Call the Geek Squad. Best Buy's Cloud Music service is coming under fire for technical glitches and other shortcomings even before it's formally launched in the U.S.
Early reviews of the retail giant's cloud-based media offering this week have been withering, bashing such features as having to download software to make it work to a vague product page to a "Lite" version that only lets you listen to the first 30 seconds of your own songs. The premium version costs $4 a month.
"Skip It, For Now" advised the headline of PCMag.com's dismissive appraisal of Best Buy Music Cloud. Besides working out technical issues or changing features of the service to make it more user-friendly, Best Buy now has to overcome the PR debacle associated with its soft launch. Better advice: scrap it altogether. The question Best Buy should be asking itself is, "Why are we trying to take on Apple, Amazon and Google in the digital music storage area when they're better at digital media technology than us?"
Best Buy turned to a startup called Catch Media to power its cloud-based service, introduced last year in the U.K. You'd think that would've given the company a chance to work out problems with its offering before bringing it to the U.S. In any case, Best Buy is also charging for a service the big Internet and technology players are offering for free. What is the company thinking?
Best Buy should stick to partnering with Apple, Amazon and Google as a retail distribution channel for their smartphones, e-readers and other gadgets. Trying to compete with them on their digital home turf doesn't make any sense. The company may try to expand its Internet business to offset difficulties in its core brick-and-mortar retail business, but a cloud-based service isn't a promising opportunity for Best Buy at this point.
The company is better off focusing its online and mobile efforts on competing with Amazon in its main business of selling consumer electronics, where it has more expertise and more to gain than an ill-conceived foray into digital media.