Voxsplaining Apple’s Beats Acquisition

Nilay Patel has written a brief piece for Vox on Apple’s acquisition of Beats. There are lots of ways to interpret Apple’s acquisition of Beats. It could be an attempt to regain an amorphous “cool”, or it could be a strategic acquisition to ensure Apple maintains some control over the music industry as the world transitions to streaming. I think Patel got some of it wrong, and some of it right in his piece. We’ll start with the wrong.

But Apple’s star has faded in recent years as the world waits for the company’s first major post-Jobs product, all while other services like Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix have reinvented media consumption.

This misses the point. It’s certainly possible Apple’s star is fading (though I personally don’t see enough evidence just yet). Posing the statement in the way he did is just plain misleading. Yes we’re still waiting for the first “post-Jobs product” but Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix all appeared and became widely known before Steve Jobs died. It’s not as if Jobs left the helm and suddenly Apple’s dominance disappeared with all of these new companies becoming successful. Apple is not the only fish in the pond filled with tech companies.

Later in the piece Patel has a better explanation on Apple’s recent behavior:

[Apple] has seemed guarded and cautious for the past several year, with perfectly-rehearsed messaging standing in for Jobs' raw emotional genius.

This is a much better take on what’s actually going on at Apple I think. They aren’t imploding, floundering, lost, or dying. Apple is, perhaps, becoming a bit slower and more calculated. They seek to ensure their next product launch doesn’t accidentally destroy the company. It’s as if they think there’s more at stake now that Jobs is gone.

Reagan Knopp