Tin Ear

Last week, I said that Apple was giving away U2’s new album Sounds of Innocence, but noted that it had yet to show up in iTunes several hours later.

Now we know why it took hours to make it available: Apple didn’t put the tracks in iTunes with a price of $0.00, as they routinely do for giveaways. Instead, they actually sold the music to each of their approximately half a billion customers.

The move was billed, of course, as being customer-friendly: why should those half-billion customers have to search for the gift and go to the trouble of clicking the “Free” button?

Very nice of Apple, but as you may have heard, there are a lot of people out there who apparently hate U2 with a passion. Over the past week, quite a large cottage industry has developed in ways to get the offending music off of one’s computers and iGadgets. Apparently it isn’t as easy as one might hope to lose one’s Innocence, and Apple has been forced to put up a special help page to allow iTunes users to despoil their collections.

On one hand, I have trouble sympathizing with those who are upset. Dudes, it’s free music. Take a listen; maybe you’ll like it. If not, turn it off and don’t play it again. The worst case scenario is it costs you 48 minutes you’ll never get back. At the Federal minimum wage, that’s $5.80. Heck, tell you what: send me $5.22 and I’ll listen to Sounds of Innocence for you. That’s a 10% discount!

On the other hand, I also understand why people feel violated. By pushing U2 into everyone’s iTunes libraries, Apple has rather graphically reminded their customers who really controls “their” music. Under the circumstances, the album’s title reaches a level of irony only surpassed by Amazon’s removal of 1984 from their customers’ Kindle libraries*. Forcing the album into customers’ collections so that U2 can advertise “Half a billion served” does seem like a tactic better suited to burgers than music.

* Yes, the particular edition of “1984” was unlicensed and shouldn’t have been available for sale in the first place, but that’s beside the point here–we’re talking about the demonstration of just who controls the customers’ collection.

Apple has long been criticized for running a “walled garden” in which each of their gadgets and programs are designed first and foremost to work best with their other gadgets and programs, but it’s been a highly successful strategy. Their latest moves, assuming everyone wants U2’s album, requiring customers who want an Apple Watch to purchase a recent iPhone, and killing off the last non-iOS iPod, indicate that Apple is now putting a roof on that walled garden to prevent any escapes. “Think Different” is long-dead and there’s clearly no more room at Apple for anyone who wants to march to a different drummer. Casts a whole new light on the famous “1984” Mac ad, doesn’t it?

4 thoughts on “Tin Ear

  1. Ah, how well I remember, all through the 90s, feeling a constant, slightly smug, sense of superiority on many levels. I was a “Mac Guy”- obviously a member of a superior species. It’s true that, hey, I couldn’t multi-task for awhile, but….. Mac! Rainbow apple logo on my car! We had the Specialness of people who knew we lived on the moral high ground, though we tried to be kind to the plebes who used Microsoft products.
    Now, from my PC perch, out on a W7 limb, I look back, wistfully, on those days. Were we really special, or were we just being sold a load of road apples, even then? Only Steve knows, and (as always) he’s not telling.


    • Back in the day, those “Mac Guys” were a self-selected bunch. (Yes, obviously, I’m generalizing here. So?) They did their research, determined that Apple was obviously the best choice for their needs, and they committed themselves wholeheartedly.

      Today, Apple goes out and distributes free samples (iTunes is still free, remember) and then escalates. First they sell you an iPod to take advantage of iTunes. Then an iPhone. Then a Mac (because iTunes is much more stable and reliable on OS X than Windows).

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m not accusing Apple of doing anything unique. Google does the same thing. So does Amazon. Samsung puts their own twist on the technique by piggybacking on Google’s free offerings.

      Microsoft is about the only big company that doesn’t give away something significant free (though that may change with the purchase of Minecraft; we’ll see) and look where they are compared to the market leaders.

      As for Steve, well, he may actually be telling, but how would we know at this point?


  2. I knew this miserable day would come … Apple has killed the iPod Classic. Because, they don’t understand that yes, maybe I DO need 160 GB of room for my music. It purrs in my hand — that little whir of the tiny hard drive is like the purr of a micro-kitten or the spin of a record (for those who remember what records were … and did). And, when I’m done listening for the day, my Classic says goodnight by burping first, rumbling a bit, and then going to sleep (which, strangely, is also like a kitten). Can an iPhone do that? Well, even if it can, I don’t care. I’m hanging on to my Classic until it burps its last.


    • I hear you loud and clear. I’ve got a 160GB Classic myself, and the purring and burping are comforting in a “tactile and audio feedback” way.

      I’ve seen posts on how to replace and/or upgrade the hard drive in an iPod Classic, but it seems like it’s a process fraught with peril, due to the limited physical space available. I’m tempted to try to transplant mine into a small USB enclosure so space wouldn’t be as much of an issue. I might even be tempted to increase reliability by putting in an SSD instead of a rotating drive. I’d lose the sound effects, but I’d gain something in long-term reliability. Decisions, decisions…


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