Tuesday, August 08, 2006

JupiterResearch: Is Plays for Sure Dead?

Michael Gartenberg wonders at the Jupiter Analyst Weblogs whether Microsoft's (MSFT) Plays for Sure has have much of a future following Nokia's (NOK) acquistion of Loudeye/OD2. Gartenberg writes that:

The way to go after Apple (AAPL) and iPod would be with a platform that both hardware and music store and service providers could build on. The combined economy would offer such a diversity of choice for consumers that a single company could never hope to compete with. Some parts of the eco-system would do better than others but the company providing the core technology would be king. After all, it worked that way in the PC business. Turns out, consumers weren't interested in choice all that much (or more correctly, the choice they were interested in was should they buy a Nano or an iPod with video).
Regarding Microsoft and their Zune strategy, Gartenberg comments that:
It's not a platform for third parties. It's an end to end solution from one company. Sort of like iTunes and iPod. While Microsoft still pays lip service to the notion of the Plays for Sure Platform (and keen observers note that the Windows Media team now works in Robbie Bach's org) it's clear that the larger platform vs. the end to end solution is Microsoft's strategy. Which seems to be echoing in other places as well. We've seen the first evidence of that this morning when Nokia bought Loudeye. Nokia, after all, makes music players (that also make phone calls). They had previously licensed Plays for Sure technology from Microsoft but now it looks like they're going to go end to end on their own. Expect to see this as a trend as more folks seek to distance themselves somewhat from Redmond and try to come to market with end to end vertical systems of devices and services.
Gartenberg beleives it won't work. because "the market simply won't bear a multitude of different devices tied to proprietary services and stores offering about the same level of functionality." He concludes with:
Remember what happened in the PC industry with all the so-called IBM compatibles, battling for market share with similar but not identical offerings. (that is until a little place called Compaq came out with a direct clone of the IBM PC not just a compatible). Look for some interesting players to get into the space later this year and then look for a bigger shakeout in 2007. There's some clear strategies that vendors in this space can use to make sure they're not part of the flameout that will likely occur, but it's not clear that most of the players will recognize what it is they have to do. Stay tuned, the digital music war is just getting started.