In a new article by Steve Jobs (Link to Apple – Thoughts on Music) he indicates he would happily say goodbye to DRM, but explains why he believes FairPlay shouldn’t be made licenable. It is a well written article, but deliberately misses several points.
On the subject of lock in to a particular store, he points out on average each iPod has only 22 songs from iTunes – or 3%, and given that proportion it is hardly lock in. Well, it is unless you’re willing to throw away £17.38 and spend the same to purchase those songs again from a different store. Not to mention that this is averaged over the owning population. How many first generation iPods are in circulation now; how many people like me who refuse to get suckered by DRM wont load any iTunes material? When you consider these points, then those who have purchased from iTunes probably do have a lot more to lose.
Further more with lock in, the problem also manifests itself in the situation of not all record companies have licensed to iTunes, particularly the smaller indie players and they may only work through a Microsoft DRM’d store, so can’t simply download you favourite obscure artist’s tracks to you iPod, or vice versa.
I don’t believe that Steve Jobs’ position is altruistic, but a case of it means he no longer has to carry the encoding burden, the DRM maintenance cost – which from his article is implied has the potential to be rather significant. Not to mention DRM free downloads means he has the potential to capture more download business.
Steve suggests the effort being spent on EU interoperability cases that have been going on in France, Belgium and other countries would better spent pressing the record companies. Yes, I’d agree with that; but as the boss of one of the biggest online stores, you’ve not been the most vocal proponent of removing DRM. Not to mention that as the biggest online vendor of music at the moment you probably have as much or more influence than many governments to persuade the ‘big four’ to try a new approach.