Tuesday, December 14, 2004

No more Real content for iPods

According to this article on News.com, the next version of the iPod update will prevent users from being able to load music purchased at the RealNetworks online music store onto their iPods.  Additionally, this "fix" may render previously purchased Real music unplayable on the iPod.

From the article:

It was not immediately clear whether iPods older than the photo edition had as a result also been rendered incompatible with RealNetworks' technology.

Apple is apparently not willing to open up their DRM technology to competitors, a strategy that, perhaps in the future will change, but for now seems to be viewed as a competitive advantage by Apple.  When Real first introduced their Harmony system that allowed iPod owners to purchase Real music and load it on their iPods, Apple was not amused, so it is not overly surprising that Apple has made a move to block Real access to their devices.


Christopher Bailey said...

Ross, my recollection of Apple's business history is rather spotty, but isn't this the type of arrogant attitude that cost them the desktop computer market in the 80s? Because they wouldn't allow clones of their computers, IBM was able to take over with the PC, Microsoft swooped in with Windows, and the rest is history.

Like I said, I could be very, VERY wrong. Just not sure what Apple gains by being so tight with their technology.


Ross said...

Here's what I think: You are both absolutely correct and wrong at the same time.

Apple's business model at this time is that their iTunes music store with all asscoiated development costs is run as a loss-leader to support their hardware sales. To that end, it does make sense that Apple wants to ensure that content for their device can only be purchased in a DRM format from their store. It is Apple's responsibility, and I think that they are doing better than anyone else by providing exclusive content, free downloads, etc. Bear in mind that Apple's device does allow you to play non-DRM WMA files and MP3 files, so, unlike the first version of the Sony competitor, you can use all of your other music with your Apple device. I think that the iTunes music store is a powerful property and should be protected.

It is certainly my opinion that Apple is missing the boat by not licensing their FairPlay codecs to hardware manufacturers so that FairPlay is used in production units. For example, if the MP3 CD player in your car was also FairPlay compatible, you could drag MP3s and M4A songs onto the CD so that you could listen to your purchased, DRM-protected games in your car. Furthermore, if you stores all your purchased songs on an external drive and you could plug that drive into a Firewire or USB port on the back of a tuner that had the FairPlay codec, you wouldn't necessarily need a computer to play your music.

Is Apple reapeating some of the same issues that made it lose in the past? Maybe. However, this time they are not operating a horrifically proprietary platform -- the device is at least usable by both Mac and Windows machines (at some point they may want to address Unix users). They are releasing worthwhile upgrades and pricing themselves competitively.

What I worry about most a the comments Jobs makes about video. I think that people will be into carrying around video on personal players. Video could even wind up being bigger than audio. I agree with Jobs in that people don't have as intimate a connection with video as they do with music; I don't feel as much of a need to own videos as I do songs, but I think that they will miss the boat in not producing a video player.

Apple seems to be poised to take over the living room. They will have to act faster than Windows because they are doing a massive Media Center push that could knock Apple out of the running.

I would like to hope that Jobs learned from the mistakes he made in the past, but only time will tell.

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