The showdown between content and hardware is at the epicenter of Universal and Apple. For all its hipness in the end Apple is nothing more than a gadget maker, its creative image is a purely borrowed one. So it is unsurprising that while the old line music and movie media companies may be tethered to a dying business model, at least they aren’t tethered to a dying hardware model the way Apple is.
Apple’s resurgence was powered by a new means of transforming the business model but Apple’s iPod success still left it stuck in a prison of its own making. The portable MP3 player was a temporary product meant to fill in the gap between the evolution of truly compact portable devices and more advanced cell phones. Apple used the failure of the business models of the big media companies to drive its own hardware sales but now Apple is dying and everyone knows it.
Apple TV has gone nowhere. The end of DRM may be scary to big media companies but it’s even scarier to Apple. Apple shots its load with the iPhone and after all the sturm and drang, Apple only has a piece of the cell phone market, not enough to really be able to make the iTunes loss leader content model work. And without that iTunes is dead and everyone but the consumer knows it.
Universal is just the first to begin examining new options, options that don’t require it to unload its inventory at bargain basement prices to finance a dying hardware product by a company about to plunge into the shadows again.