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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

Friday, January 26, 2007

It's Time for Apple to Freely License FairPlay

No, it's really time for Bizarro World. Haven't I been asking for this for years? And haven't Apple fans at sites like MacObserver/iPodObserver been ridiculing me for this opinion? Anyway:
With several European countries threatening to force Apple to license FairPlay, it's time for the company to do so on its own accord. Such a move would go a long towards demonstrating that Apple is confident in its ability to compete with the quality of its products, not onerous, self-serving restrictions.

Here's the core issue. Apple firmly believes that the design, usability, and quality of the iPod make it superior to other music players.
Ah, back to normal. Whew. Was getting nervous there for a second.

Here's the core issue: Apple marketing communicates the message that the design, usability, and quality of the iPod make it superior to other music players.

What Apple is really doing is locking users into its single-company ecosystem. Yes, you can buy iPod accessories from lots of companies. But you can only buy commercial content (music, TV shows, movies, etc.) and the actual players (iPods) from Apple. Apple's strategy is lock-in, plain and simple. Lock-in is superior for Apple, not the user. That said, Apple does in fact make the nicest MP3 players. It does have a great online store with a great selection. But the quality of music and movies are superior at other services, which sort of refutes the "quality" part of this editorial's argument.
So rather than compel customers to buy iPods by force, perhaps it's a wise time to openly license the FairPlay DRM system. Publicly announce that any company that wants to use it is free to implement it into their music player.
This I agree with. Heck, I sort of originated the concept.

Things I'd like to see Apple do with regards to FairPlay/iTunes:

1. Up the encoding rate to 256 Kbps for music. The introduction of "The Beatles" catalog would be the perfect time to start. Plus, you'll probably see a lot of repurchases.

2. License FairPlay to anyone that wants it. Suddenly, you'll be able to play iTunes-purchased songs in Media Center, on Roku devices, and so on.

3. Allow the iPod to play back both unprotected and protected WMA files.

What's interesting here is that the iPod will still dominate the market (as, likely, will iTunes) but now Apple can't be seen as anti-competitive. It's a win-win.

Anyway, it's nice to see iPodObserver/MacObserver in the Thurrott Camp now. Of course, I just call it "camp."
[ Posted at 1:55 PM | Permalink ]


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