Home > Uncategorized > Is Apple Music The Next Maps?

Is Apple Music The Next Maps?

Summary

  • Blogger Jim Dalrymple has complained about losing his music library as a result of Apple Music.
  • Some are likening the “failure” of Apple Music to the Apple Maps fiasco.
  • The negative PR may depress Apple shares in the month of August, but this should turn around due to new products in the December quarter.

Last week, long time Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) bloggers Jim Dalrymple and John Gruber went online to complain about Apple Music. Dalrymple complained that an entire library of over 4000 songs had been wiped out by Apple Music. Gruber chimed in, “iCloud Photos gets right everything that Apple Music gets wrong.” While the problems with Apple Music may not be as serious as claimed, they add to the upswell of negative Apple sentiment following its June quarter earnings report.

A New Fear of Music

Dalrymple’s account of his Music experience appears in loopinsight.com, and has already been reported and elaborated on as in this Business Insider article. Dalrymple is no Apple-hater, yet his frustration with Music is palpable:

As of today, I’m missing about 4,700 songs from my library with little hope of getting them back.

I had high hopes for Apple Music. I really wanted it to work and become my default music streaming service, but after the problems I’ve experienced over the last couple of weeks, I’m disabling it altogether.

. . . While Apple Music Radio and Playlists worked well, adding music to my library is nothing short of a mind-blowing exercise in frustration.

The Business Insider article is typical of the kind of gloating condemnation we can expect in the tech media. BI quoted Anil Dash, described as a blogger and entrepreneur:

If someone as expert as [Dalrymple] is this flummoxed, that puts Apple Music on par with Apple Maps as a failure of user experience

In fact, Maps is not the failure that has been portrayed in numerous articles in the business media. As made clear at this year’s WWDC, Maps is now used 3.5 times more frequently by iOS users than Google Maps. But the quote shows how this is going to be spun.

A couple of days ago Forbes published Frustration And Anger As Apple’s Reputation Tumbles, recounting the various problems Apple has had in the past year, such as WiFi issues in OS X on up to the post by Dalrymple.

Dalrymple subsequently reported that he had gotten most of the “lost” music back, but it took a visit to Apple headquarters to do that, and he’s still missing a few hundred songs.

The Gruber Diagnosis

Gruber quotes iOS developer Marco Arment’s view of Apple Music:

iTunes is designed by the Junk Drawer Method . . . I have plenty of plausible theories on why iTunes didn’t get the iCloud Photos treatment – why Apple Music was bolted onto this ancient, crufty, legacy app instead of discontinuing iTunes, dropping its obsolete functions, and starting fresh with a new app and a CloudKit-based service. (Engineering resources, time to market, iPods, Windows, and people with slow internet connections.)

A quick perusal of Apple’s support pages seems to confirm the diagnosis of Arment and Gruber. iOS device users got a unique standalone Apple Music app, while Mac and Windows users got Apple Music integrated into a new version of iTunes. There are problems across the board with Music, but Mac and Windows users seems to be having the most problems.

Clearly the decision to integrate with iTunes was marketing driven. Apple could use its existing iTunes customer base to promulgate Apple Music more widely than just the iOS device world. The clean sheet approach would have yielded a better app, but it would have been an app that many iTunes users would have ignored.

Testing Failure

As undesirable as integration with iTunes might have been, that isn’t where the real failure lies. Apple’s software deployments, such as its major OS upgrades, increasingly betray a lack of testing. Software testing is increasingly important as operating systems become embedded in larger service ecosystems.

Developers don’t like to do testing. We’d rather develop cool new features. The kind of thorough ringing out that good testing performs seems almost destructively sacrilegious. That’s why major software companies maintain separate organizations who’s sole purpose is testing (otherwise known as software quality assurance). Testing is necessary because the developers are such lousy testers. Everything a developer produces has bugs. Always.

Software QA seems to be getting short shrift these days at Apple. Probably it’s a growth thing. But if Apple can’t perform adequate testing, then they need to do what competitors such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) are doing. Microsoft has been holding a protracted beta for Windows 10, letting volunteer “Windows Insiders” do the testing for them. Apple has been doing something similar for the upcoming iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan releases. Beta testing works.

Why didn’t Apple release Music as a beta? Apparently whoever was in charge thought Music was good to go. I hope that wasn’t Iovine. It shouldn’t have been his call. He’s not a software guy.

Why the Hurry?

Increasingly, Apple seems to be in a hurry when there’s no discernible reason. Perhaps it’s to counteract the appearance of a lack of agility that goes with being so big. Whatever the reason, Apple’s premature release of products, whether Maps or Music is only premature, not failure. Software can always be fixed. It may not be pretty under the hood. It may not be the clean sheet that Gruber would want. But iTunes + Music can be made to work, and I’m sure it will eventually.

The real problem here is not the impact to Apple’s customers. Probably all the problems and frustrations reported by bloggers and visible on the support forums is just a small fraction of the overall experience people are having. The real problem is that the media run with this as confirmation of the “Apple Is In Decline” view.

It’s hard to quantify the impact of such missteps, but I’m sure there is one. How better to explain the market’s reaction to the recent earnings reports of Apple and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). As Philip Elmer-DeWitt has pointed out, Apple grew faster and had much more profit than Amazon in the June quarter, yet Apple tanked after its earnings release while Amazon soared.

Apple is viewed as much more vulnerable to its own judgment. Apple’s success is viewed as dependent on its judgment about the products and services it provides. If Apple makes a mistake, if Apple doesn’t design the next hit product, it’s viewed as potentially catastrophic.

Apple isn’t really as vulnerable as that, but there is a heavy dependence on iPhone, which makes people nervous. Apple’s attempts at diversification have been a mixed bag. Apple Pay has been impressively free of stumbles. Apple Watch seems very hurried in retrospect, with not enough product available from the beginning. Apple Music also seems to have been very rushed.

Apple’s need to diversify makes it all the more imperative to get its diversification efforts right from the start.

Investor Takeaway

Apple’s image will suffer as a result of Music in the short term. Probably, this will keep the stock depressed through the month of August. Every time Apple stumbles, it’s always the same story: how the mighty are fallen.

Long term Apple investors have learned to weather such storms, but those with a shorter investment horizon will probably bail out of Apple, further depressing the stock. Once again, I regard any such fluctuations as a buying opportunity.

This Fall is shaping up to be a particularly good one for Apple. Apple Watch will be everywhere in the U.S. as Best Buy starts to offer it. The new iPhone 6S will be available. There will probably be a new Apple TV as well as a new larger screen iPad Pro. iOS 9 and Mac OS X El Capitan will arrive, probably with resolutions for most problems with Apple Music.

The product pipeline for Apple going into the December quarter looks fuller than it has in years. Investors who weather the Apple Music PR storm will be well rewarded by the end of the year

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