How Apple Could End Up an Average Company
Focus sets Pandora apart from practically every other Internet radio player. Most of them are all over the place. It's difficult to make sense of what they're trying to be, other than everything to everyone. That's why Rdio impresses me so much, particularly when compared to Spotify.
With Rdio, you're getting a clean and intuitive on-demand interface. Spotify provides something worse than a cluttered and confusing user experience. It's so bad that sites such as Gizmodo have to post tips and tricks to figure out the platform. It really shouldn't be so unclear.
Rdio makes it so when you know what you want to listen to, you fire it up and listen. It renders a record collection unnecessary. Couple that with Pandora's personalized radio experience and you have the modern day version of the old traditional radio listening drives music buying decisions trajectory the Web blew up.
Instead of anointing Apple the "crusher" and "killer" of Pandora, we should consider where Apple might fit in and if, the bigger picture, the company's presence in the space will mean much.
Will Apple be more like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora or a blend of all three? Will it work in other types of content, such as news and sports talk, like Slacker does? Or will it look Pandora in the eye and do straightforward personalized radio. I doubt it. I expect a Rdio-like service, though not as good.
Say what you want about Apple, but it's never really been all that great at putting together awesome user experiences with software and services like it does, consistently, with hardware. That aside, it absolutely will fit in somewhere. It will, without a doubt, be a major player. But, just as it's imperative to draw distinctions between on-demand services, platforms that house your music collection (e.g., iTunes) and the personalized radio experience Pandora provides, you have to consider each service as one option in a sea of many viables (I love coming up with new words).
In the old days, we chose between radio stations on the basis of the style of music played or the personalities who talk between the songs and/or commercials. We no longer do that quite as often. Pretty much all Internet radio lets the user build his or her experience from the ground up.