robinson’s article about how mp3s can change your life. And don’t forget about Stephen Macaulay’s article about the significance of etching stuff onto an Apple product.