Mac Scope

Apple and Amazon or Apple vs. Amazon?

Stephen Van Esch - 2003.06.11

Is Apple in for a repeat of the computer revolution? The iTunes Music Store has lit a fire under the seats of a few big names. According to a Macworld UK article, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo are looking to get in on the music download act. Amazon, Viacom, and MTV are also mentioned as potential rivals in a CNN/Money article.

Apple beat this crowd to the punch, but it remains to be seen whether it can take on all comers. All the companies mentioned have excellent brands and clout. The iTunes Music Store showed them how it's done. Now all the competition has to do is discretely copy as much as possible without upsetting Apple lawyers. Sound familiar? As usual, Apple is ahead of the curve but it may be hard going to stay there.

Of all the potential competitors mentioned, Amazon (in my humble opinion) is the most likely one to make a serious dent in Apple's lead if it comes out with a similar service. Amazon has a built-in customer base that is used to buying things online. Amazon is a well-known brand. Most importantly, Amazon has a killer website that delivers exactly what users want in an efficient manner. Amazon is often cited as having the most usable, user-friendly, intuitive online sales system available. So good, in fact, that Apple licensed its 1-click technology some years ago.

This is why Apple should be nervous if Amazon is eyeballing the online music business. There are a couple of things that some competitors will be pretty much guaranteed to mess up. Microsoft would likely create bloatware that unnecessarily restricts users. AOL would likely tie the service to an AOL subscription - and with AOL subscribers dropping like flies, that won't be such a good idea.

Apple's main advantage in this arena is its ease of use. The Music Store makes it easy to buy music online. End of story. Amazon is the only company that can match or possibly surpass them on this front.

Of course, the tea-leave readers aren't really sure what's going to happen. The New York Post reported that Apple and Amazon are in "advanced talks" to make the Music Store available on Amazon.

This would probably be the best course of action for both companies. While Apple tried to go it alone in the desktop market, Steve Jobs seems to have a learned something of a lesson. Partnerships and losing some control might be a good thing in the long run. The Register has more on the possible Apple/Amazon partnership.

In any event, Apple is still doing what it does best - showing the competition how it's done.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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