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I am so sick of morons (especially those named "Scoble"):

When you hear DRM think "lockin." So, when you buy music off of Napster or Apple's iTunes, you're locked into the DRM systems that those applications decided on. Really you are choosing between two competing lockin schemes.

But, not all lockin schemes are alike, I learned on Friday. First, there are two major systems. The first is Apple's AAC/Fairtunes based DRM. The second is Microsoft's WMA

Let's say it's 2006. You have 500 songs you've bought on iTunes for your iPod. But, you are about to buy a car with a digital music player built into it. Oh, but wait, Apple doesn't make a system that plays its AAC format in a car stereo. So, now you can't buy a real digital music player in your car.

That's hogwash.

Consider how easily I could say this:

Let's say it's 2006. You have 500 songs you've bought on Windows for your Dell DJ. But, you are about to buy a car with a digital music player built into it. Oh, but wait, Microsoft doesn't make a system that plays its WMA format in a car stereo. So, now you can't buy a real digital music player in your car.

Apple has the market share lead in portable music players and a huge lead in legal music downloads. I could easily argue that my scenario is far, far more likely. AAC is an open format, and iTunes users can burn unprotected CDs that play in stereos just fine. Some cars are even shipping with iPods built-in (smart car indeed!).

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10 Responses to "Lock-In"

  1. Look I often disagree with Scoble, but come on. Even you must admit that there is a far more likely chance that that car stereo will be compatible with WMA than Apple DRM'd AAC (yes AAC is open but Apple has wrappered that in it's own DRM).

    BTW you CAN'T say "Oh, but wait, Microsoft doesn't make a system that plays its WMA format in a car stereo." "Why," you ask. Because they already exist.

  2. So does Apple. It's called an iPod. You plug it in and take your music with you wherever you go. Neat how that works, isn't it?

    Incidentally, I just realized how silly it is when Scoble says "So, now you can't buy a real digital music player in your car." In other words, WMA audio players aren't "real" digital music players? They're just pretends or wanna-bes?

    I can't admit that there's a far more likely chance. I think that the HP deal is interesting. I think having 80% of the online music market is interesting.

    I think that saying you're better being locked into Microsoft over Apple, the latter of which has traditionally pioneered freedom of the individual and the prior of which has always protected itself first and big business second, is incredibly stupid.

  3. Here's a question: how are you going to get your 'tunes from your portable player into your car stereo?

    The answer probably is "Drag your player out to the car and sync them". Except, you already have your player out there, why not just plug the player into your stereo - you'd have to hook your player into your car's stereo to sync them anyway...

    A killer addition to the iPod, in my mind, would be wireless sound output. Use low power radio frequencies, just like the wireless CD players do.

    Hmmm... Or a stereo that uses your iPod like a hard drive - you hook it up via Firewire, or slip it into a built-in dock. That would make the audiophiles happy, I think.

  4. The choice is:

    100's of crappy players vs. 1 amazing player. You can have a ton of half assed choices or the iPod. Oohhh boy.

  5. Actually, I was so moved by the original post that I too posted a response. The long and short of it is that the MP3 format plays on both. AAC can be burned to a CD and ripped back to MP3; WMA can as well (although there are direct converters too). The odds of that in dash player supporting MP3 is 100% which is better than the 75% of WMA support and 10% of AAC support, and that's the truth. Nevermind the fact that most analog users of these devices (non-Geek users, that is) won't give either of these formats a second thought: they'll just want it to work.

  6. The problem with WMA is that it's a proprietary format. If you buy a song, Microsoft makes a buck. True, you can say the same about Apple's iTunes' DRM, but the music industry likes the DRM and allows iTunes to sell their music. Anyone can make a file format in AAC, but Microsoft's problem is that they aren't making a buck if everyone else is using an open format that is not their own. Besides, apart from the sound issue (I have yet to listen to WMA audio), but Windows Media Player playing video sucks to high hell. Real Media is much more advanced when it comes to streaming, but Quicktime is la creme de le creme.

    Plus, it's not just because I'm a Mac user, it's that I despise monopolies. I don't like it when one company tries to take total control of one market. What do AT&T and Standard Oil have in common? I was against the AOL/TimeWarner merger because I believe and still do, that it's a dangerous marriage of media. That's a hell of a lot of information under one roof.

    Competition is a good thing, people. It's just that the Microsoft apologists are pissed off that they're losing this one badly.

  7. Isn't a CD player a "digital music player?" If so, well, then half the cars on the road can already play songs bought from the iTunes music store.

    Forget radio waves (although I'm becoming a huge fan of bluetooth, which at 764 kbit/s is more than enough bandwidth to stream an AAC file (YES, I konw that's theoretical, but let me dream)), my friend's head unit in his car simply has an 1/8" input on the front. A $1.99 cable from radio shack and we're in business, formats don't matter as long as the iPod exists in that case. And since i ALWAYS ahve my iPod on me, F@#$@#$CK WMA :)!

  8. Also, who really thinks that a car stereo manufacturer who approached Apple and said "Hi, we'd like to license the iPod for use in our car stereo?" would be turned away?

    Apple might set a higher price than Microsoft -- ah, the benefits of being a market-share leader -- but I doubt they'd simply dismiss these companies out of hand. Steve Jobs said as much in the recent interview, that they're going to try to stay on top of market-share leads through both licensing and innovation.

  9. Just as a side note, there is at least one car stereo manufacturer (Alpine) planning on producing a head unit that can control the iPod.

    See Alpine's press release for a little more info.


  10. You know, my birthday is coming up. Oh, and take that, Scoble! 🙂 I've been quite happy with the audio system in my car. I just wish it had a line-in. I'm going with the faux-cassette-tape solution right now. I've...