21 May 2003
As mentioned on Macintouch, a Cnet column titled “Steve Jobs’s Half Note”, Evan Hansen writes that the iTunes Music Store’s innovation falls far short of the ideal for an online music distribution system:
So, what should the ideal music store of the future look like? At the very least, it should provide unsecured MP3 downloads; reams of information about artists and music, including trusted reviews and recommendations; numerous opportunities to sample before buying; concert schedules and tickets; and access to lyrics and sheet music. [...] How revolutionary might all of this get? One idea that's been discussed recently proposes creating a real-time pricing scheme for music, with song prices based on their popularity. Hot new singles might spike up to $3 or higher during the first hours or days of their release, while unpopular titles would be substantially discounted. Demand pricing could increase sales for otherwise overlooked works, or at least lower the cost of trying out something new, while rewarding top sellers. I don't know if this would work. But it sets the bar pretty high for innovation. By comparison, Apple's music store is rather modest.
What Evan Hansen doesn’t understand, that (thank goodness) Steve Jobs does, is that the innovation (and challenge) of most successful design is – simplicity. Minimize the options available to users. Create a path of least resistance to the objective. “Reams of information” will distract me. “Concert schedules and tickets” is an obstacle to my purchase of music. “Real-time pricing” will confuse me (Hmm, maybe I’d better keep looking for a better buy.)
2 million songs sold in a two weeks? I think Jobs and Apple got it about right.