January 15, 2004

iPod and standards

What's with all the newspeak going on with regards to the HP and Apple deal to produce an HP-branded iPod? I see journalists everywhere concerned that Apple will fail because they're not opening the iPod up to "competing standard audio formats", namely WMA, so they're allegedly going the route of closed and properietary that has caused their downfall in the past.

I have a problem with this. Since when is WMA an industry standard? My understanding is that MP3 is the industry standard, and that DRM-based formats are the upstarts. For some reason, journalists have inverted that relationship. This industry has already ceded plenty of standards to Microsoft, some for better, some for worse. I don't see any particular benefits of letting Microsoft have the default control on this one. They're already making huge inroads into streaming video.

The iPod certainly does support several music stores other than the iPod Music Store - music stores that support MP3, such as eMusic or Warp Records' BLEEP. It could support more, such as the Real.com store, since it's still AAC (it would just need to license the encryption technology).

The issue is whether Apple wants to really remain neutral - supporting Real's AAC format is a signal that it's trying to avoid WMA. For now, it just looks like they're trying to milk iTMS. Which isn't necessarily a bad short term move. I don't think this is the same Apple from the late 1980's. They'll open themselves up to standards if their user base wants or needs it. Today, there is no evidence of that, given the success of iTMS+iPod and relative lack of success of the other stores.

Now if only iTMS would come to Canada and actually support some more indie artists.

Posted by stu at January 15, 2004 11:54 PM
Post a comment