Apple [AAPL] co-founder, Steve Wozniak, thinks the company should make a version of iTunes for Android devices. He thinks it would be a good way to put a little of the Apple experience inside the Google OS. I agree with him.
What Woz said
Wozniak has always straddled the space between iOS and Android. He joined the board of Danger in 2001, a company which made a mobile device and was founded by Andy Rubin, who now leads Google’s Android effort. His public statements confirm that he uses both the iOS and Android platforms.
In a no-holds-barred discussion on Slashdot, Woz put forth the proposition that Apple should petition Android users with iTunes: “Let's look at Apple. Apple's real rise from the small market-share Macintosh company to the iProducts of today began with iTunes and the iPod. This turned out to be a second huge business which roughly doubled Apple's 'size',” he said.
“If you remember, we ported iTunes to Windows. We now addressed 100% of the world's market with this integrated system (iPod/iTunes) and it began the era of Apple that we are now in. So why don't we port iTunes to Android? Did something get closed up? I love Apple products and iTunes and wish it were on my Android products too.”
Hell freezes over
Apple introduced iTunes for Windows in 2003. When it did so it massively increased the number of people who wanted an iPod, this drove sales to new records and set the multi-platform terrain out for Apple’s later success with the iPhone and iPad.
Woz now wants Apple to do something similar for Android devices. Doing so makes a little sense: it would take ammunition away from critics who complain that iTunes locks people into the Apple ecosystem. It would also widen the iTunes market, and probably very quickly create a situation in which the most popular app on Android devices was one made by Apple. Which would be humorous.
Apple’s digital media service is already the biggest such store in the world. While people complain about some elements of the software -- the way it stores music files, for example, or the challenges you face when trying to transport large collections between computers.
Some complain that with so many different functions inside the software, iTunes is becoming a bit cumbersome in use. Though there have been signs the company may separate these features out, at least for mobile devices: the iTunes U, Music, Video and Podcasts apps, for example.
Despite such criticism, Apple’s remains the pre-eminent service. If made available for Android devices it would likely be quickly widely used. Certainly, some Android die-hards would refuse to use it out of some twisted sense of platform pride, but the mass market of Android users just want something that works.
Why it won’t happen
Woz and I may see a move to put Apple inside Android as appealing, but it is unlikely Apple executives are at all interested in such a move. They don’t want to be seen to give a nod of recognition to their biggest competitor. They also want to ensure that iTunes on mobile devices is seen as an iOS-only experience.
That may be true, but it is also short-sighted. Android isn’t going anywhere, but Apple’s focus on user experiences is one of the company’s crown jewels. Sometimes it misses target -- the Maps debacle means that even my barber told me today that his son advised him the new iPhone isn’t good enough. Anecdotal evidence that the anti-Apple rhetoric is beginning to affect company perception on the street.
I don’t agree with that rhetoric -- I think the primary arguments are spread by devious competitors and a compliant media -- but I am not blind to the effect it is having on company perception.
Apple could benefit from taking the battle to its enemy.
Changing the battle
While the company has been cast in the light of taking the first strike in the smartphone legal wars, its moves against Samsung were provoked by the latter firm’s refusal to reach a licensing deal for Apple’s patents, while also attacking the company over FRAND patents Samsung holds. It would have been possible for the two sides to avoid legal arguments, but it seems Samsung saw it could enhance its reputation at Apple’s expense by getting into this fight.
Assertive action is required.
Apple could regain some public confidence by beginning to introduce the best available software for Android devices. The fragmented nature of that platform would mean such efforts would need to be focused on only a minority of Android devices.
A move to offer the best media acquisition service would enable rank and file Android users to get involved in the Apple ecosystem. With so many Android users already planning to migrate to an iPhone, it would make it much easier for future iOS users to begin to assemble a media collection for use on their next device.
If executed correctly, iTunes on Android could become a great advertisement for Apple’s platforms. It’s the kind of move which might leave many Android users tempted to give an Apple hardware product a try -- certainly that was the reaction when iTunes hit Windows. iPod sales rose through the roof.
Ultimately it will be Apple’s management which decides what should happen. However as an observer watching its adventures in the mobile space, I believe it is time the company looked for ways to change the rules of engagement in the war with the Google mobile OS. People are bored of litigation. It’s time to put the innovation back into the battle; it’s time Apple did it better -- on Android. Plus I think it might be funny.
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