|(c) 1998 Andrew C. Stone. All Right Reserved.|
In last week's issue of Stone's Throw, I concluded that it would be good business for Apple to market Rhapsody and YellowBox more, so this week I'm going to propose how. I'll begin by recounting the true story of how Capitalism was altered forever by a rock and roll band.
This story is about not just any R&R band - but the "slowest rising" rock band of all time - the cyberbeloved Grateful Dead. ('Bear' with me, cognoscenti..). That stellar climb went exponential in the final decade, and this can be correlated with the official sanctioning of audience taping beginning at the Berkeley Community Theatre run Oct./Nov 1984. While the vast majority of bands and performers was banning the live taping of performances, the Dead encouraged it, perhaps a reflection of Jerry's bluegrass background. At every Dead show you'd find a special section for the 'Taper's', where the audience could set up their recording equipment and make tapes of the live performance.
The record industry actively fights this practive since they believe that free copying of music would hurt tape, vinyl & CD sales.
As rec.music.gdead afficionados know, you can beg, borrow or steal a tape or DAT copy of almost any one of the thousands of shows. Did it hurt record sales? No. Did it make the Dead one of the most popular browsers, I mean bands, ever? YES! During the '90's they were continually out-grossing the next most popular touring band, filling every stadium with standing room only. And selling quite a few CD's while they were at it.
Because this is the way Reality works now, if Apple wants Rhapsody to succeed in a big way - which translates to penetrating the Windows market - I believe they should give the first release away at no cost. That's how it will spread like wildfire! Did you know that the free LINUX operating system is being adopted at a rate of 100,000 new seats every month? There is no more powerful marketing tool than to put the goods into the hands of the developer or user.
We've all heard that there are some royalties that Apple must pay in order to ship each copy of Rhapsody. It may greatly behoove Apple to buy out all such agreements, write off the cost upfront, and thus remove any obstacle to giving Rhapsody/YB away for free.
Moreover, there is real money in the support of software. Look at the success story of Cygnus, Caldera, Red Hat and other software support houses that focus on free software - the software is free, the support is where the money is made. Object Experts can earn Apple nice revenues - last I heard, they were bringing in a quarter million dollars per year each.
But the most important, far-reaching strategic move that Apple can make is to seed high schools and universities with Rhapsody and create the next generation of object software experts. Many of my colleagues are drop outs from Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and other excellent Computer Science schools who got the buzz about NEXTSTEP while attending college during the late eighties and early nineties when NeXT, Inc. (as it was originally named before a clothing retailer of the same name in England began having troubled times) was actively focusing on the academic market.
I conclude that by realizing "free" is the only price most users will pay, Apple can bring the difference to the world at large.