Apple’s deal with EMI to sell DRM-free, high-quality music “marks a fundamental change in the digital music landscape, a feat Apple is pulling off with increasing regularity of late. If I were an employee of Microsoft and involved with its confusing digital-music efforts, built around its highly DRM-protected WMA format, I’d be sweating right now,” Arik Hesseldahl writes for BusinessWeek.
“But one of the truly remarkable aspects of the pact is how Apple is pulling it off. Having floated the rhetorical trial balloon for selling unprotected music files via iTunes in his landmark essay ‘Thoughts on Music,’ Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs in hindsight appears to have been deliberately ambiguous about the file format he preferred. It’s now clear why. He didn’t mean selling unprotected MP3s, but unprotected AAC songs. The decision will have important long-term effects, especially as more labels follow EMI’s lead.” Hesseldahl writes.
Hesseldahl writes, “Using AAC is brilliant for several reasons. First, for Apple, whose stated market aim is to do everything in its power to sell more of its highly profitable iPods (and beginning in June, presumably profitable iPhones), the choice of AAC means more non-Apple devices will be able to play songs purchased on iTunes.”
“AAC-format supporters include some notable names, including Microsoft’s Zune. So come May, the 16 people who own one will be able to buy EMI tracks from iTunes and presumably play them on that device. Sony’s PlayStation Portable also supports the format, as do a few of its Walkman-branded MP3 players. I can find one player each from SanDisk, Creative Technology, and Sharp that include AAC support. Palm and Research In Motion both support AAC via software that runs on the Treo and BlackBerry Pearl smartphones. IPod sales, which are crucial to Apple’s bottom line are unlikely to get much competition from these devices, as none are as good at the stripped-down interface, and none can touch the iPod’s inherent status factor,” Hesseldahl writes.
Hesseldahl writes, “The real target is Microsoft. What we now have is a good old-fashioned standards war heating up, and it is pitting the old foes Apple and Microsoft against each other once again. Saying Apple has the upper hand is giving Microsoft more credit than it deserves… All of those companies that have been ‘partners’ of Microsoft—Samsung, Creative, Archos, and SanDisk, to name a few—have been treated pretty poorly by Redmond recently… Those partners were all left holding the bag as Microsoft walked away from PlaysForSure, when it launched the Zune and the companion Zune Marketplace… The next generation of non-Apple MP3 players heading to market will be notable for two things: AAC support, and maybe, just maybe, a lack of WMA support.”
Full article here.
MacDailyNews Note: From EMI’s press release, April 2, 2007: “EMI expects that consumers will be able to purchase higher quality DRM-free downloads from a variety of digital music stores within the coming weeks, with each retailer choosing whether to sell downloads in AAC, WMA, MP3 or other unprotected formats of their choice.”
These retailers desperately want to sell music for the market-dominating device, Apple’s iPod, which supports AAC and MP3, among others, but not WMA.
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Monster Cable announces full support of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ call for DRM-free music – February 13, 2007
BBC columnist doesn’t believe Steve Jobs’ Apple would stop using DRM if music labels would allow it – February 12, 2007
EMI may sell entire music catalog DRM-free – February 09, 2007
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Warner’s Middlebronfman: Jobs’ DRM-free music call ‘without logic and merit, we’ll not abandon DRM’ – February 08, 2007
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Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ posts rare open letter: ‘Thoughts on Music’ – calls for DRM-free music – February 06, 2007