Volkswagen gets a special mention for gaming fuel-emission tests via the software in its cars. And BlackBerry, long proud of going its own way, finds itself pinning its comeback hopes on a phone that leans heavily on software from another company, Alphabet’s Google.
Lastly, all of Silicon Valley gets a turkey this year because the tech industry still can’t figure out how to hire, retain and promote more women and minorities.
Since innovation apparently can mean figuring out new ways to screw up, we’ve rounded up a supersized 17 examples of the most cringe-inducing tech turkeys for your holiday entertainment.
The all-you-can-eat streaming service has been free for the past three months. As the first trial periods expire this week, the true test begins for the subscription model.
Apple’s first subscription service is taking off its training wheels.
The Cupertino, California, tech giant introduced Apple Music in June as its first foray into monthly charges. To get consumers to try the service, Apple offered a free, three-month trial with unlimited streaming. The first wave of trials expires Wednesday.
It’s an about-face for Apple, considering co-founder Steve Jobs vocally opposed subscriptions. Apple also has a lot to lose. It remains the king of digital track downloads, which are the primary way music makes money today. But with streaming models on the rise and downloads shrinking, Apple risked losing its crown if it continued to ignore the shift in consumer behavior.
Now that customers must either pay to continue using Apple Music or give it up, Wednesday will mark the first test of whether the company’s service has legs. Even as a free trial, the service faced criticism for its complicated interface and how it handles your music library.
The backlash started even before the service launched.
Nine days before the debut of Apple Music, pop juggernaut Taylor Swift warned she would keep her hit album “1989” off Apple Music because of a licensing loophole: zero payments during the three-month free trial. Less than 24 hours after Swift posted the message on her blog, Apple’s head of software and services, Eddy Cue, tweeted that Apple would capitulate and pay artists for every stream during the trial period.
The service also sparked a rant from one of Apple’s most vocal fans.
Jim Dalrymple is a writer who has tracked Apple for nearly two decades, most recently on The Loop blog. In a July blog post titled “Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it,” Dalrymple recounted how songs in his music library disappeared as he tried to integrate his collection with Apple Music. “Adding music to my library is nothing short of a mind-blowing exercise in frustration,” he wrote.
Apple Music also irritated an influential music industry commentator. On the first day Apple Music was publicly available, Bob Lefsetz, who writes a blog called The Lefsetz Letter, compared Apple to cable providers, long a prime example of American dissatisfaction with corporations. “When you make it hard to install and want me to give my credit card up front…you look like a sleazy American company, like a hated cable operation, and you make people reluctant,” Lefsetz wrote.
Music listening is only one part of Apple Music. The service introduced a blog-like social network for artists called Connect. Earlier this month, website Music Ally studied artists’ posts and found that they were occurring weekly rather than daily and that much of the content was recycled from Instagram or mundane promotional messages. “In June, Apple’s services boss Eddy Cue said that Pharrell Williams would be posting photos, lyrics and raw mixes of songs — but at the time of writing, he’s posted a single photo two months ago,” according to Music Ally.
Apple declined to comment on complaints about Apple Music. However, earlier this month an executive acknowledged that the service had its problems. Oliver Schusser, vice president of iTunes International,told UK news site The Guardian that Apple is “adding features and cleaning up certain things” in Apple Music.
Now that Apple Music is about to begin charging for its first subscriptions, where does it stand?
Based on what people say online, interest in the service has declined but reactions to it have grown more positive, according to Amobee Brand Intelligence, a marketing technology company that analyzes online reactions. Buzz around Apple Music peaked on July 1, the day after the service first became available. In July, Apple Music was the subject of 808,000 Tweets, and Twitter sentiment was 19 positive and 13 percent negative, Amobee said. So far in September, 310,000 Tweets have been 28 percent positive and 10 percent negative.
In a study last month by researcher Musicwatch, 77 percent of people who use an Apple mobile device in the US are aware of Apple Music, and 11 percent reported they were using Apple Music. While 64 percent of those Apple Music users said that they were extremely or very likely to pay for it after their free trials end, almost as many (61 percent) reported that they had already turned off the auto-renewal option.
Now that Apple is about to start charging, the company isn’t taking any more chances. This week, it started posting videos that explain how Apple Music works. The company may soon find out whether offering tutorials three months into the game is too late.
When DJ Skee launched his startup, he didn’t anticipate going head-to-head with Apple Music’s most popular feature, but he isn’t letting Beats 1 knock him down.
At 6 feet 3 inches tall, DJ Skee isn’t often the little guy, but everyone looks small compared with Apple.
The Cupertino, California, tech giant is known for following established trends with polished products and services. What does that mean for a fledgling company that paved the way? Scott Keeney, better known as DJ Skee, said explaining his startup got a little easier, especially to people who thought he was crazy.
Skee spent a decade as a DJ for radio giants like LA’s KIIS-FM and satellite radio service Sirius XM. That was long enough for him to see what was going wrong. Too many commercials and the lack of freedom to be musically adventurous were making radio unlovable, he said.
So he quit and launched a startup a year ago: free Dash Radio, a digital network of live radio channels with a mission of expertly picking the right tracks.
“We want to bring back the magic of what live audio could be,” Skee said.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles-based Dash, Apple had the same idea.
When Apple Music launched in June with a three-month free trial, its live worldwide radio station, Beats 1, was among the most lauded features because of inventive programming and expert hosts.
Q: Apple’s Beats 1 is fundamentally similar to Dash Radio, your startup. What’s that like?
DJ Skee: We don’t necessarily look at Apple Music as a direct competitor as much as, say, iHeart Radio or Sirius XM. Apple Music only has one station, and its main goal is to get people to start using subscription services. It just happens that Apple is using radio services as marketing for that.
Bob Pittman, CEO of terrestrial radio giant iHeart Media, once joked that if Apple invented radio, everybody would be amazed. Launching Beats 1, Apple made good on that punchline, in a way. Will Dash be overlooked?
Skee: Just by the media power and the spending power that Apple has, it helped educate a whole group of people who didn’t realize how magical live radio could be.
People nowadays grew up in the era of corporate radio. For the past decade or so, if you turned on the radio, you had a 99 percent chance of tuning into a station owned by one of the big conglomerates. Chances are it’s the same 20-song playlist, and there’s a 1 in  chance you’re listening to a commercial. About 20 minutes per hour on traditional radio is commercials. There’s so much more music out today than there was ever before, and radio never caught up. They’re still in bed with the major labels. They’re still shady. Just being honest. That was one of the key reasons I left.
Apple has launched one station that has incredible content and top artists. We still think we have that too, on steroids. Plus ours is uncensored, and we don’t have ulterior motives, like trying to sell things.
Is there anything Beats 1 is doing that makes you envious?
Skee: Absolutely, I’m envious. No. 1 is just the budgets they have. It’s the most valuable company in the world, so they can afford to hire the biggest staff ever. But I wouldn’t trade places, because they’re more limited in what they can do.
The biggest thing is censorship [of obscenity]. I’ve talked to many DJs there, including some who started off with us but were offered a huge check to leave, and they’re frustrated with that. I understand why they have to be clean: It’s Apple, they only have one station, and they don’t have any other option. We have clean stations, and we have dirty stations.
I wouldn’t trade that, even though they have all the money in the world.
A few weeks before Apple Music launched, Dash had more than a million monthly active users. Where is it at now?
Skee: It has grown. It’s been climbing steadily every month. I don’t have the exact number, we haven’t disclosed it yet.
[Dash has more than 2 million monthly active listeners, Skee said in a follow-up after the interview. Apple hasn’t discussed monthly active listeners, but last month it said 11 million people have signed up for Apple Music free trials.]
Can you characterize how Dash’s growth rate has changed since the introduction of Apple Music?
Skee: It hasn’t gone down, but it hasn’t made a tremendous jump because of Apple entering the space. We haven’t lost anybody. The time spent listening is going up steadily, almost five minutes every single month, so about 35 minutes to 40 minutes per session right now. When we launched, we were at four or five minutes per session.
You’ve talked before about how you met with Apple to give the company more insight into Dash, in the hope of App Store promotion. Then Apple executive Jimmy Iovine took to the stage to introduce Apple Music with what sounds a lot like the same pitch you made. What happened?
Skee: I don’t want to make it us versus Apple. At the end of the day, the idea is radio. We took a system that has worked for 100 years but consumers weren’t happy with, and we made it digital and made it good.
With Dash, like every app company, we want to talk to Apple, just like we talk to Google and everyone about store placement. We showed them the product early on, and we have visited Cupertino. At the time, it was to say, “Hey, we’re not competing with Beats,” its streaming service at the time. “We compete directly with iHeart, Sirius — we’re live audio.” And they were always fans.
Then when we started hearing the rumors that they were getting into broadcast, at first of course it was daunting: “Wow, Apple is going to come in, they can do whatever they want.” But even if they’re taking a little bit from the concept, it still justifies the idea. There are people over there that were over here first. I’m not mad at it. Everybody has to do what’s best for them.
We don’t think that it makes sense for one company to own every space. Now, I’m the biggest Apple fanboy in the world. I’ve had an Apple computer since I was a kid, I’m talking on my iPhone to you, I have an Apple Watch on my wrist. Yet we don’t know if we want the same people that forced U2 onto my iPhone telling us what music is.
Revenues from streaming music online have surpassed $1bn for the first time
Revenues from streaming songs on the internet has passed $1bn for the first time, new figures have shown.
Digital downloads of songs continued to fall out of favour in the first half of the year, while free and paid music-streaming revenue kept growing, even without much of a bump from the launch of Apple Music.
Revenue from paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Rhapsodygrew 25pc to $478m, while revenue from free services like Pandora grew 22pc to $550m. Streaming revenue as a whole surpassed $1bn in the first half of the year for the first time.
Download sales revenue fell 4pc to $1.3bn, while physical disc sales dropped 17pc to $748m.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice-president of internet software and services, launches Apple Music
Apple Music, the tech company’s online music subscription service, launched on the last day statistics were recorded.
Cary Sherman, RIAA chief executive, said in a statement that while streaming music revenues continued to grow healthily, he criticised the rates being paid to labels and artists for streaming music, saying they “do not always equal fair market rates”.
Certain rates for Internet radio are set by government bodies.
The rise of digital streaming has helped the industry maintain annual revenues of around $7bn since 2010, offsetting the decline in revenue from digital downloads of single tracks that began in 2013. But the level is far below the industry peak in 1999 of $14.6bn, when compact discs were dominant.
Yes, 11 million sounds like an impressive number, but Apple faces challenges in trying to achieve its reported goal of more than 100 million subscribers.
Apple Music has already grabbed 11 million trial users a little more than a month after its debut.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, revealed the 11 million figure in an interview with USA Today published Thursday, adding that “we’re thrilled with the numbers so far.”
Released on June 30 with the iOS 8.4 update to Apple’s software for mobile devices, Apple Music is the company’s response and rival to other music-streaming services, such as Spotify, Pandora and Rdio. Apple Music offers streaming music with playlists curated by “music experts,” a 24/7 radio station called Beats 1 and a social feature called Connect that puts together musicians and their fans. Available as a free trial for the first three months, the service costs $9.99 per month for an individual plan and $14.99 for a shared family plan for up to six people.
Cue didn’t shed any numbers on the individual plans but said that 2 million people have already subscribed to the more expensive family plan.
Apple Music is important to the company as a way of competing with Spotify and other services for a chunk of the increasingly popular music-streaming business. But it’s also a way to bring more users into the Apple ecosystem. By offering its own music-streaming service for iOS devices, Apple hopes to sell more iPhones and iPads. Selling more iOS devices means more users who will buy items from iTunes and potentially other Apple products and services. And Apple already has around 800 million iTunes subscribers, all of whom are part of that huge ecosystem.
But among the 11 million people in the trial stage, how many will actually stick with Apple Music once they have to shell out a monthly fee? That depends in part on the music on hand, but also on the usability of the service. Still in its early stages, Apple Music has received some criticism from users, with complaints centering on matters such as misidentified songs and duplicate playlists.
Cue acknowledged the initial glitches, saying that “we’re aware that some users have experienced some issues, and we hate letting them down, but we’re releasing updates as fast as we can to address those issues.”
Even assuming all 11 million people shelled out for a subscription, Apple Music’s paid membership would be just over half of the 20 million people who pay for a Spotify account. And Spotify’s ranks have been growing at a fast clip. In May 2014, Spotify had 10 million paid subscribers and 40 million active users. Those numbers jumped to 15 million paid and 60 million active by the end of last year. In addition to the 20 million paid subscribers, Spotify now has 75 million active users.
Beyond fixing the glitches in Apple Music and convincing trial users to subscribe, Apple needs to spread the word about its new service among the general public. The company is planning a wide marketing initiative using billboards, TV spots and radio ads to tout the service’s ability to connect listeners with both established artists and up-and-comers, USA Today said. And to capture more than just iOS users, Apple is cooking up an Apple Music for Android service.
Apple reportedly has set a goal of winning over 100 million subscribers for Apple Music, a lofty one as that would be more than double the number of subscribers of all current music services combined, USA Today noted. Offering streaming music, a radio station and the Connect social feature all in one place, Apple Music can be confusing to navigate and use at first. But promoting and explaining the service is only one of the challenges Apple faces.
“For many people outside of the US (Apple Music launched in 100 countries), you still have to explain what it is and how it works,” record producer and now Apple executive Jimmy Iovine told USA Today. “Beyond that, there’s still the issue of winning over millennials, who never pay for music, by showing them you’re offering something that will improve their lives. And finally, there are people out there who I think understand its value, but we still have to go out and get them.”
Russ Crupnick, managing partner of research firm MusicWatch, said that the significance of the 11 million trial subscribers is a matter of perspective since the service is still in a free period. Apple Music is available in North and South America and Europe, as well as Russia and India, so the 11 million trial members seems relatively low. And it leaves Apple far short of its purported goal of 100 million members.
“But Spotify and Pandora didn’t get there overnight either,” Crupnick added.