Wednesday, April 26, 2006
"You Have Killed Me!"
In the early 1980's, The Smiths led the dark side of the New Wave scene with songs about self loathing, impending doom and personal disconnection. Lead singer Morrissey often boasted in song of his chronic broken heart due to his obsessive, misguided attempts at romance and general unloveability.
Morrissey's despair became a running joke among Smith's fans and became the trademark that followed him into his solo career. On Morrissey's new solo album, "Leader of the Tormentors", he continues the legacy of creating catchy, pop songs about the seedy side of the human spirit. And setting himself up as a sacrificial lamb at the altar of love.
He croons, "I walk around somehow but you have killed me, you have killed me" on the standout track, "You Have Killed Me". A tongue-in-cheek hit that proves this sad dog hasn't lost it's bite.
In support of the new album, The Smiths' former frontman has started a 38-date world tour where tickets for the UK shows sold out within 20 minutes.
For the sake of fans and music lovers, let's hope Morrissey never finds the elusive happiness he so desperately seeks.
Posted by C at 12:20 PM
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Before you purchase an iPod consider the potential downside. Once you are an Apple customer, your dependence on them may work against you.
iPod- a word that was practically unheard of five years ago has so thoroughly become part of the common vernacular it hardly needs explaining. For those living in a cave since 2000, the iPod is Apple's wildly successful MP3 music and video storage device. The iPod is high tech, easy to use and beautifully designed. While Apple sells these units by the truckload, the real profit is in selling CONTENT for them. That's where Apple's iTunes Music Store comes in. And where the trouble begins.
Content Is King
Recently, Apple's iTunes Music Store celebrated its one BILLIONTH download to iPod users across the globe. Apple's success, as a result of its progressive technology, has its stock shares riding high as smiling executives and investors calculate their rising profits.
Per their recent marketing campaigns, Apple would have you believe that their system is infallible. Get an iPod, download some music and you too can tune out the world, dancing and roller skating through life without a care. But a closer look at the operation of Apple reveals that your gleeful listening experience may be stopped suddenly and without notice.
Is Anyone There?
When you have a problem with your iPod, Apple computer or other hardware, Apple offers person to person, technical support over the phone. And although you will likely end up spending several times what you paid for your iPod on iTunes music, customer support for iTunes is practically non existent.
You may experience trouble with iTunes downloads, for instance. If you call Apple, they will direct you to email your problem or question to the proper iTunes department. It may take several days for you to get an email response. That response, when it arrives, may not address your specific question. It is more likely to consist of a generic, prepared answer that, if you are very lucky, solves your problem.
Or you may be asked to clarify what is wrong. Your response to that will be followed several more days of waiting for another generic return message, and so on. A surprisingly non-efficient way to handle problems for a world class leader in consumer friendly technology. This might have you deciding that getting the music you need from your local store is easier and quicker than dealing with iTunes' archaic email support.
Welcome To The Labyrinth
Apple also offers a discussion board on it's website. Here you will find a myriad of subjects to sift through concerning various problems and fixes. Apple will also refer you to this board for iTunes issues in lieu of giving bona fide, personal, technical support. You can spend hours fruitlessly searching different topics using keywords and still not find your answer. On the plus side, you may find information here that Apple's Tech Support representatives are either unaware of or are forbidden to give. The point is, if iTunes is the source of the problem, the phone tech support for your iPod or Apple computer is of no use here.
The Silent Treatment
When it comes to living in denial, Apple is more dysfunctional than anyone you'll see on Dr. Phil. Early last year, Apple's Discussion Board was flooded with posts complaining that the iTunes music store suddenly stopped working. This widespread glitch left many longtime users as well as those who had just gotten iPods as holiday gifts with nothing to listen to. Apple's response was painfully slow. No official statement, press release or acknowledgment of the problem ever came from Apple. It took several weeks for iTunes to be functional again.
At least when there is a problem at rival Microsoft, it is openly admitted and users are kept in the loop concerning fixes and patches. Apple's hubris seems to have reached a level of where their attitudes is, "Even though we've sold you technology which makes you dependent on us, we don't have to tell you anything. If there's a problem, just sit and wait."
Not that Apple doesn't have a record of dragging their feet. Many iPod owners are still waiting for their settlement checks from the Apple iPod battery fiasco from YEARS ago. This was a problem Apple initially tried to ignore, then deny and finally had to make good on. But only after a class action lawsuit was initiated.
At Apple, It used to be that hardware sales was the main thrust. That drove the need for peripherals, accessories and software. Selling content was a distant afterthought. That has changed.
iTunes is now a driving force behind Apple's hardware sales. Downloadable content creates the need for people to buy iPods. Sales of which were up 220% in 2005 according to iLounge.com. As a result of this exposure, many iPod users end up buying Apple computers and peripherals. In January, 2006, Apple announced a 20 percent growth in Macs and 207 percent growth in iPods over the year-ago quarter. With content pushing hardware sales, iTunes is becoming the tail that wags the dog.
In 2006, iTunes will account for 5% of Apple's total revenue, according to iLounge.com. As iTunes continues to add music and video content, that number will surely grow. Apple's business model is becoming more and more dependent on iTunes for its revenue. And that means Apple's business platform is turning upside down. This may turn out to bean unstable structure.
When the bottom of this inverse model fails (iTunes), everything else comes crashing down. If people ever get fed up with iTunes and/or find a better content provider elsewhere, Apple is in for a world of hurt. A vital part of their lifeblood, download purchases, will plummet. This will cause a chain reaction of slower sales of iPods, computers, accessories and peripherals.
You'd think keeping iTunes customers happy should be a paramount concern for Apple. It's the very thing that created their recent popularity and increasingly supports the rest of their infrastructure. Yet iTunes customers remain on the lowest rung when it comes to viable customer support.
Another drawback to iTunes is that the 30 second sample they provide to entice you to buy a song is often poorly chosen. The sound snippets do not always reveal the main riff, hook, chorus, vocals or enough of a part of the song that really matters, for consumers to make an informed decision. Sometimes listeners are left with little more than a repetitive beat on which to base their buying decision. More focus on representing critical parts of songs in iTunes samples is sorely needed. It's only fair to the artists who work so hard to create music that it be given a respectable chance to be heard and purchased.
It's true that the risk of downloading a song you don't like is limited to the 99 cents you pay and your time. However, many people will not gamble on downloading a song they are not sure they like. The loss of potential download revenues to Apple and the artists they represent can be huge. Keep in mind that 99 cents, multiplied by several hundred purchases a year and millions of iTunes customers, adds up to a lot of money. As we've seen, eventually it can be in the billions.
Roach Motel Design
iPod owners also have to deal with the fact that Apple designed it as a "one way" device. Music gets in but it doesn't get out. Your computer's hard drive may unexpectedly crash one day. Or you may experience a malfunction that otherwise causes you to lose your computer's music library. This happens more often than you might think. Unfortunately, you cannot use your iPod to reconstitute your music library. Or so Apple would have you believe.
As you desperately seek an answer to replacing your lost music, what Apple Technical Support Personnel will not voluntarily tell you that is that there is a simple way to get it back. There are inexpensive, third party applications that do allow you to transfer data from your iPod back to your computer. Or to another computer. For only 8 dollars, Podworks from Scifihifi works quite well. For those that have lost entire music libraries and have gotten no help from Apple Tech Support, this is a godsend. Podworks is available at http://www.scifihifi.com/podworks/
What Me Worry?
Perhaps the mindless dancers and skaters in Apple's iPod ads are really meant to represent Apple executives in some Nero like parody. Instead of playing fiddles while their empire is on fire, they zone out with iPod music leaving their followers to deal with the aftermath of a frustrating lack of tech support, non existent communication and unrevealing song samples.
Getting To The Core Of Apple
Investing several hundred dollars in an iPod and iTunes downloads, only to find a lack of support when you really need it, can be quite disconcerting. The fun fantasy portrayed in Apple's iPod ads soon turns to harsh reality. Short of counseling with a qualified therapist, there are some things you can do.
If you experience a problem with iTunes, call Apple's Sales Dept. and act as a potential new customer interested in buying an iPod. You will get faster and more helpful service than if you call Apple Tech Support. Let them know you are concerned about a problem your "friend" has with iTunes. Ask if they can help resolve this before you make your "purchase". This also has the benefit of letting Apple know that an iTunes problem could be affecting iPod sales.
You can access email and phone numbers to Apple executives directly to express your concerns (see below). This may not solve your problem but at least you will have informed them about what is wrong and how you feel. As oblivious as Apple can be, at some point even they need to be concerned about their image and potential negative publicity.
Post your problem on the Apple Discussion Board. You may get an answer from someone who knows more than your average Apple Techie (there are lots of these folks around). At the least there will be a posted record of the problem should the higher ups at Apple ever care to look.
Post your complaint on various message boards and blogs on the internet. Get the word out about the problem and how it is being handled. Perhaps if enough weight is brought to bear by enough people, Apple will eventually change their policy regarding iTunes support, and overall disclosure and accountability.
Apple Sales: 1-800-MY-APPLE
Apple Contact Information:
Vice President of Worldwide Corporate Communications
Manager, iTunes & iPod
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Posted by C at 6:50 PM