Scrutinizing Apple has become the norm for the media ever since Tim Cook took the reigns from the late Steve Jobs. No company in recent memory finds itself under the microscope as often as Apple does, but their recent $3 billion acquisition of Beats has the folks at One Infinity Loop feeling the heat of scrutiny more than ever before.
There’s something about Beats that Apple was coveting more than Dr. Dre does a phat bass line and a little chronic. Was it the headphones? Was it the Beats streaming music service? Was it the cool factor of having Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine as Apple executives? These questions have been analyzed to death, yet I don’t think we will ever know the answer.
Or will we? On Friday, a new report unleashed by none other than Buzzfeed states that the true driving factor behind the Beats acquisition is management arrogance. The report, authored by columnist Aylin Zafar, is based upon conversations BuzzFeed had with past and current employees in the company with direct knowledge of iTunes and Apple’s services Ping and iTunes Radio.
There are several quotes that plant a pretty rotten worm squarely near the Apple core. “Pandora is an awesome radio that blows iTunes Radio out of the water. Seriously, iTunes Radio sucks and it sucks because of Apple’s arrogance,” said one former mid-level employee. “I was floored by the decision-making skills by management over and over again.”
The source goes on to say that “the management in particular were pretty much tone-deaf in what Spotify was and that’s why they’re panicking now. They didn’t understand how Spotify worked, which is why they thought iTunes Radio would be a Spotify killer.”
The report concludes with another former employee condemning the company for being more like Vanilla Ice than Eminem. “They’re having trouble capturing the younger generation. The Apple coolness is kind of fading away.”
Like any investigation into Beatgate, we need to take this with a grain of salt. Apple losing touch with the younger generation is certainly up for debate. In fact, recent reports show teens would rather spend their money on an iPhone than buy clothes. What the Buzzfeed report is probably referring to is on the music side; in this case, then sure, perhaps Apple is somewhat unhip. Line up 100 teens and ask whether they’ve bought a song on iTunes in the last six months and you may just make it to the end of the line without getting a head nod. Streaming music is where it’s at.
But I have trouble believing Apple would subtract three billion from the assets side of the balance sheet just so they could get their hands on the intellectual property behind the Beats Music streaming service. There’s got to be more to it than this. Surely Apple’s main priority right now, based upon the recent keynote at WWDC, is taking on Google with the release of iOS 8, codenamed Android Killer.
Here’s a theory: Apple is buying Beats simply because they can. The Beats Music service is arguably the most innovative streaming music service. Dr. Dre is arguably the best hip hop producer in music (but really, Dre, when will we see Detox?). The Beats headphones are not the best, but they're respectable enough. Anyway, you can call it arrogance if you want, or call it greed, or call it "balls"—call it whatever, but Apple is in a rare position to acquire what it wants, when it wants.
Plus, look how much free publicity the company got just from this Beats acquisition alone. Maybe this is nothing but a clever marketing ploy. If that’s the case, it’s working wonderfully, no?