Om savages Yahoo Music… justified?

Om Malik, a smart guy who I often agree with, writes that Yahoo Music is “playing in mono” because, “…it works only on Windows XP, it works with about a dozen music players, and doesn’t support Mac. In music industry parlance, this is an EP, not the full album!”

Now let’s think about this, acknowledging that Yahoo!, like every other organization on the planet, has a laundry list of services it would like to build, and only so much capacity to do so…

1. XP only: So Om, are you advising Yahoo to spend finite resources to build a rich client for people you haven’t upgraded their OS in 10 years (Windows 95) or 7 years (Windows 98)? BTW, if you look at the product page, you’ll see Win2K is listed as supported…

2. Supported players: You’re right! Yahoo’s offering supports more vendors, more devices, and more device types than Apple’s offering (did I mention I have an iPod Mini that I can’t wait to toss?). And, since it’s based on MSFT’s PlayForSure standard, which is open unlike Apple’s walled garden, the list will continue to grow.

3. No Mac support: Well, yeah. Why build something (at launch) for a sliver of the (OS) market, with a fiercly entrenched competitor and audience? And if you’ve used iTunes on a Windows machine, you know it doesn’t look, feel or act like a native app (heck, it makes Tiger look speedy).

As for the market reaction, perhaps it’s worth looking at this a different way.

1. Yet another major player, with a lot of reach and a fair bit of marketing savvy, has joined the “anti-Apple” consortium. Apple has a history of trying to take on the mass that is Wintel, and that history isn’t marked by monumental success.

2. Napster, $170MM war chest notwithstanding, is looking like a little fish in a really big pond

3. It’s already known that Yahoo is working on co-branded/branded consumer hardware offerings (though I’d agree that there’s reason to be skeptical on this front); co-branded or not, a (well integrated) bundled offering (ala iPod/iTunes) in time for the holidays seems like a real possibility

4. The barriers to entry are quite low; the barriers to “doing it well” are much higher, but it’s not clear that Apple remains advantaged as dedicated music players give way to converged media devices and smart/cell phones. Said another way, there’s a lot of mutation happening, and it’s not clear that a single stack (Apple) can be out in front of it all.

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4 comments on “Om savages Yahoo Music… justified?
  1. Jared Hanson says:


    I think its abit unfair using both arguments 1. and 3. against Om. I think his XP only comment was referring to lack of OS X support, not lack of other Windows versions.

    As an Mac user myself, I’d really like to see some of these subscription music services support that platform. I’m not religiously faithful to iTunes, its just that so far I have no other choice.

  2. Tony Gentile says:

    Jared, good feedback, thank you.

    I think your interpretation is reasonable, and originally read it that way.

    But then I realized that Om is a professional writer, so why would he make the same point twice (“only supports XP” and “doesn’t support Mac” are redundant).

    I figured instead, being the smart guy we both know he is, his point was that by only supporting XP, Yahoo was leaving a large percentage of the Win world (who haven’t migrated to the latest OS) unsupported. My point in commenting on it was that the unsupported audience likely wasn’t as desirable, and that dev resources might be too scarce at launch to build backwards compatibility with 10yr old OS’s.

    Hope that makes my argument seem more reasonable.

  3. Mark says:

    I think Yahoo’s decision was easy to make. Supporting Apple probably meant building a multi-platform infrastructure for protected music from scratch.

    Supporting Windows-only gave them an existing infrastructure to build on so they could focus on the application and not the underlying infrastructure technology.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think bitterness about Yahoo!’s decision to support Windows exclusively is justified. Apple is the 4th largest computer manufacturer in the U.S. and its market share is growing. Last month (6/05) for example, Mac sales increased by more than 33% (compared to less than 12% for the PC market as a whole).

    Yahoo! is choosing to ignore the ever-growing Mac community and its music service is just another example. Yahoo! Toolbar, Yahoo! Desktop Search are two more examples of applications/services not open to Mac users. And while Yahoo! Messenger for Mac is available, it is a “carbonized” version of its OS 8.x messenger client that hasn’t received an update of any kind (let alone a major one) in more than three years, leaving Mac users without most of the features available in the Windows version.

    Yahoo! is really missing the boat. Where you see users completely entrenched in their iTunes service, I see an opportunity to compete with Apple on their turf, in an area where there’s virtually no other competition. Apple’s experiencing incredible growth in Mac sales. Stores like Best Buy are now carrying the affordable and dizzyingly popular Mac Mini. Yahoo! stands to profit greatly by opening up to the Mac community, but they instead continue to pretend that it doesn’t exist.