The computer icons of today (think “big W” for Microsoft Word, or that crazy swooping “A” for Adobe Acrobat) are analogous to the barbershop pole or the golden arches brand icons of the past. In today’s digital age, those program and application monikers live on our desktop, in our toolbar, our iPad, iPod, our Blackberry… you name it. I’m not sure that I ever realized how much impact these tiny “shingles” have until Apple changed the one attributed to iTunes.
When the game-changing entertainment application came out on a cold January day in 2001, I was one of the “virtual many” standing in line to get into the new e-music store. Like so many other big box retail verticals gone digital, nobody thought it would have a huge impact on the way business was done in the “record biz.” Well, in less than a decade, iTunes has not only changed the way we buy music, it’s revolutionized the way we watch movies, receive reviews, purchase applications, and now – with Ping, their new social media tool for all things entertainment – the way we connect to the rest of the world to express ourselves.
I’ll spare you all the statistics. Many I don’t know, and they’re changing every day. So, to my point, and the title of this blog… with iTune’s latest release, Apple has changed the application’s well-known icon from a shiny silver platter with a glowing blue musical note hovering above, to a simple blue circle with a note inside. Why ditch the well-known graphic that has become so recognized among Mac and PC users alike? Steve Jobs addressed this in his most recent keynote at Apple’s MacWorld event.
At the release of iTunes 10.0, online purchases through Apple’s tool had exceeded the purchase of music on CDs. To continue to represent the iTunes tool with a CD-ROM icon would be to identify the future with the past. The new icon? Aesthetically speaking, I hate it. The reason behind the change? Love is not a strong enough adjective to describe my approval.
I’m old enough (just barely) to remember the death of the 8-Track tape. I have boxes of old vinyl that tell the tale of the demise of the 33rpm recordwhose standing began to falter when the portability of the cassette tape seized the day. The cassette? The ones that didn’t melt or warp in my car on sunny days have long since hit the dumpster. So here we are… my CDs, those digital dynamos that were the end all, alas, are ending themselves. If video killed the radio star, what will kill iTunes and the electronic distribution of all things musical (and otherwise)? Chips surgically implanted in our noggins at birth, where music is infinitely streamed into our conscience? Who can tell?
There is a back-story here… the Apple corporation was quarters away from irrelevance and extinction prior to the iPod and iTunes. They were losing the personal computing battle to the behemoth known as Microsoft. Then Apple realized that the current affairs of personal computing wasn’t so personal, and they remembered that music soothes the savage beast (I think that’s what you meant – not breast)… and so, a connection to “people” and not technology was made. Apple began to win hearts over minds (at least on the outset), and this dealt a staggering blow to Microsoft, one that they’ve still not realized as they fight to be relevant in a world that demands a greater connection than binary code to the technology that it embraces.
Lessons here? Giants fall, underdogs overcome, and consumers will only consume mediocrity for so long. Don’t get cocky Mr. Jobs (i.e., no Flash on the iPad), there’s a place on the bench next to Microsoft if you decide you no longer need to innovate or you decide to give the market what’s important to Apple instead of what the market wants. As for ADG? We’re learning lessons every day. Serving the customer and staying humble are high on the list. Help keep us in check. Deal?