“The iPod-iTunes combination is the very definition of a digital walled garden, at least so far as commercially downloadable music goes. Sure, you can rip music from your personal CD collection into unprotected formats like MP3, even legally make copies for personal use. But when it comes to iTunes, there’s no digital equivalent of buying a CD and taking it home, knowing it will work with whatever brand of CD player you have,” Arik Hesseldahl writes for BusinessWeek.
Hesseldahl writes, “Songs you buy from iTunes won’t play on your MP3 player from Toshiba, Samsung, Sony, SanDisk, or anyone else. Well, they’re not supposed to anyway. The fact is, you can burn the iTunes songs to an audio CD, then re-rip them as MP3s and make them freely available to any player you choose—not that I would advocate doing such a thing, of course.”
Hesseldahl writes how he thinks “the iPod should evolve over its second half-decade, and how iTunes and the rules that govern it should change. The company has sold some 70 million iPods and between two and three billion song downloads, and it’s time to consider the future of music delivery and Apple’s role in building that market… The world is clearly in need of a universally playable digital format that protects the rights of artists and recording labels. As the most successful vendor of digital music, Apple is currently in the position to start the discussion about how to get there.”
“Now may not be the time. IPod sales still account for 40% or so of Apple’s revenue, and let’s face it, the iTunes Store exists to sell iPods. But the time for a universal format is soon coming, because millions of frustrated digital music consumers, including some iPod owners, will demand that a downloaded song be as universally playable as a CD is today,” Hesseldahl writes.
Full article here.
Steve Jobs is many things, but stupid he’s not. Apple will license FairPlay when and if the time comes. For now, Apple’s iTunes ranks as one of the least restrictive services with relatively liberal usage terms and a system that, oh, by the way, doesn’t exclude tens of millions of Mac users. iTunes works for both Macs and Windows users, while the iTunes also-ran music outfits, those still in business, are restrictively Windows-only. If you don’t like DRM, blame the content owners, not Apple.
Apple should not license FairPlay until it makes business sense, not because some writer or competitor thinks it would be nice. This ain’t a commune, it’s capitalism; you’d think BusinessWeek would grasp the concept.
While Apple holds considerable market share in both devices and online services, it makes no sense at all to gift market share to competitors. When and if some competitor shows some meaningful strength, then Apple can use FairPlay licensing appropriately. Then FairPlay, already long the de facto standard for legal online music, will become the universal DRM standard.
When someone makes a real content service (with a desirable library) that includes Mac users instead of excluding them and also begins to take share from iTunes, then we’ll begin to think about the possibility of Apple licensing FairPlay.
Microsoft Zune intensifies chaos in Apple iPod+iTunes also-ran market – October 16, 2006
Apple’s vs. Microsoft’s music DRM: whose solution supports more users? – August 17, 2005
The de facto standard for legal digital online music files: Apple’s protected MPEG-4 Audio (.m4p) – December 15, 2004