Just about every Internet and print news outlet has paid tribute to Steve Jobs over the past few days, but PaidContent.org — a website dedicated to discussion of the sale of digital content — had one of the more interesting plaudits. In a post by Media Guardian’s Charles Arthur, Jobs was rightly given his place in history as the “man who got the Internet to pay for content.”
Arthur reflected on the sad state of affairs in the media biz just ten years ago. He notes that “if you wanted to download some music, your best bet was Napster or one of the filesharing systems such as LimeWire or KaZaA.” For the services that were actually considered legal, there were services like PressPlay and MusicNet requiring US$15 monthly subscriptions for low-quality streams that couldn’t be burned to CD.
Jobs came along with the iPod, and then followed up with the iTunes Music Store. If it hadn’t been for Jobs persuading the music companies in 2003 to license their songs to Apple, the store wouldn’t have happened. As Arthur notes, the music companies figured that Apple was just a tiny company with a minimal market share in the computer business, so they went along for the ride.
Probably the single greatest thing Microsoft did was actually convince people to pay lots of money to own software. Before it was free or only leased.
Apple did the same thing – convincing people that paying for music was the right thing to do. But even more difficult, he had to convince the music companies to allow it.
Without the Reality Distortion Field, he may not have been able to accomplish even that.
That may be one reason why the lost of the Jobsian RDF will hurt Apple. But I would be willing to bet that either Cook has something just as useful – he has negotiated some incredible contracts for Apple – or that someone with a similar trait arises at Apple.