Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Mimsy Were the Technocrats: As long as we keep talking about it, it’s technology.

iPod repeating same mistakes as Macintosh?

Jerry Stratton, August 19, 2004

John Gruber writes a detailed and insightful analysis of why, somewhat surprisingly, Real’s call for “open-ness” on Apple’s part vis-a-vis Real’s Harmony is falling on flat ears among consumers and even open technology advocates. The obvious point is that Real’s format is completely non-open, whereas Apple’s iPod fully supports open formats.

Real is trying to focus the attention onto the iTunes Music Store, but the iPod is about a lot more than the iTMS. Personally, I'd like to see the iTunes Music Store sell restriction-less music, but it hasn’t bothered me because I know I don’t have to buy from the iTMS--I continue to buy CDs and even vinyl and rip it restrictionless to my iTunes collection.

Gruber writes:

When RealNetworks whines about choice, they’re only talking about choice between rival DRM platforms. And it’s true that Apple denies iPod owners this choice. But what Apple provides is a larger and more important choice: the choice not to use DRM protected audio at all.

One argument is that Harmony appeals to people who are concerned about DRM lock-in. I.e., if you spend your money on music at the iTMS, what happens if in a year or two you decide to buy a music player from another company? Holy shit, you’re locked-in!

This is so fallacious, it’s hard to see how anyone is falling for it. DRM lock-in is indeed a serious issue--but the people who are concerned about lock-in aren’t going to trust RealNetworks (or Microsoft) any more than they trust Apple. They’re going to buy non-DRM music, which the iPod already embraces.

Plus, Apple allows you to burn your iTMS songs to good old-fashioned unprotected CDs--which you can then import for use on non-Apple music players. A pain in the ass? A bit. But a far cry from fascist lock-in.

As I wrote earlier, I am on both sides on the open-ness of Apple’s music store DRM. On the one hand, music purchased from the iTMS has the most consumer-friendly digital restriction management of any mainstream music store, especially at the time it came out. But I hope that its success with somewhat consumer-friendly formats convinces the rest of the industry that making their product even more consumer-friendly is the way to go. Real is not about that.

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