Space Ramblings

RIAA and the iPhone: Work With Users Instead of Against Them

Apple’s reign of bricking terror should have once demonstrated a lesson that many companies seem to need to learn, that you have to work with your customers instead of against them.

Apple’s policy is reminiscent of Homer Simpson’s attempt at inventing when he tried to compete with Thomas Edison. One of his products was a makeup shotgun and when Marge told him, women won’t like being shot in the face, Homer told her, “Women will like what I tell them to like.” The “They’ll like what we tell them to like” approach hasn’t worked out for the music industry or for Microsoft or for Apple. Despite Apple’s seemingly magical ability to manipulate the masses, the split over the iPhone connects to the basic tension between company and customer. Apple wanted a popular product but one they could lock down and complete control. Consumers were not dropping hundreds of dollars on the iPhone to get a product Apple controlled but one they could use how they wanted.

Apple’s attempt to suppress dissent with a round of phone bricking hasn’t worked, anymore than the RIAA managed to succeed by terrorizing file sharers. Music download sales only became viable when consumers were offered an easy way to buy songs. Ironically it was Apple who helped make that possible and instead of learning the RIAA’s lesson, has let that go to its head. Now despite its bricking, there are plenty of users who want to run third party applications on their iPhones and with iJailBreak, it’s about to become easier than ever. If Apple wants to succeed, it’s going to have to stop acting like Kim Jong Il and assuming that enough propaganda and force will roll over any roadblock and actually start listening to what its customers want.

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