There are three things you can be certain of in life: death, taxes and the success of a Jay-Z album. So when Samsung teamed up with the multi-platinum, multi-hyphenate mogul to hawk his new release, "Magna Carta Holy Grail," it was a guaranteed win-win. Except that it wasn't. Not quite. Samsung might find a sympathetic ear among CIOs -- who among you hasn't had a mobile app launch go bad or a site crash? Then again, you might be shaking your heads at the hubris.
The idea itself was brilliant marketing -- a new way to take advantage of mobile devices to promote an artist and deliver their music. Samsung purchased one million copies of the album for $5 a pop then made it available to Galaxy S III-, Galaxy S4-, and Galaxy Note II-owning fans via app on July 4, nearly a week before it officially dropped. Instant cool cred and customer love for Samsung!
The company wagered users would jump at the chance for free Jay-Z tunes and they were right. What they apparently didn't bet on was so many people would try to get it at once. Shortly after it became available at midnight on the fourth, the app crashed. Jay-Z came to Samsung's defense saying no one could have predicted that 20 million people would attempt to grab the album at once -- the company couldn't possibly be prepared. Nice of you to say, Mr. Carter, but I beg to differ. In reality, in this day and age, it just sounds like poor planning a'la the Gaga/Amazon debacle of 2011. The ease of downloading a mobile app, combined with the hype surrounding this particular mobile app launch should've had Samsung taking out all the stops to make sure systems could meet the demand. But, this wasn't the worst of things.
Those who were able to get their fingers on the album were miffed to find they actually got more than they bargained for. And here comes another old adage: there's no such thing as a free lunch. The app required users to cough up their phone status and identity along with their Facebook or Twitter information to which updates would automatically be made when one interacted with the app. In other words there was a cost to this "free" album: fans' private data.
Would fans have busted the down the virtual doors to get "MCHG" had they known the hidden cost in advance? Honestly, most probably wouldn't think twice, but all the same in these paranoid post-Snowden days, it got folks up in arms and fast. In the end, as this week's lead Searchlight item points out, fans and Samsung both lost something in this win-win proposition, it's true. But lest we overreach here, as HuffPo contributor Nicholas Mennuti blogged, let's not put this on par with NSA snooping. Jay-Z summed up the situation nicely for all parties involved in a tweet: "sux must do better."
Check out SearchCIO.com's own coverage of these topics
Quickness or quality control: Which one rules in mobile app dev?
Nate Silver on the power of big data done right
The "Internet of Things" is a top must-follow IT trend
Also in the Searchlight this week, scary news for sideloading Android users (and their CIOs), fun with data privacy and more.
- One would think there'd be no way to turn customers against you by offering them a free Jay-Z album via mobile app. Samsung managed to find two.
- A new (to me) word was added to my lexicon this week: sideloading. For Android users, it means downloading an app from somewhere other than the Google Play store. For CIOs it's also something to make sure your BYOD-ers never ever do.
- It's all fun and games until someone loses their private data. No, really, it is. Austrian Web developers have disguised data privacy lessons in gamification, creating a "Sims"-esque world where they hope folks come to understand just how important it is to keep tabs on their info by showing them how corporations use it.
- So, Steve Ballmer is restructuring Microsoft in pursuit of a more united, more focused company striving to bring "a single experience for everything in a person's life that matters." That sounds really nice, and also kind of familiar.
- Last week I suggested CIOs not panic about an onslaught of smart-watches. We all make mistakes.
- How will all the energy needed to power the Internet of Things be generated? Maybe start with some jumping jacks.
Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, features writer.
This was first published in July 2013