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Another day, Another iPod Obit

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Everyone somehow has this belief that they can overtake MySpace. And everyone including senior executives are suffering from equal if not grander delusions that they can bury iPod. Nokia executives are pouting and pointing out that stand alone Mp3 players – lets face it, there really is one MP3 player, the iPod – are going to go the way of the Dodo.

Oh really! This coming from a company which whose music phones is spotted as sporadically as the Yeti. Or the same company whose Blackberry killer is yet to hit the market. Fact of the matter is that much as I love my Nokia phones – and I love them all, they are long way from killing off iPod.

I tried using N70 for a while as an iPod replacement. It didn’t really work, thanks to cheap headphones. Because of that I ended up with a special adapter, and plugged in Ultimate Ears’ ultra fine 5i headphones. Sounded good, up to the point when I got an incoming call. That nearly made me deaf. So I went back to trusted old Nano – plug and play.

The fact of the matter is that iPod is more than a device or an MP3 player. It is a cultural phenomenon, and that just is something neither you can predict, or bury with mere words. The bar has been set so high, that Nokia (or anyone else) will have to make phones which are not just equal but far superior to iPod to beat Apple.

And if that indeed does happen, you mean to say that Apple is not going to do an iPhone? John Gruber, savvy in the ways of Apple told me that Steve uses RAZR, and he can’t be happy with that. And what Steve doesn’t like, he gets Jonathan Ive to reinvent.

Similarly, I find the French desire to get rid of DRM absolutely ridiculous. It impacts Apple and iPod the most, because of their market share. Wired’s Leander Kahney thinks French decision is a good thing, because there is an iLock-in with iPod and iTunes store. To average joe, that iLock-in means – it just works. The iLock-in is really iConvenience.

Even beyond that, iPod is open – you can upload and play MP3 files on it. No body is forcing anyone to buy music from the iTunes. You can go to Virgin megastore and buy a CD and rip it to load it up on your iPod. Or maybe like their own search engine, French Government can start their own online music store which sells Mp3 files. I think by forcing (mostly) Apple to change its business practices is much like forcing famous French chefs to reveal their recipes or asking wine makers to post their wine making secretson the Internet.

Apple should simply withdraw from France. Oh wait, they already did. They moved their European head quarters to London, right behind the fabulous Apple store. Now French fashionistas will drop their francs on iPods in London or New York. …. visualize….Steve Jobs doing a very French shrug!

37 Responses to “Another day, Another iPod Obit”

  1. “Similarly, I find the French desire to get rid of DRM absolutely ridiculous”

    If there was such desire it would be ridiculous but you are very bad informed, the French do not desire to get rid of DRM, they just want IBNTEROPERRABLE DRM’s so One company cannot lock an entire market, controlling content distribution and content play devices like Apple is doinf right now.

    Apple know this has nothing to do with piracy, it’s just anti monopolistic law, you know, good for consumers, good for indistry…

    If you bash the French, knwo what you talk about next time.

  2. I couldn’t disagree more on the “Average Joe” bit. I was just talking to a friend of mine the other day who could easily be described as that elusive “Average Joe”. He was telling me how he would never buy songs from iTMS even though he loves his iPod Shuffle. He doesn’t want to run into problems with the DRM in case his computer dies on him. So he just buys the CD and rips it or sometimes downloads the music instead from some P2P network. It’s important to realize that this is not a guy who reads BoingBoing or Slashdot. This is a regular guy who’s just about as tech-savvy as the typical modern teenager. (Which is to say, he’s basically the stereotypical buyer of an iPod.)

    I’m quite confident that the only reason that most people put up with Apple’s DRM is because they don’t know of the consequences when things go wrong. And it’s not hard to discover those consequences. If someone, or someone they know gets bitten by DRM problems, DRM’s iConvenience suddenly stops being a feature.

  3. It’s been a good discussion but I still think this whole interoperability thing is useless and in the end, just leads back to piracy. As a software and systems engineer, and a consumer who wants things that just work, I’ve argued for this connection in terms of user experience and engineering difficulty and legal liability in previous posts and won’t repeat myself.

    Many of you still think that iPod owners buying from another Fairplay store won’t complain to Apple about song problems, or ditch legal downloads altogether for mp3s. I don’t agree and neither does Apple. (And I think this is completely different from the issue with Office file formats because there is no third party involved who owns the stuff like music labels or movie studios.)

    As I said before, spend your energy making laws that forbid DRM, or create and mandate a single DRM standard for everyone, but don’t do this interoperability junk. Oops, repeating myself.

    But I’m tired. Everyone knows but ignores the fact that Apple makes pennies off of each song sold, and it’s the labels who reap the profit. So my last point is this for those who cynically think Apple’s statement was meant to just protect the iTMS (rather than as a warning to the labels):

    1. If Apple shut down selling music on iTMS tomorrow worldwide, which music player do you think would sell the most for at least the next five years? Or if there were a single DRM standard for every music download store and player in the world, which music player do you think would sell the most?
    2. Where will all those iPod owners get music to put on their iPods (besides eMusic and ripping CDs)?
    3. Will there be more piracy or less?

    A part of me hopes Apple shuts down iTMS before ever agreeing to interoperability just to prove that they are right.

  4. @ mark:
    Well, as a free software user I tend to use the word “choice” in order to mean “people can choose whatever they want and is technically feasible because there is no artificial barrier”.
    It’s an idealistic definition of “choice”, and you find traces of this idealism in this amendment to the french law.

    But here we’re just talking about music formats and music players. The lawmakers in France were not just thinking about this online music market.
    They were thinking about the future generation of office software that will include DRM. They were thinking about the possible generalization of DRM to whatever field it will be technically possible to extend it to (and I don’t think it’s a pessimistic vision).

    So they thought, before we write in the law that it is forbidden to go through a DRM (3 years in jail, 300K euros), we should make sure that it won’t backfire. So they took two measures:
    – government and public institutions can do it for security reasons
    – software developpers can do it for interoperability reasons.

    And it remains forbidden to crack DRMs for any other reason (including making copies if I’m not mistaken… even if the law isn’t 100% clear on that one, I think the judges will rule so), forbidden to publish software with such intentions, etc.
    So DVD Shrink will be illegal when this law is enabled.
    But VLC will remain legal because it only allows people to read the content.

    PS: I’m not defending microsoft over apple or anything like that. I think microsoft is pretty worried as well. Maybe not about WMA DRM, but about WMV10, Office file formats, etc.

  5. There is choice in the WMA world. Microsoft said so :)

    Seriously, there is player and music store choice in the WMA world because Microsoft is willing to license its DRM to anyone (I assume, for a small fee). If you don’t like your Creative player, you can buy one from Samsung or iRiver or Dell, etc. If you don’t like Napster, you can use URGE, or Virgin, or Walmart, etc. Why is this not a real choice?

    You seem to insist that choice must include the ability to change digital music formats – from WMA to Ogg Vorbis or FLAC or MP3. I’ll think about it some more but right now, I don’t think that’s reasonable to insist on.

    Gotta go. I’ll respond to the other points later.