Burnt Bridges: Apple’s Rise Now Sees It Stand Alone

December 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Apple has made too many enemies getting to number 1 and now they may come back to haunt it.

“Are you sad because you’re on your own?” sang the Beatles before famously replying, “No, I get by with a little help from my friends.” If only Apple could answer the same. The last 20 years have seen Apple survive near-bankruptcy to become the largest publicly traded company in the world. Yet as 2012 draws to a close the company increasingly appears without allies and as everyone from The Beatles to the Blues Brothers will tell you, that spells trouble.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Nowhere was evidence of Apple’s friendless status more evident than this week’s Spotify press conference. In a major update Spotify announced new tools for discovering music, improved social media integration, upgraded mobile and desktop clients (below) as well as confirmation that a browser-based client would arrive next year.

Furthermore Spotify couldn’t have wished for more friends. Damon Albarn, Zane Lowe, Paul McCartney, Metallica and even Barack Obama were all unveiled as accounts people could ‘follow’ for music inspiration on the upgraded service with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich describing Spotify as “the only” streaming service as far as he is concerned. Ouch, iTunes Match didn’t get a look in.

Of course Lars isn’t really kicking Apple as it hasn’t managed to get a full Spotify-like streaming service off the ground. iTunes Match only lets you stream music you already own. Yes while Spotify, Napster, Rdio and many other much smaller companies find it no problem negotiating streaming deals with the major music labels, Apple has been getting nowhere.

In fact this week CNET reported “multiple music industry sources [say] the deal that Apple has offered… has left the major record companies cold [and] a deal with all the majors is nowhere near to being completed.” These are the same companies that were famously railroaded by Apple as it pushed for universal pricing within iTunes and DRM-free files. Apple may have changed an industry, but it seems the industry has a long memory.

The Empire Strikes Back
It is a similar case with film. While iTunes offers a wide variety of TV and movie content to rent or buy it again has not taken the more progressive step into streaming seen by the likes of Hulu, Netflix, LoveFilm and others. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s pull from his position on the board of Pixar has gone and so, it seems, has Apple’s ability to successfully negotiate deals in an industry as angry as the music companies for the same flat rate pricing and reducing premiums forced upon it by Apple, when it was the only swinger in town.

Of course it could just be that suitable terms are complex to agree with a company of Apple’s international reach, but again where it has failed so many others appear to have made significant strides. Do ongoing rumours Apple will muscle into the television market also hurt? It is unlikely to help.

Patently Problematic
Content isn’t the only battle ground where Apple’s ruthless surge to the top has left scars… This is a sample, to read how Apple’s patent battles risk coming back to haunt it and while it still ultimately remains the most powerful technology company in the world read the full editorial @ TrustedReviews (published all on one page). 

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