Verizon customers who upgraded to the company’s new music service discovered a big oops: their cell phones can’t play MP3s acquired from anyone but the company’s V Cast Music Store. Verizon says this was an unintentional error and is working to fix the problem. But this problem highlights another issue facing the communications giant:
The new V Cast Music store does, however, weigh in definitively on one side of the music download industry by employing the newest version of the Windows Media Player from Microsoft Corp., which doesn’t work with Apple Computer Inc.’s Macintosh operating system or iTunes software.
The audience being targeted by V Cast is already using iTunes for music and more. By choosing a Windows-based format, Verizon is asking consumers to make a choice that might backfire on V Cast. Consumers who have purchased music via iTunes — and given the store’s blockbuster success, there are many — aren’t going to repurchase items just to listen to music on their cellphones.
This isn’t a Beta versus VHS issue. Content providers cannot afford to embrace one operating system/format over another. Consumers have made it clear that they want their technology to be as flexible as possible. Companies that force choices on consumers will learn what the music industry discovered the hard way: people aren’t buying the “we know best” approach.
As for the MP3 problem, there’s no way to say this nicely: it was sloppy work by Verizon. The MP3 format is mature and skipping compatibility testing shows that Verizon either doesn’t understand the business it’s entered or needs to implement better software development procedures. This blunder puts the burden on the consumer: they must go to one of the company’s stores to receive a software upgrade. Why not provide a downloadable link on the V Cast website and send a text message to all service subscribers?
Now Verizon faces two challenges: recovering from this stumble while convincing consumers that excluding the world’s most popular music service was a good move.