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Sunday, January 14, 2007

beware the ihandcuffs

Good article by Randall Stross about the iPhone and Apple's crippleware. (Spotted via slashdot). The article points out the ridiculousness of Apple's iTunes songs only being playable on iPod portable devices, and conversely, of iPods only supporting iTunes copy-protected files (and not Windows crippleware, for example).

It also mentions (old news at this point) the fact that Microsoft's Zune supports a different copy-protection standard than Microsoft's earlier PlaysForSure crippleware, something that would-be Zune purchasers who own large PlaysForSure collections will find annoying for sure.

Stross makes a very good point (which I have been saying to anyone who will listen for quite a while) that crippleware is going to die an early death anyway, as evidenced by sites which already sell non-protected music files. He specifically mentions eMusic, a site which I have been using on and off for over a year. It's a great site where you simply download a plain old mp3 file that you can do whatever the heck you like with.
Among the artists who can be found at eMusic are Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, who are represented by Nettwerk Music Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. All Nettwerk releases are available at eMusic without copy protection.

But when the same tracks are sold by the iTunes Music Store, Apple insists on attaching FairPlay copy protection that limits their use to only one portable player, the iPod. Terry McBride, Nettwerk’s chief executive, said that the artists initially required Apple to use copy protection, but that this was no longer the case. At this point, he said, copy protection serves only Apple’s interests .
He doesn't mention the fact that it's a whole lot cheaper to buy stuff on eMusic, too - 33 cents a song at regular prices. That's not counting all the free downloads you get when you sign up (25 freebies if you go through their homepage, but you can find better deals through 3rd-party links if you look; try fatwallet.com).

Finally, Stross quotes Dave Goldberg, head of Yahoo! Music, who makes a prediction which I too have long subscribed to:
IN the long view, Mr. Goldberg said he believes that today’s copy-protection battles will prove short-lived. Eventually, perhaps in 5 or 10 years, he predicts, all portable players will have wireless broadband capability and will provide direct access, anytime, anywhere, to every song ever released for a low monthly subscription fee.
I think this will apply to movies and television shows, too. We should soon be able to watch any show or movie that was ever made on demand, either through monthly subscription fees or small pay-per-view fees. This is one reason I don't go crazy trying to purchase movies and television shows on DVD to build up a "library", since it may all become quite worthless with such a model (not to mention the improvements in PQ, as we are seeing now with Blu-Ray and HD-DVD; pity the person who spent thousands of dollars building up a movie library in standard DVD format...)

In sum, despite all the crippleware silliness currently going on, the future looks quite bright for consumers of entertainment!

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