More of my sites

WinInfo Daily News
SuperSite for Windows
Windows IT Pro Magazine
Connected Home
Thurrott Dot Com
Windows Weekly at TWIT

About this site

For six years, the Internet Nexus served as my technology blog, but I've since started blogging at the SuperSite Blog instead. If you're looking for the blog, please head there. --Paul

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

US trustbusters to Europe: Apple DRM monopoly? What monopoly?

David Berlind can look forward to some hate mail from The Crazy Ones:
I've been one of those people out on a limb saying that Apple has a monopoly that US trustbusters need to pay attention to ... The US market that Apple, with its 88 percent share (Steve Jobs cited this figure during his product roll-out earlier this week) monopolizes is that of online single-song download sales. Granted, that's a very narrow, perhaps conveniently-defined market. But so too was Intel-based desktop operating systems.

Apple has leveraged that marketshare into control of something else: consumer choice in terms of how that music is played back.

Through the attachment of its proprietary copy protection technology (FairPlay) to almost every individual piece of content (music, video, etc.) that flows out of the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), Apple decides what devices and software the aforementioned 88 percent share of the market is compatible with. So far, barring a few iTunes phones from Motorola (phones that Apple's rumored iPhone will easily eliminate from the market), Apple has decided that consumers only get to use its software (iTunes) and its portable devices (iPods) despite the fact that hundreds (if not thousands) of device manufacturers would be willing to pay a reasonable licensing fee to be FairPlay-compatible. This stands in stark contrast to the way consumers have traditionally acquired rich content.

France, Norway, Denmark and Sweden are absolutely right to be concerned about the impact that Apple's growing marketshare will have on its citizens and so too should be the US' own antitrust chief Thomas Barnett. Not only is Apple limiting consumer choice, it is foreclosing on competition. By refusing to broadly license FairPlay to the traditional consumer electronics manufacturers that would jump at the chance to do so, Apple is setting itself up to replace them (or, should I say, nose them out).
I guess he reads my blog, since this reads like something I wrote about 2 year ago. That said, this should all be painfully obvious here in late 2006. If Microsoft can serve as a lesson, and they should, Apple should be stopped before the abuses get too great and harm too many consumers. That the US DOJ is publicly defending this company and its practices in Europe is, of course, insane. (Side point: But not as insane as people who actually do buy music from the iTunes Music Store. The video and TV content there is now of high enough quality to justify the price, but the music is still woefully under-spec.)

The funny thing is, if Apple were to open up FairPlay right now, this morning, its iTunes Store and iPods would still dominate the market. We can quibble about technology all day, but Apple's end user experience is just superior.
[ Posted at 9:07 AM | Permalink ]


Nexus Home | Nexus Archives | Email Paul
Copyright © 2001-2008 Paul Thurrott. All Rights Reserved.