Apple’s roadkill whine in unison: ‘incompatibility is slowing growth of digital music’

“The market for legitimate music downloads is booming, but the stumbling block of incompatibility will not go away. Just ask anyone who has ever tried to put a Napster track on an iPod,” Brian Garrity writes for Billboard.

MacDailyNews Take: Why settle for asking just one? Ask all three of them.

Garrity writes, “Experts say the DRM dilemma might not be resolved for another two years. ‘It’s not going to go away quickly,’ Napster chief technology officer William Pence said at a recent DRM conference in New York.”

MacDailyNews Take: If Napster executives are such DRM experts, why do they use Microsoft’s WMA DRM instead of developing their own? Why two years? Is that how long Napster figures they’ll last?

Garrity writes, “Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM is supported on more than 60 devices and used for digital files sold by dozens of retailers, including Napster, AOL, Yahoo, RealNetworks, Virgin, FYE and Wal-Mart. Apple’s DRM is called Fair Play [sic] and works only in Apple-controlled products and services like the iPod and the iTunes Music Store.”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s iTunes Music Store is the only store mentioned above that supports both Mac and Windows. All of the rest that Garrity mentions support only Windows. Apple has sold more songs online than the rest of the above-mentioned outfits combined. Apple’s AAC with FairPlay DRM is the de facto standard for legal online music files. Would it matter if Windows Media were supported by over 60,000 devices if nobody were buying and using them?

MacDailyNews Major Annnouncement: We have developed a car that runs on maple syrup! Exxon is stifling the growth of our product – they need to install maple syrup pumps in their stores! In addition, we’ve developed a maple syrup pump for maple syrup cars! Toyota are stifling the growth of our maple syrup pumps – they need to make cars that run on maple syrup! We’re waiting for The New Zealand Herald and Billboard to pick up our story and help us whine to a larger audience.

Garrity writes, “As more consumers go digital, the compatibility issues between Apple and Microsoft become more pronounced. Apple, the early market leader, has been particularly resistant to shaking hands in the interest of compatibility.”

MacDailyNews Take: The vast majority of consumers are choosing iPods and using Apple’s iTunes Music Store on their Macs or Windows PCs. A song is a song and Apple offers the largest legal music library at consistent prices. Why should Apple give away their business to other music outfits or sell songs for players from which they derive no profit? Solely for the “interest of compatibility?” That’s some business plan. Apple would have a tough time getting shareholder approval for that one.

Garrity writes, “More than 184 million digital tracks were sold in the United States this year through the end of July, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That is almost double the amount sold during the same period in 2004. Still, some digital-music executives say compatibility problems are slowing the growth of legitimate download sales and subscription services.”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s iTunes Music Store surpassed 300 million songs sold on March 2, 2005 and surpassed 500 million songs on July 18, 2005. Thats’ over 200 million songs right there, in only 4 and a half months. It’s a safe bet that of the 184 million songs sold in the U.S. that Garrity mentions, almost all of them were sold by Apple. So, Apple is slowing down the growth of legitimate download sales? Come on. Apple created the market and it responsible for nearly all of its growth. Apple’s slowing down subscription services somewhat, maybe, since Apple doesn’t offer that option (mainly because it still hasn’t proven to be worth it), but consumers clearly seem to want to own their music much more than they want to rent it, as Apple proven over half a billion times. The only real growth Apple has slowed is the growth of their competitors.

Garrity continues, “Even the CD presents DRM issues, because Apple has not licensed Fair Play for inclusion on copy-protected discs, thus making secure CDs incompatible with the iPod, the most popular portable player with more then 15 million units sold.”

MacDailyNews Take: Those so-called CDs are not Red Book compliant, so they are not even CDs. Apple has sold well over 21 million iPods and counting.

Full article here.
The only people whining are portable digital device makers, online music outfits, and DRM peddlers that are not named Apple. Consumers, meanwhile, are happily buying iPods, importing music from Red Book compliant Compact Discs that they own, and using the iTunes Music Store on both Macs and PCs. The whining that we hear is coming from companies that are losing or have already lost to Apple’s superior symbiotic music solution, iPod+iTunes+iTunes Music Store, not from consumers.

The online music outfits are quite unhappy because the music they sell can’t easily and seamlessly be played on the device most people have chosen to own, Apple’s iPod. The portable digital music player makers are unhappy because very few want their players. People obviously want iPods instead and also wish to utilize Apple’s iTunes Music Store for it’s large library, podcast features, liberal DRM, consistent pricing, exclusives, etc. Microsoft is doubly unhappy because their proprietary WMA DRM is not the de facto standard for portable digital music player or online music services. These three factions, the online music outfits, the portable digital music player makers, and Microsoft, will continue the wails of their death throes via willing and/or ignorant media outlets, but that doesn’t mean that Apple has to change a thing until or unless they see a sound business case for doing so.

It’s the losers (Napster, Microsoft, Sony, Creative, iRiver, RealNetworks, etc.) that are whining. Not music buyers. Not music player buyers. Not Apple. Apple is too busy selling iPods and music online to care about the losers’ sour grapes.

Lastly, achieving a monopoly is legal. It’s monopoly abuse that is illegal, as Microsoft knows all too well. Apple isn’t forcing anyone to buy iPods or use their iTunes Music Store. Consumers are choosing to do so of their own free will. In droves.

[UPDATE: 8/13, 10:05am ET: Changed headline.]

Related article:
The New Zealand Herald serves up a steaming pile of iPod FUD – August 11, 2005
The de facto standard for legal digital online music files: Apple’s protected MPEG-4 Audio (.m4p) – December 15, 2004


  1. The onslaught from the music label PR machine is growing. First the Peter Griffin article in New Zealand paper yesterday and then this one in Billboard. Both spouting the exact same “blame it on Apple” message with the same poorly done anal-ysis.

    The music labels are going to keep pushing this premise in the hopes of making Apple look like the bad guy so that they can get through their price increase. Look for at least a couple of more articles from lazy “journalists” in the next week based on the same PR junk.

    So for the next journalist – here’s the analysis:

    At least 25 million iPod users on Macs and Windows PCs have bought over 500 million iTMS songs. Over 1.5 million songs a day. Very few (.01%), if any, are complaining about not being able to buy songs from a store other than Apple’s iTMS.

    The 5 million non-iPod users, using one of 60 devices, limited only to a Windows PC, can buy songs from several WMA-based stores. With such bountiful choice, why are they complaining instead of buying songs? (The WMA stores have continuously refused to announce the pitifully small number of songs they’ve sold.) Why? Because they bought a second-rate player to use with a second-rate OS to buy songs from second-rate stores? Well yes. And no, because there are actually very few people complaining (no quotes from users who actually feel this way in the article!) – the whole thing is made up by the music labels!!!

  2. I can’t wait for Coral to get their interoperable DRM scheme into the market – and then sell even fewer songs than the WMA stores. I can’t wait to see consumers prove this premise to be the pile of crock that it is.

    Why does Billboard generate such junk? Because it’s willing to sacrifice its reputation and credibility for short-term music label advertising dollars. Beware the trade media … Always follow the money.

  3. Wake up, music industry. Apple has implemented the ONLY solution to ensuring legal downloads, licensing compliance, and trackable sales in the industry. You loved them for it in the beginning. Now stand behind Apple to get the masses onboard, rather than trying to get Apple to open up the channels for the other, less legal and less dependable download services.

  4. Interesting article. It does say one thing to me that the music industry doesn’t care about reducing the price of music in order to increase music sales, it would rather keep the prices high and reduce the amount of times you can make copies of a music CD. To that I say fuck you all you greedy money grubbing music executives. I am happy to support the fantastic local talent of New Zealand artists. BIG UPs to you guys and girls! But I dont have a problem with getting other stuff for free unless some music exec wants to drop the price a bit…..Nah didnt think so. ,,/,,

  5. They are just pissed that Apple created a way to make downloading music both legal and profitable, and that Apple didn’t “kiss the ring” and bow to their radiant divine given right to decide how it should be done. They didn’t want iTunes to succeed, they want us to go back to buying CD’s at retail outlets for inflated prices.

  6. This all reminds me of the Coke vending machines.

    They put them out there, they become insanely popular — what a great distribution idea.

    The consumers are happily buying up all the Cokes, Pepsi begins their own vending machines that aren’t selling, and the industry becomes enraged that those Coke machines are not vending out Pepsi products!

    Open up those Coke vending machines to other products!

  7. There IS a problem with not licensing Fairplay. Not necessarily to iPod competitors, but to other music players that Apple seem reluctant to make. They could license them to Elgato and squeezebox for example, and maybe to Pioneer or Blaupunkt for use in car audio systems. Or failing that, they could just be making these things themselves. The only thing they’ve done is with the Airport Express, and that offers no display and no control from the receiving end.

  8. This article is correct in stating that there should be a “standard” if you will for all these stores’ songs.
    As someone who buys from many different music stores,an iPOD owner and a Mac-user, I hate Apples format, requiring me to rip proprietary format to mp3 so I can play my files on a real player, the iPOD really is an inferior device to me – not anywhere near as feature-rich as it should be,(I guess I’m the one owner in 25 million), and it doesn’t hold even a remote torch to my Archos jukebox.
    So I think all of these groups, including Apple, should get together and come up with a better standard than the iTunes or WMA format – they could do it if they tried. Here’s hoping.

  9. The good thing about iTunes is that it brought us a damn fine alternative to being criminal!

    And the bad thing about it (and others) is that it forces us to simply remove any DRM in order to use it!!! I know a DJ, that uses his notebook and some USB hardware. In order to use the music he buys, he has to remove the DRM from every song. If i bought another digital musicplayer I would have to do the same. See it´s no sweat at all using whatever musicplayer You prefer with iTunes, as long as You remove the DRM. Well, if everybody keeps removing every kind of DRM in order to use their legally bought music and other media for reasonable purpose, the industry have a problem.

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