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Jobs' cry against DRM is a sham

Comment Back to the wall, Apple wriggles
Wed Feb 07 2007, 16:24
THE INTERNET IS abuzz with the latest prognostication from his Jobsness, that DRM is bad and should go away. Well duh, this flash is about as insightful as Billy Boy recognising that the Internet existed. The problem is that it isn't being said to help you, it is being said to save its ass because Apple just loves DRM infections.

I am not arguing that DRM infections are good or that the turtlenecked one personally likes it but Apple sure does, and that 'article' was far too well written to be anything but a PR piece. Why is Apple suddenly doing something for its customers instead of the usual nose turned up in disdain? Because it was forced into it.

You see, DRM made the iPod, not that it protects the songs, there has never been an example of any DRM technology protecting any media ever. They were all cracked. DRM is about putting up walls against competition so you can use laws like the DMCA and other evils to stifle fair market competition. Apple has a dominant market position and is using DRM to keep everyone else out.

Every time someone tries to interoperate with the Fairplay DRM infection, Apple sues them into the ground. The devices not made by Apple that can get music from iPods are all of zero. Ditto for music services that want to directly interact with the iPod like Real's horrid one, they got shut down, and the total now is zero.

DRM has been very good to Apple, but very bad for the end user. It squashed all competition that leads to interoperability, competitive pricing and killer apps. Instead, we get an iPod, take it or go elsewhere. It is not a bad device but it is closed.

Back to the laughable change of heart about DRM, why now? Because Apple got its ass handed to it by Norway, and Germany and France are going to follow. This means Apple will have to license the DRM infection to others, and then it no longer has an exclusive.

Competition frightens Apple mainly because on the open market, they get their teeth kicked in by capitalistic forces every time. The only way it exists is because it has a lock on the OS, and a lock on the customers. Last time it licensed the OS, it again got its teeth kicked in, it wasn't a question of there being a better product, it was that everyone was better. Steve backpedalled in a hurry.

Now it is faced with the same scenario, it is being forced to open up and fight fair. At first, when it was only Norway, it was playing the "I will take my ball and go home" game just like any two bit bully. Now with Germany and France on board, it will have to license or lose all of Europe. Can you say "not an option?"

So, what does it do? Takes the high road and fight fair? Heck no, it is trying to abolish all DRM so it can keep iTunes and the iPods closed. If there is DRM, it has to open it all up. If there is no DRM, it can keep a lot of the process closed. Why fight fair when you can change the battlefield and still fight dirty?

The part that angers me is that Apple is trying to spin this as a crusading effort for the people instead of further lock in. It is the finest in a new wave of populist PR, it must have spent a lot of cash on this one.

Another annoyance? The web community in general lapped it up, showing all the critical thinking skills of a dead squirrel crushed flat by a semi truck. No one questioned that Apple did a complete 180 on the DRM infection front, the cornerstone of their business. Noooo.... it was aligned with your fantasies so you bought it hook, line and sinker.


Moral of the story? Beware of turtlenecked people afraid of competition bearing gifts. It may look pretty, but it has a hidden price tag, and you don't want to pay that. Moral two, question everything, always, but with the MTV generation, I think this is a lost cause. µ


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