Are you the customer?
I referred to Apple’s current business strategy with iPods as “delighting the customer.” Not everyone agrees that their industrial design, user experience, and iTunes business model is delightful for them, but I think everyone knows I meant they are trying to make money by making people happy with their purchases.
That being said, I think Microsoft have been working aggressively to delight their customers as well. I am not placing tongue in cheek when I point you to news that tracks purchased from MSN Music cannot be reauthorized after August 30, 2008
. This is not an example of Microsoft failing to delight their customers, just the opposite.
Likewise, news that Microsoft May Build a Copyright Cop Into Every Zune
(followed by the denial-that-actually-doesn’t-deny-it “We have no plans or commitments to implement any new type of content filtering in the Zune devices as part of our content distribution deal with NBC.”). This does not mean Microsoft is not delighting its customers. Just the opposite.
And when I pass on a link to news that Microsoft Demos Zune Advertising Service
, I am not saying they are not trying to delight their customers by finding a way to put Doritos’ logo feces on Zunes and XBOX 360s and other media they control. I am saying they are delighting their customers.
The key point is this: You are not Microsoft’s customer.
You are not the person they want to delight. They want to delight big companies with big budgets. People who make money selling you music and selling you television and selling you snack foods.
It’s odd (to me) how deeply American culture has ingrained in its subjects the notion that they are first and foremost consumers.
For me, the cognitive dissonance first surfaced when I thought about television: The TV networks are the producers, the advertisers are the consumers, and the viewers are the product. TV is not primarily a means of delivering entertainment to viewers—it is a means of delivering viewers to advertisers.
It seems natural to think of ourselves as the end, but sometimes we're just the means…
Not that there’s anything wrong with delighting such people, the last time I checked I think that roughly 100% of my professional revenues have come from delighting companies. And thus I have only delighted people like you and I indirectly.
Remember when Microsoft paid a fee to EMI for every Zune sold? We know they must have built that fee into their pricing structure, passing those costs onto Zune owners, essentially charging them for music they planned to steal before they even took the Zune out of the box. But maybe that’s all for the benefit of Zune owners. What’s wrong with that?
And perhaps you benefit if Microsoft delights a music label such that you can subscribe to songs that evaporate when you stop paying a monthly fee. I certainly think you benefit from having a choice in the matter. And if looking at a bag of chips lets you listen to a song for a few days before deciding whether to buy said song, what’s wrong with that?
In truth, it does not matter whether Apple is trying to make money by forcing the music industry to offer all tracks for one low price, or whether Microsoft is trying to make money by delighting the kind of people who think that the same track ought to cost more if you download it over 3G than over WiFi
. If a byproduct of these actions is a product or service that suits you, it’s all good. Be my guest and do business with whomever makes what you want to buy, regardless of their motivation or strategy.
And don’t let anyone tell you I said Microsoft doesn’t know how to delight their customers. I’m personally impressed by what they are prepared to do to make a buck.p.s. I’d like to think I’m trying to delight you with my shameless use of Amazon affiliate links. Maybe I am, maybe I just like getting a few books and CDs every once in a while. Either way, have you heard Murray Perahia’s recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations? While I still love both of Glenn Gould’s interpretations, I agree with a reader who wrote to say that “Perahia redefines this opus in a way I’d never have deemed possible.” It literally sounds like like a new work in Perahia’s hands.
p.p.s. I wrote this, then went back to work. Then I thought about it, and realized how remarkably small this post is, the obvious product of small thinking. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” I am leaving the post up as a reminder to myself to of the consequences of giving in to small thinking.