BizReport: ‘Concerns over compatibility’ among online music formats ‘seem to be increasing’

“Those who argue that legal downloading is just as good as file swapping, for a small fee, face an uncomfortable reality: Concerns over compatibility among the various players and digital formats — known as ‘interoperability’ — seem to be increasing,” David McGuire writes for BizReport.

MacDailyNews Take: Concerns “seem” to be increasing? Consumers’ concerns? We’d like some hard data and facts backing this up, please. These ‘concerns’ are almost certainly increasing for every business trying to compete with Apple.

“For example, Napster to Go users are told that for $5 a month extra, they can take their downloaded sounds wherever they want to go — unless their portable player is an iPod, because iPods aren’t compatible with the Microsoft software that Napster uses to protect the playlists,” McGuire writes.

MacDailyNews Take: So what?

“With each player and service using slightly different file formats, standards and security tools, users may have less freedom to use their music than they think. IPod owners who buy music from iTunes might get a shock if they buy new devices from Creative Labs or Dell and try to pull their iTunes songs onto them,” McGuire writes.

MacDailyNews Take: Pod owners who would buy a Creative or Dell device (all three of them) would likely get bigger shocks for many other reasons than trying to put iTunes Music Store-purchased songs on them.

“‘That is something that we struggle with and it is a definite obstacle. I hope at some point digital music will be simpler in that respect, but I think that’s still a long way off,’ Napster’s Harris said. Wolpert [RealNetworks’ Rhapsody’s chief strategy officer] called interoperability concerns ‘potentially the biggest obstacle to mass consumer adoption,'” McGuire writes.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s an obstacle for Napster and a concern for RealNetworks, not consumers. Consumers have already made and continue to make their choice in ever-increasing numbers. Napster et al. just don’t like the choice consumers have made.

“Sony’s Hesse and EMI’s Cohen say that they may need to lean on the retailers to make their services more interoperable. ‘I think we need to make significant strides in 2005 to improve that situation,’ Hesse said,” McGuire writes.

MacDailyNews Take: Why? For whose benefit?

“The company that did the most to get legal downloading off the ground may also be the lead weight on a market whose consumers like to shift among different players and services, taking their libraries with them,’ McGuire writes.

MacDailyNews Take: “Consumers like to shift among different players and services?” What percentage of consumers? Again, we’d like some actual proof of this, please. We can just as easily write that consumers like quality players that come in a wide range of sizes and prices that work seamlessly with an online music service that offers a large library with consistent prices. At least we’d have iPod+iTunes market share and unit sales to back us up.

“In addition to shutting out Napster, Apple also prompts iPod owners to use iTunes as their PC media player and online music store, making it difficult or even impossible to buy tracks from other retailers and move them directly to their devices,” McGuire writes.

MacDailyNews Take: Awww, ain’t that just too bad?

McGuire writes, “About 90 percent of the hard-drive-based music players sold in the United States are iPods, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. ‘Apple has opted to keep iPod proprietary and not let people who own them choose how they want to get digital music,’ [Napster’s] Harris said.”

MacDailyNews Take: Waa, waa, waa! Then make a better, more compelling player and music store combination and stop whining like a little girl, Mr. Harris.

McGuire writes, “Representatives for Apple reached by telephone and e-mail repeatedly declined to be interviewed for this story. While its adherence to a proprietary model may eventually become an obstacle to widespread adoption, Apple’s strategy is sound business and unlikely to change any time soon, said Gartner G2 analyst Mike McGuire. ‘In a perfect world it would all be interoperable, and everybody would make money, but in a market-driven world, is there a business case to be made for making the iPod interoperable? I don’t know,’ McGuire said. Apple chief Steve Jobs ‘is doing what any business would do,’ he added.”

MacDailyNews Take: Finally, a voice of reason appears.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The amount of tears coming from the also-rans as Apple whips them unmercifully could fill Lake Mead by now. By the way, the de facto standard for digital online music files is Apple’s protected MPEG-4 Audio (.m4p).

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Dell CEO: Apple can’t just have one product and then say they’re the innovative leader of the world – February 22, 2005
Napster CEO Gorog: ‘it’s stupid to buy an iPod’ – February 10, 2005
Report: Napster faces uphill fight to gain share, Apple prepared to run iTunes at a loss – February 10, 2005
Napster’s ‘iPodlessness’ doesn’t bode well for its future – February 10, 2005
$10,000 to fill an iPod? Napster’s going to end up with egg on their face – February 04, 2005
Why ‘Napster To Go’ will flop – February 03, 2005
Napster CEO: We’re ‘the biggest brand in digital music, much more exciting than Apple’s iTunes’ – February 03, 2005
BusinessWeek: Rather than dismissing Apple products as fads, Dell should try starting a few – January 31, 2005
RealNetworks’ CEO Rob Glaser grabs 3 of top 10 spots on ‘Dumbest Moments in Business 2005’ list – January 31, 2005
Dismissive Dell CEO not impressed with Apple Mac mini, calls iPod a ‘one-product wonder’ and a ‘fad’ – January 17, 2005
Creative CEO: Apple iPod shuffle ‘a big let-down, worse than the cheapest Chinese player’ – January 12, 2005
Creative declares ‘war’ on Apple iPod, shoots for 40% market share of MP3 players – December 21, 2004
Creative Technology declares ‘MP3 War’ against market-dominating Apple iPod – November 17, 2004
Bono-Glaser photo caption contest now open – October 25, 2004
Real’s CEO Glaser: ‘Harmony’ hack legal, Mac lovers are very sensitive to Apple criticism, and more – September 14, 2004
Analyst: Rob Glaser’s ill-advised war against Apple ‘is going to bite RealNetworks on the ass’ – August 30, 2004
RealNetwork’s CEO Glaser crashes Apple’s music party – July 30, 2004
Real CEO Glaser: Steve Jobs’ comments on Real ‘not succeeding’ are ‘ridiculously humorous’ – April 29, 2004
NY Times: Real CEO Glaser was close to having ‘iPod’ before Apple, but let it ‘slip through his fingers – April 24, 2004
Real’s CEO Glaser: Apple’s iPod/iTunes combo ‘threatens to turn off consumers’ – April 20, 2004
Jobs to Glaser: go pound sand – April 16, 2004
Real CEO Glaser begs Apple to make iPod play nice with other music services – March 24, 2004
Real CEO Glaser: ‘iTunes is only going to be used for playing songs you bought using the iTunes store – January 16, 2004


  1. PUHLEASE, why did they say “Apple has opted to keep iPod proprietary” and not “Consumers have a choice of Apple, Sony, or MS formats, and should know what the are buying” Unless the majors let us buy non-DRM music online, then this “problem” will exist. Until then, why wont my Gillette razor work with my Bic blades, or my Gamecube play PS 2 games?

  2. Back in the day of the first cd players, people were not going to by 3 players 4 three different formats. But a computer you can run as many music programs as you wish. As far as players go, iPod kicks but, and the people have decided they want the best.

    17″iMac G5, 12″ Powerbook G4, and lovin it.

  3. Sony’s Hesse and EMI’s Cohen say that they may need to lean on the retailers to make their services more interoperable. ‘I think we need to make significant strides in 2005 to improve that situation,’ Hesse said

    Yes. And the first step was to stop selling your music devices. The next step is to kill Sony Connect. Please feel free.

  4. …The tires I bought for a Ford Explorer won’t fit on my Toyota Prius. What’s up with that? Why all these proprietary tire formats??

    And I can’t ride my skateboard down the ski slope? Why is that snow incompatible with my skateboard wheels?

    This is unacceptable.

    What I’m really upset about is all those proprietary players that don’t conform to the iPod/iTunes standard. How dare they!

  5. I have developed what I call “fuel” by combining raw sewage and toenail clippings, but everybody keeps buying this “gasoline” stuff. I think that they are “stupid,” so I will call them that in public while also whining and moaning to receptive hack writers that people “don’t have a choice” of energy sources for their vehicles. I think that’s a sound business strategy.

    Steve Jobs must be laughing his ass off right about now.

  6. The Edison Co.’s cylindrical phonograph is infinitely superior to the low-grade “record discs” sold by RCA-Victor. The consumer is foolish to want a so-called “standard format.”

  7. “Sony’s Hesse and EMI’s Cohen say that they may need to lean on the retailers to make their services more interoperable.”

    Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha …. right. So did anyone “lean” on Sony when it tried to push its “proprietry” ATRAC3 format down everyones neck? No, of course not because it was a total flop and still is.

  8. “In a perfect world it would all be interoperable, and everybody would make money…”

    in a perfect world there would be no windows, no big music houses that want to jack up prices for no appearant reason than making more money, blahblahblah.

    sorry, but apple is not a meal-ticket for those who are incapable of offering quality hardware and a business model that ‘just works’. everybody should have the same chance to excell? that smells awefully foul of socialism; and asides from being economical idiocy, it is proven time and again that it does not work.

    i would like for winblows or napster to succeed, only for the reason of competition (brings out the best in us;) however, apple has shown that it can do quite well without.

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