Apple Buries the Dead

The two-year Ping debacle has come to an end.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is finally getting rid of its rudderless social music initiative.

MacRumors reports that Ping shut down over the weekend. The current version of Apple's iTunes does not feature a Ping menu item.

Apple hinted at the musical platform's coda.

"Will we kill it? I don't know," Apple CEO Tim Cook said during May's All Things Digital 10 conference when Ping came up. "We'll look at that."

The comments may have seemed cryptic, but the lack of confidence spoke volumes. Two weeks later, sources were telling conference host All Things D that Ping would be nixed by the time the next iTunes update rolled out in the fall.

Ping was a flop from the start. Sure, Ping scored a million registered users within the first 48 hours of its 2010 launch, but would they stick around?

My first impression of Ping was terrible. There weren't enough artists on the hub providing useful information. The 30-second samples were insulting. The over-commercialization of Ping -- with "buy" buttons galore -- made it as uncomfortable a place to be as a used car lot or a timeshare marketing presentation.

Just because Apple is the top dog in music sales doesn't mean that it can excel at social. Sirius XM (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) has nearly 23 million premium subscribers. You don't see the satellite radio giant creating chatty communities around its music genre channels. Pandora (NYSE: P  ) has more than twice as many registered users as Sirius XM. You don't see it trying to force-feed purchases of tunes after brief samples.

Facebook (Nasdaq: FB  ) has helped make music social. It has teamed up with popular streaming websites to encourage the automatic sharing of what friends are listening to. There is no shortage of critics, but at least Facebook is succeeding because it's a place where sharing is in its nature. It also plays to the strengths of the streaming services without letting the major labels take over.

Apple will learn. Unlike Antennagate or Mapgate, this isn't something that can be remedied in time. Apple never belonged in the social music arena, and the stigma of Ping's failure will keep it away for a long time.

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Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Facebook and has the following options: long JAN 2014 $20.00 calls on Facebook. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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