Apple's iTunes: Ample Demonstration of Harvard's Law

"Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, volume, humidity, and other variables, the organism will do as it damn well pleases."  - Harvard's Law.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to Apple customers, iTunes and music, and so I want to set the stage — in light of an interesting article I'll link to below.

First, in my experience, with large companies, the sequence of events in many similar services goes like this:

  • Bright idea by developers
  • Beta fanfare, implementation
  • Productize and market
  • Lots of money earned
  • Rosy projections for growth made
  • Competitors bust in, grab some of the money
  • Customers get saturated
  • Technology changes
  • Managers panic: why aren't projections met?
  • Increased pressure on sales team -- which is handed the blame
  • Prospect for flat or negative growth
  • Draconian actions to reinvigorate the service
  • Punish the loyal customers by disrupting original service
  • Rinse, repeat

This scenario is almost a law of nature. The critical part comes when the early, rosy sales projections aren't met and the reaction to that results in, sometimes, the Abilene Paradox. The first, dreadful instinct by powerful, senior managers is to force the customer, in some fashion, to change so that revenues can be maintained. It always seems like a good idea at the time because, as we know, saner heads never prevail.

But then Harvard's Law kicks in, and everything goes south.

Apple is having that debate right now. Here's the salient article: "Underwhelming Start to iTunes Radio Lights Fire Under Apple." This one will be very interesting to watch because, at its core, it is all about, after all, music.


Don't miss the week's tech news debris which continues on page 2.


Teaser image via Shutterstock.

Tech News Debris for the Week of April 7


Awhile back, Tim Cook predicted that tablet sales would come to surpass those of PCs. Given how customers like tablets, especially the iPad, for their simplicity and portability, it's not a surprising trend. Here's a marker along the way. "Tablets surpass notebooks in Brazil for the first time."

Also, there is also one of the famous "cross-over" sales charts in John Kirk's article, linked to below. But we'll move on for the moment.

If an Apple competitor steals an Apple idea and patent in some fashion and implements it in the marketplace, some judges are reluctant to punish the company for fear of also punishing the customers who bought into the competing product. A judge might decide to require a mandatory license fee, but then Apple objects: that "means we're not competing with them where they are using our technology against us." It's the game of our times, nicely explained in detail by Daniel Eran Dilger. "How Samsung & Google teamed up to steal Apple Data Detectors for Android." It's a long but terrific read.

Follow the logic here. The World Wide Web was originally intended to promote open access to information. However, the recent popularity of mobility has brought forth apps. It's been shown that users vastly prefer apps to mobile browser access. However, just a few companies provide apps, and so the conclusion is that the Web is threatened because of just a few gatekeepers. Plus, there will be less incentive for Web development. Here's the analysis by Mike Elgan: "Mobile Apps Bringing the End of the World Wide Web as We Know It."

I think it's overstated because the conclusion applies only to highly mobile devices like smartphones. There are still many millions of PCs, Macs, Linux systems and tablets sold every year that depend on browser access to Web sites. Still, it's a notion to be aware of.

Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella looks promising and is a radical contrast to Steve Ballmer. Some observers are very enthusiastic about his new directions. However, John Kirk doesn't see the fundamentals changing with Microsoft and suggests that we "Say Goodbye To Microsoft." It's a good read.

I love the behind the scenes stories that provide all the interesting details about a major event. Here's another good one. "Behind the Scenes: The Crazy 72 Hours Leading Up to the Heartbleed Discovery."

Finally, in my scan of the news this week, I've collected some interesting articles on the competitive situation between Apple and Samsung. It's a mix of good and bad news for each company. A cross-section like the collection below paints a better picture than any one article.

"Samsung’s biggest fear illustrated in just one graph"

The confidential internal slides that show why Apple is making a bigger iPhone 6

"Samsung Is Stealing Smartphone Profit Share From Apple"

But Samsung's overall profits are declining, namely:

Samsung's Profit Growth Is About To Slip Again

Exclusive: Apple vs. Samsung docs reveal Galaxy Tab was a flop and Samsung knew it


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page 1) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.