Ding-Dong, the Ping Is Dead


Apple (NAS: AAPL) has apparently had enough of its struggling social experiment. Sources are telling All Things D that the tech giant will kill off Ping when the next iTunes software update rolls out.

Discontinuing the poorly received offering makes sense. Ping got off to a strong start two years ago -- nabbing a million registered users within the first 48 hours -- but the masses never followed the early adopters. Ping was too cold and commercialized for the tastemakers to stick around.

You've got another Ping coming (sort of)
There have been some pretty good hints that this move was coming. Earlier this week, Apple announced heartier integration with Facebook (NAS: FB) when iOS 6.0 rolls out in the fall. Apple and Facebook have usually let pride get in the way of working together in a reasonable manner, but Apple has no choice but to concede that Facebook owns social. Not even the most valuable tech company can ignore a platform with more than 900 million active users. If Ping isn't becoming the hub of music lovers that Apple originally envisioned, why keep it going when Facebook has the art of social down pat?

The bigger hint came from CEO Tim Cook himself.

"Will we kill it? I don't know," he said during the All Things Digital 10 conference two weeks ago. "We'll look at that."

At that point, Ping became a dead platform walking. All that was left was for Apple to pull the plug.

It don't mean a Ping
"If Ping sticks around -- or if it's mercifully nixed and reincarnated later -- Apple had better remember that a product or a service launched under its brand that isn't best-of-breed is detrimental to the company in the long run," I wrote two weeks ago. "Give consumers the Ping they want or don't bother trying."

Apple's apparently going with the latter, and that's fine.

Ping rolled out just as iPod sales were peaking. Slapping a social skin on top of its wildly popular iTunes Music Store may have seemed like a great idea, but the end result was a sea of "buy" buttons and brief song samples at a time when streaming music without purchasing tracks was starting to become the new normal.

Spotify washed ashore last summer, revolutionizing the way we consume on-demand music. Pandora (NYS: P) and its music-discovery service has tripled in popularity over the past two years. Even Sirius XM Radio (NAS: SIRI) has managed to grow its subscriber each and every quarter since Ping's launch.

Whether it's streaming or broadcasting, dedicated music providers have exploded in popularity. At the same time, Facebook has seen its user base nearly double. It had just cracked the 500 million member mark when Ping was introduced.

Apple's approach to combining music and social was destined to flop. It was too old-school. It was seemingly oblivious to the emerging trends on either side of the spectrum.

Ping a song
There won't be a point in mourning the end of Ping. It was a lost cause, and it was embarrassing to a company that rarely misses. It's not as if a third year of seasoning would've unearthed the secret sauce to make it relevant.

When Ping is gone -- and there's little reason to believe it won't be -- Apple can stop having to field questions about why it isn't working. We know why it didn't work. It was a backward-thinking service launched by a forward-looking company.

Better luck next time, Apple.

Apple jacks
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