Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Apple week

Holy cow. This is like in the Olympics when the acknowledged speedskating favorite, who's been just hanging in the pack, opens up like crazy and leaves everyone else behind. I don't really do too much Apple-polishing, but in the last week this company demonstrated why it consistently beats its industry competition like an old rug. Steve "Boom" Jobs may be a complete parody of himself, but like Ang Lee, his incoherence and goofiness are hiding something.

In the past week Apple settled its enormous dispute with Apple Corps., which has two consequences, one that might be sort of important for Beatle fans, and one that's likely going to help them secure a future monopoly on digital music delivery. Yeah, we'll be able to get Beatles songs etc. on iTunes, but the big deal here is the ability of Apple (Computer) to begin selling music via "physical media," which, despite all the online music hullaballoo, still represents something like 90% of music sales.

Meanwhile, after vigorously defending their Fairplay system (a Digital Rights Management program that "secures" content downloaded from iTunes), Steve Jobs has essentially reversed their position. He's now calling on the Big Four to acknowledge the DRM doesn't work (no duh) and abolish it. I found the essay lucid and fairly balanced, with the only flaw being a somewhat facetious argument regarding the degree to which Apple's software and hardware lock users into a consumer relationship with the company. This reversal comes after a wave of challenges to the iTunes DRM system throughout Europe, and increasing competition from other online music vendors (especially eMusic) which don't use DRM.

Anyway, Apple made huge, smart strides this week to stay ahead of the curve. The iPhone (even with its 150 kabillion contacts) pales in comparison.


Anonymous said...

The motive you suggest it totally off base. Check out this article reguarding the iPhone and DRM

Brent Schlender is getting paid far too much.

alek said...

Anon -

I think you may have misinterpreted my point, or I glossed over it too quickly. Jobs' reversal has little or nothing to do with the iPhone, and everything to do with the legal challenges from the EU and the rise of legitimate DRM-less competition in the online music market (as I wrote in my post).

I also agree that Apple's posture of "the Big Four made us do it" doesn't quite ring true, as your linked article points out. I hinted at this by mentioning Jobs' weak argument on how iTunes doesn't lock people into using iPods. It seems to me that the existence of Fairplay is a win-win for Apple, and stems as much from their desire to appease the Big Four as from their desire to corner the hardware and software sectors of the online media market simultaneously.

Is that fairly clear? Or were you offering a different criticism?

(p.s. I'm not a huge fan of anonymous comments -- if you can't reveal your identity for particular reasons, it's nice to have some idea of what those are, so we can get at least some idea of where you're coming from)