Recently, Universal announced a DRM-free test for their music. Interestingly enough, they decided to exclude Apple from the group of vendors they cooperate with. Why that choice?
There are plenty of reasons, but it looks like Universal is trying to break the market dominance of iTunes. There were indicators that this might be coming – back at the end of 2006, Universal tried to get Apple to pay a per-iPod fee. In July, we heard news that Universal would not renew iTunes contracts with Apple.
It’s an interesting choice, and presumably good for the market. I am not sure it’s a very sane choice for Universal, though. iTunes is the majority of online music sales. In fact, Apple is the #3 music retailer in the U.S.. That makes it a rather audacious choice.
My personal guess is that this dates back to 2003, when Apple considered buying Universal Music – it all smells like somebody at Universal wants to ‘pay back’ Apple, at any cost.
I’m in favor of the attempt, though – as much as I like Apple, a near-monopoly on a market by anybody is not a good idea.
But Appleâ€™s proprietary D.R.M. does not work with most rivalsâ€™ devices or software â€” meaning that music sold by competing services cannot play on Appleâ€™s popular iPod.
Which, of course, is patently untrue as long as the music is DRM-free. The iPod has always played MP3s, which is the DRM-free format of choice. And this is why Universals move makes at least some sense – even though the music player market is dominated by the iPod, the iPod is not tied exclusively to iTunes.