On June 10, techies, analysts, and investors descended on San Francisco, or on their laptops, for the biggest event of the year: Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s Worldwide Developers Conference. This is the day that Apple gets to roll out its latest upgrades and new entries into the market. Given that it’s Apple, there are always grand expectations for the latest in what the Geniuses have cooked up for the world this time, and of course getting the typical applause as people walk away with baited breath and the sale dates on their iPhone calendars.
This year was pretty significant, because Apple was releasing some of the biggest upgrades in nearly a decade for its iPhone and the Macbook, not to mention the much touted streaming music service. This long pause has been criticized by many analysts, myself included, as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s stock, and reputation, took a beating over the last year. From the Senate tax avoidance hearings to its Samsung lawsuit, it’s been tough for Tim Cook and the gang recently. But now the wait is over, the new stuff has been released, and it’s time to wipe off the drool from our keyboards and look at everything objectively.
Given what Apple rolled out today, it shows how really far behind Apple was in the tech war up until now.
It’s Called iTunes Radio
Yes, that is the name of the new streaming music service that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched today. A little unoriginal, but it’s an unmistakably Apple product. It will have 200 free stations for the user, and is part of the new iOS 7 software for the iPhone (but more on that later). Given the recently acquired record deals, it looks like a strong entrant into the streaming music market, and should get Apple loyalists on board with the product once it is released on the new software.
The question though about this service though is simple: Is This the Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) Killer?
Pandora Still Stands
As some of the readers may know, I have defended Pandora on this website against the doomsayers a number of times. This is because, despite Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s royal status in the tech world, it has to try to be better than Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) to be successful at streaming music, which is a rare role reversal in the tech world thanks to Pandora’s status as industry pioneer. Given what is known about the product, there is no reason for me to believe that Pandora won’t still be the gold standard in online music streaming.
Sure, Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) isn’t as massive as Apple, and it doesn’t have the history that Apple has with the music business, I get that. But the naysayers forget that Pandora has benefited from being a “first-mover” in the industry. Any follow-up service must do better than them, and Pandora hasn’t made it easy to catch up with its latest multi-platform push. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has to be better than Pandora for it to actually be a “Pandora-killer” and so far, it seems like it’s just a copycat.
According to tech analyst Jan Dawson, iTunes Radio is just a “Pandora clone,” and there is “not much reason to switch” from either Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) or Spotify to this new service because you’re getting the same thing for a bit more money (it’s free, but you can pay $25/year for no ads, more than the $10/year fee Pandora charges). Why make the switch to the same service, just with more flare?
So it looks like Pandora need not worry, Apple could only copy what they do, and while it may have a bigger library for the moment, there isn’t much else to suggest that it will dominate the market in the near future.
The biggest change is probably the new operating system for the iPhone, the iOS 7, which makes a lot of significant changes to how a phone operates. The most ubiquitous comment was that it is “flatter” than previous versions, giving users the chance to navigate Internet pages in a flipbook style format similar to the one seen on the new Samsung Galaxy S4. In addition, it updates apps without needing to go into the App Store and download them, also prominent on most Android phones. Even the Helvetica font type is similar to what is seen on the Android, as well as streamlined calendar and messaging services. The iCloud Keychain is now functional for all synced Mac devices, which is a convenience bonus, but nothing that gets me all lathered up.