Updated on Mar 12, 2015: The MySwar Android app is also available in Hindi now.
A little more than a year ago, we had announced the availability of content on MySwar in Hindi in addition to English. We finally got to roll out an update that makes Hindi content available on the MySwar iOS app and the MySwar Android app as well.
Pretty much all content on the app, artist bios and trivia being exceptions, is now available in Hindi. Just go to Settings -> Language -> Choose “हिन्दी में” and Voila! As in the website, regardless of the Language setting in the app, you can search for songs/albums/artists by typing in either English or Devanagari.
Here’s a quick view of how the language setting works:
We shipped a few cool updates to MySwar this morning:
- Flipkart’s digital music service, Flyte, is now available as a purchase option on the MySwar website. At the album level, you will now see iTunes, Flipkart (for audio CD) and Flyte as options and at the song level iTunes and Flyte. This is subject to availability on iTunes and Flipkart. Currently, we have updated these links for the albums released in 2013 and 2012. We will make links available for the rest of the albums over the next few weeks.
- Song previews are now available for Indian users. The previews are sourced from iTunes.
- The Advanced Search results page now displays the number of songs.
- Ability to Refresh recommendations in the Discover page (logged in users). We also tuned this page to load faster.
- Also a number of other improvements and bug fixes.
Hope you like these improvements. Also, if you still haven’t downloaded our mobile app yet, please consider yourself gently nudged to do so. You can find the download links here.
Since Apple’s big iCloud announcement a couple of days ago, the internet has been abuzz with people expressing disappointment at the iCloud not going far enough when it came to music (like here, and here). What did Apple miss? Streaming.
Broadly, there seem to be two camps of people when it comes to music listening preference – one that prefers listening to streaming music (via services like Rdio, Spotify, Pandora, Raaga, Saavn) and the other that prefers owned music played locally on their computers, mobile phones, media players or other devices. But even those who prefer owning music (like I do), probably use streaming as an option to discover and sample before they buy.
So, regardless of your listening preferences, you may feel that iCloud missed the bus by not allowing streaming of music via subscription. Amazon Cloud and Google Music Beta also missed that same bus, by the way. They allow streaming but only of the music you already own. In fact, Amazon actually charges you for it. (Duh?!) Google has conveniently not revealed its pricing.
Coming back to iCloud. Streaming of purchased music may not make sense, but why not give customers the option to stream music they don’t own as well as buy songs if they choose to?
My guess is that it could be due to the following reasons:
- Profitability – Apple has a predictably profitable model of selling music through iTunes. On the other hand, streaming services have struggled for profitability, whether it’s the ad-supported Pandora, or subscription-based Spotify. And while streaming services are becoming increasingly popular, they still do not represent a sizeable enough market for Apple to be interested (not yet at least).
- Risk – iCloud is going to put considerable pressure on Apple’s resources (including their cloud infrastructure) and they know it. Why do you think Steve Jobs showed off the pictures of their huge server farm? Apple wants to come back strongly after MobileMe’s failure (Steve Jobs described it as “Not our finest hour” in the keynote at WWDC), and is not willing to take on the risk associated with the burden of streaming music.
- Concerns around bandwidth usage – A few days ago, I wrote a post about why 3G economics don’t work for streaming music in India. According to Paul Lamere, a music+tech guru and a passionate supporter of music subscription services, people in the US can get an unlimited 3G data plan “for the cost of a good meal”. That may be the case today but even in the US, people are becoming more aware of their rapidly increasing mobile bandwidth usage and carriers are shutting down unlimited data plans. Perhaps Apple believes that the consumers’ and the carriers’ increased sensitivity to bandwidth usage may adversely impact the streaming music market.
What is iCloud?
iCloud is Apple’s service that allows consumers to shift their storage hub from local hard-drives to the internet. iCloud takes care of syncing a variety of content and information (contacts, mails, calendars, music, photos, videos, documents, etc.) across multiple devices. The following apps are available on iCloud:
- Contacts, Calendar, Mail are available on iCloud for free. Apple is shutting down MobileMe, the product that used to do the same at $99 per year.
- Apps Store
- Device backup – Backs up important settings and loads on new device
- Documents in the cloud – Supports availability of Pages/Numbers/Keynote across devices.
- iCloud storage APIs – For developers to build iCloud apps
- Photo Stream – Stores the last 1000 photos on the cloud. Allows access across devices. People with more than 1000 photos can move older ones from Photo Stream to their device.
- Anything bought on iTunes can be re-downloaded on 10 devices
- Automated download to all devices. Download starts when you plug in your iPhone for charging.
- For non-iTunes music, consumers can
- Sync devices
- Buy the songs from iTunes, so it’s available on iCloud
- Buy the iTunes Match service at about $25/year. The service lets you match your non-iTunes tracks to iTunes’ 18 million song catalog. Matched songs have the same support as iTunes songs – 256K downloads (even if the original track is less than 256K) available on 10 devices. Unmatched songs will be available on the cloud as is. Apple claims that the matching takes minutes (as opposed to the “weeks” it takes to upload music to Google Music Beta or Amazon Cloud).
How much will iCloud cost?
Some details are not known but for the most part, iCloud is free. Storage for purchased music, apps, books and the 1000 Photo Stream photos are free of cost. 5GB of storage is available for free for mails, documents and backup. Apple indicates that 5GB is more than enough and does not even address the possibility of the need for more than 5GB. The only component of iCloud that costs money is iTunes Match at $24.99.
When will iCloud be available?
iTunes on iCloud is already available. The remaining components will be available this fall.
What about streaming?
No streaming. (I will be writing another post with my theories on why Apple did not roll out streaming).
Why is iCloud transformational?
- Comprehensive – It is the first and only service that manages such a wide gamut of “stuff” on the cloud.
- Invisible – It is so well integrated with the Apple ecosystem, that consumers may not even notice it. Stuff just becomes available across devices.
- Big impact – Except for iTunes Match, it is free. At that price point, adoption of iCloud by anyone with an Apple device is a no brainer. With millions of Apple customers using iCloud, the standard for managing multiple devices has changed permanently. For the better.
Pirates (distributors and consumers) often invoke Stewart Brands’ iconic phrase “Information wants to be free” to justify piracy. In a recent discussion with a friend, I argued that Brand used this powerful phrase to suggest that information should be easily available to everybody, not that it should be available free of cost. My friend’s counter-argument was that in India’s context, availability was truly an issue. He told me about how he ended up buying a pirated DVD because the original was not available. He did buy the official DVD when it was eventually released but it was evident that he didn’t really feel obliged to.
While I advocate purchase of legal music, I am unable to find fault with people who are driven to pirated goods in cases like this. I can totally relate with them.
- Some time ago I wrote about being unable to get hold of Raghu Dixit’s album. I haven’t listened to his music since then – poor quality internet streams are not my cup of tea.
- I ended up buying the music for the Tamil movie, Vinnathaandi Varuvaya, on the iTunes US store, because it was neither available in any physical store in Bangalore (I tried three different ones), nor in any internet store (I tried about a dozen). What was even more shocking? The music label that has the rights, Sony Music, does not even have an India site. Really Sony?! Is that how important the India market is to you? Because of your supply issues, I ended up paying for this album double of what it should have cost me in India. This for an album that had to be one of your bestsellers in 2010.
I know there are other people (like this) who jump through hoops to get legal music.
Music companies – get your act together. Stop whining about piracy and start making your content easily available to paying customers:
- Improve your supply of CDs as well as digital music. Even the pirates are doing better than you.
- Leverage the long tail. Stop focusing on only the ‘big hits’. The cost of digitizing and distributing music is incremental. Make everything available for download, even, scratch that, specially, the non-hits.
- Do a Hulu. Join together and make it easier for people to buy digital music. Google India has done a great job of aggregating streamed music. You can do the same for downloadable music. Don’t make us hop through all your websites to find music.
- Develop an India-specific distribution strategy with variable pricing. Don’t forget the bottom of the pyramid. Flood the market with the music equivalent of shampoo sachets – low bit-rate music on pen drives or phone chips. Peg it at a price point that makes downloading/distributing pirated music not worth the hassle.
Make “Music wants to be free” your motto. Or, watch musicians and movie producers bypass you and start self-publishing as you become irrelevant. Worse, watch pirates destroy your industry.
I get the Indian music industry’s focus on the mobile market given that a whole generation of Indians have leapfrogged the internet revolution and jumped on to the mobile revolution. A plethora of companies and services have sprung up around this market and this ought to be good for the customers. Only, it isn’t. I mean look at this insert I found in a CD I bought recently:
Is this the best the mobile download industry could come up with? You want me to download that ringtone – please don’t make me work for it. Much has been said about advertising and subliminal messages. Did any of the marketing guys involved here think about the message something like this might send to the customer? After I got past the “Whoa! This is complicated” phase, the next thing that hit me is the greed and desperation that emanates from this flyer. There is money to be made from ringtone downloads and everyone wants a piece of the action – music labels, mobile operators, “value added” service providers. Forget the complexity and the messaging, does the damn thing actually work? After deriving the algorithm for BSNL from this insert, I tried setting a ring back tone only to have my SMS disappear in thin air. But that’s just me giving it a single try. I would be really interested in hearing from people who have tried downloading music on their mobiles in India using legal methods like the ones listed on the insert. What has your experience been?
(An aside for corporate folks: The phrase “value added” really, really ticks off customers, specially because it’s almost always attached to the most expensive item on their bills. You use it to tell yourselves that you are going above and beyond, that you are expanding your market, that you are doing “high end” work. Unless, of course, you are being refreshingly honest and what you are really implying is that your other services do not add value! The customers do not really care whether a service is regular or “value added” in your opinion. Save the phrase for internal presentations if you must, but please spare the customers.)