Nope, I don’t work for Yahoo, SanDisk, or Rhapsody (thankfully, on all counts!), but I understand the idea that you innovate, try to predict consumer desires, promote, hope to succeed, and cut your losses when it doesn’t work. I don’t think SanDisk designed the product, marketed it, just so they could discontinue it a year later. Actually, the writing was on the wall for Yahoo Music Unlimited for sometime, shortly after the Connect’s introduction. Y! musicman, Ian Rogers, had been on his anti-DRM campaign for some time, and there was lots of internal griping about DRM/licensing issues, and growing frustrations trying to negotiate with the record companies about which tracks could be subscription, which could be on portable devices, etc., etc. Then there was the dramatic increase in fees for streaming music on the web, i.e., Launchcast. I will predict that, unless there are some changes to the subscription and streaming fees and business model, Napster and Rhapsody are next. The recording industry, as a “can’t beat 'em, join 'em” move to save their hides is in the process trying to capture the digital music business for themselves by developing their own streaming and subscription services. What will be the end result? A fragmentation of an already small market with the result that nobody can make a living from it. Technology and services can design and implement many great systems, and this was one of them. And content providers can kill itl, and so they will.
And I was promised a fully-functional and supported unit, not a “Demonstration Device”
I would say you got a fully funtional and supported unit that delivered on its promises, with a short life cycle. It still functions as an MP3/WMA/video player. As far as Launchcast is concerned (which is still available on the device) I’m trying to figure out the point of Y! continuing that. Does it drive folks to Yahoo? Does it make a buck through ad supported activity? They don’t deliver ads to the Connect. With the increased fees of streaming music, can they ever make it pay?
Services change - after the Connect was launched, the lawyers decided that free wifi hotspots needed to add a page that said you must promise not do anything naughty or illegal on the internet, and, if you do, you can’t blame the wifi host. Since the Connect doesn’t have a web browser built in, you can’t authenticate on these networks with the Connect. Who’s fault is that? SanDisk, Yahoo? Does SanDisk have an obligation to add a web browser - it wasn’t the goal of the device, and nobody could have predicted this change - they don’t have the obligation to accomodate it.
Now Haier has designed a wifi Rhapsody model that duplicates the features of the Connect. I say, if you’re going to invest in one, realize the perils that Rhapsody faces, the intentions of the recording industry. Same goes for buying a Sirius/XM device. They haven’t had a positive balance sheet since launch, and the merger isn’t going to change that anytime soon. So, should you buy one of their devices, recognizing that satellite radio might not be around in the future. Should I enjoy it while it lasts, or avoid it all together because the time horizon for the device might not be long enough to satisfy my value goals?
As someone who has done my share of early adopter activity, back in 1995, I bought my first MP3 player (an RCA Lyra). Shortly after I bought it, buying music tracks ala carte became available, but all the tracks were sold as DRM wrapped WMA files. RCA didn’t update the firmware, so except for ripping CD’s, the device was screwed. (Now, in a strange twist of fate, MP3’s are being sold, so the ancient device is actually useful again!)
Another, somewhat off-topic example: companies who are trying to stream movies. Now that our PC hardware have all these great capabilites of processor capacity, media extenders, available HD displays, and the ability that 'ol Bill Gates predicted years ago - making the PC an entertainment device that can move off the desktop and into the living room. Has it arrived? Yup, the technology supports it, there are vendors that make content available for a fee, or for free. But wait, now the ISP’s say, “you’re taking up too much bandwidth, we’re going to have to charge you a lot more for your internet connection if you do that”. So, now the incremental cost of watching that streaming video just became a whole lot more expensive. Why? Because the cable companies who built an internet service based on a shared network connection to each subscriber don’t have the capacity in their infrastructure to handle it - they didn’t anticipate the traffic growth and have no simple way to fix it. You’d hope that the hardware manufacturers, developers, ISP’s, content distributors, and content creators would all jump in the sandbox together and play nice, and have a meetup every now and then to try and predict the future together. But they don’t. They all operate independent ops, and all want their own bottom line to work, and they want to do it without having to cooperate with someone else who’s worrying about their own bottom line unless it benefits theirs too.
Devices that depend on content, and the services that provide it, are always at risk, and come with no guarantees that they will be able to deliver any particular functionality dependent upon it. Just ask all the folks who bought Betamax machines and HD-DVD players. Both had short life cycles, and became doorstops overnight at the whim of the content providers.
One last example - the Microsoft Zune. The Zune uses a uses a DRM scheme for subscription music that is exclusive to Microsoft and incompatible with any other provider who uses the legacy “Plays For Sure” scheme (like Rhapsody and Napster). They have a whopping 2% of the MP3 player market, and only a percentage of those do subscription music. What are MS’s obligations when they/if they get tired of pouring $$ down that rat hole? Are they obligated to compensate Zune owners? Should they be blamed for trying to enter the market at all? And what are their obligations when their entry into the marketplace ultimately fails to capture enough share to continue? There are risks for a company who offer products that fail, and risks for the consumer who buys them. I don’t have the answer, but I see many parallels to the saga of the Connect.
Message Edited by GnisiBrianJ25us on 08-17-2008 10:18 AM
Message Edited by GnisiBrianJ25us on 08-17-2008 10:32 AM
Message Edited by GnisiBrianJ25us on 08-17-2008 10:36 AM