You had me at “we need to get you a new iPod”

Over the last 2 weeks I have noticed that my iPod has been acting really strangely, it wouldn’t connect with iTunes and 2 days ago it just went dead. It’s a Nano and I got it last October, I have no idea what the warranty is and I somewhat resigned myself to having to buy a new iPod.

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I like my iPod much more than I ever thought I would, it just kind of grows on you and becomes somewhat essential. I don’t have it plugged into my ears 24/7 but when I use it I really appreciate how well designed it is and how well it works. I have also found myself using iTunes music store frequently, I probably buy 15-20 songs a month and this really surprises me because I was one of those skeptics who said it would never work as long as people can download music for free (even if illegally). What I didn’t realize then that I know now is that it’s not the music you are necessarily paying .99 cents a song for, it’s the convenience and reliability of iTunes, and again, how damn well it works.

Apple also has a pretty good gig going with ProCare and AppleCare. Yeah, I signed up for ProCare and have committed myself to using it to help me get the most of my gear. I made a reservation at the Palo Alto store for yesterday afternoon and went down there with my broken iPod and belly up to the Genius Bar. I explain to a very animated and friendly Greg that my iPod stopped working, he takes a look at it and say “we need to get you a new iPod” and then goes off into the back to get a replacement, has me sign a one page form and I’m off (I was pretty stoked because my old iPod had a really scratched up screen, I promise to take better care of this one).

Steve, you got me. I finally get what you have been selling… the benevolent dictator who’s citizens trust will do the right thing and take care of them. I’ll give you $99 a year for ProCare and I’ll hand over $350 for AppleCare, and I’ll probably end up getting an iPod video. Whatever you come up with I’ll take a look at.

This also got me thinking about the iPod Video that I was browsing while waiting in the store yesterday. When they first came out with this I thought “who would pay for an episode of a television series that I can get for free?”, but now I realize that a lot of people will for the same reason that they will pay .99 cents for a song on iTunes. They will pay $2 (or whatever it is) because it’s so damn easy, it works great, and the iPod lets them placeshift. On top of all that, we are evolving into a marketplace for media that is much more ala carte than in years past, not only because the technology makes this possible but also because we, as an economy, are buying into services more than products and digital entertainment is as much about the service as it is the content.

This trend is something that the incumbents in the media business can fight, but it will happen and companies like Apple are leading the charge. This is also why Sony has failed with their successive online media efforts… they think like a content producer and their approach to convenience and customer service represents that. I have a PSP that would make a fantastic media playback device, but I’m sure as shit not going to spend $18 for a movie on UMD and I have no idea if they even have an online marketplace for PSP content, but they should and every PSP owner should be conditioned to go to the Sony iTunes equivalent on a home port for their PSP.

Sony doesn’t really care about their customers, you can see that when you walk into one of their retail stores. Sure they look pretty similar to an Apple store from the outside, but on the inside it’s all about how much candy can they sell you, none of the employees is particularly friendly or engaging, and they don’t have anything like the Genius Bar or Studio in an Apple store. In short, Sony is selling a product, Apple is selling an experience.

CEO’s in the software and consumer/enterprise Internet markets would do well to look at Apple as a model in how to serve your customers while never being a slave to them. When Apple comes out with a new operating system, their customers pay for it even though it requires them to upgrade everything. Maybe if Microsoft was less concerned about running every application that has ever been written going back to the DOS days it wouldn’t take them 5 years to upgrade to the next generation of Windows and then delay it for another year. Maybe if Dell had something more than low prices I would have bought a new laptop from them. I’m tired of WalMart and Target, I want sfbags.com who when I ordered a new bag for my new laptop the founder of the company wrote a thank you note stuffed inside of it when I got it.

If you think you are in the software business you are wrong, we’re all in the customer service business for software products that we build and market.