My Turn

Converting Windows Users with the iPod

Tim Nash - 2001.11.26

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

This article develops points made in iPod: More than an MP3 Player.

The iPod will only be a significant product for Apple if it sells in large enough numbers and brings Windows users and other new users to the Mac. Sure, Steve has mentioned looking at a Windows version of iTunes. After all, there is no point in putting off Windows users before they try the iPod, and the more of them that want to buy the better. However would a Windows version really benefit Apple?

So what are the costs involved? iTunes would have to be ported to Windows and be at least as good as other MP3 programs for Windows, even if the Mac version is better. Users would also need to buy a FireWire card if their PC didn't already have FireWire, and only a small proportion of PCs do.

Then there is the question of what varieties of Windows to support? While 2000 and XP should cover the vast majority of FireWire-equipped PCs, for the consumer market support for Me, 98, and possibly 95 would be needed. Then there would be the usual PC hardware support problems, in addition to Sony's powerless version of FireWire and all the varieties of FireWire cards and drivers. In the longer term, with XP there is also the problem of working with Microsoft's Digital Rights Management software - when will that prevent ripping disks?

So the Wintel version of the iPod would require substantial investment from Apple in a time of recession, when other initiatives such as an iPhoto would reinforce the strengths of iPod for the Mac market and as part of the digital hub.

However, Apple should look seriously at a low risk/minimal investment option. Let third parties hack a Windows interface to the iPod. Work with the third parties making MP3 programs for Windows. Give them any needed specs to allow them to do a decent job. As these won't be Apple supported, they will be considered, for what they are, alternative iPod programs and should be out there in reasonable time before too many iPod rivals appear. In these programs all the shortcomings will remind users of the advantages of Macs and not make them curse Apple for poor software (as we curse much of the software ported from Windows). Publicising these third party arrangements should also give iPod a sales boost as Wintel users will know that solutions for them are under way.

In this way the benefits of FireWire, instead of USB, will be promoted to the Wintel audience without the initial and long term costs of supporting that market. Of course all the users pay a small royalty to Apple and will only compare FireWire equipped PCs with Macs in the future, thereby increasing the value of the Mac package in their eyes.

So, how to convert these Wintel/iPod users to Macs? Remember many of them have struggled with their computer and think that they will have the same problems if they move to a Mac. Even worse, all that hard won knowledge will no longer be of any use and, because Macs are only a small part of the market, that knowledge will be harder to obtain from friends and colleagues. So they have to get their hands on a Mac and iTunes and then convince themselves that it's easy and better to move over.

Give them a voucher for 20 minutes use of a Mac in the outlet where they bought their iPod. Advertise it as more than long enough to download 1000 songs. Tell them how long it will take to rip a disk and that if they need more time additional sessions can be bought for maybe $2 each. Have an iPod center in each Apple shop, Apple dealer, and CompUSA outlet where there is an Apple salesman. Have a mix of Macs set up with iTunes and the simple set of instructions to use the software. Let the iPod buyers bring their CDs, rip, and download!

This will increase the store traffic in all Mac outlets, help to convince Wintel users to buy an iPod, and everyone who uses a voucher will discover for him or herself just how great Macs can be! Next time they buy a computer they will ask themselves if they want to continue with Wintel - and more and more of them will move over and push Apple back towards 10%.


Tim lives with his wife, her Web site on the area ariege.com, two daughters, two cats, and a dog in the French Pyrenees. He has worked for computer companies for more years than he cares to remember, lapsed for a while after the Apple II, but became a Mac fan when his wife introduced him to the IIsi.

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