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.

Oh, and Jeff Leeds of the NYT wins ‘Numbnut Reporter Of The Day. Here’s the winning quote:

But Apple’s proprietary D.R.M. does not work with most rivals’ devices or software — meaning that music sold by competing services cannot play on Apple’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.


  1. Thetathx1138 wrote on 10. Aug 2007

    In my opinion, it’s really more about the fact that Universal still wants the good old days, when people bought albums by the cubic ton. They’ve been kicking and screaming about being indentured to Apple from the beginning.

    Normally I’d agree with you except basically this is Universal trying to be the one holding a near-monopoly; as far as I can see, the only loser is the consumer (and anybody holding Universal stock.)

  2. pauldwaite wrote on 10. Aug 2007

    What I like is the implication that springs from this bit:

    “Apple’s proprietary D.R.M. does not work with most rivals’ devices or software”

    Yeah. As compared to all those other non-proprietary DRM systems that anyone can implement. Of which there are none. Because it’s DRM. It hs to be proprietary. Because if you tell everyone how it works, it doesn’t work any more. Jackasses.

    But enough with all this folly. Let’s get down to the real meat. I’m English. Whenever I see someone write a blog title or whatever in the form “X and X and X, oh my”, it drives me mad, because I’ve no idea what y’all are referencing. I’m assuming it’s some shared American cultural thing like the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, because I feel like I’ve only seen Americans using it. But it’s one of those tricky un-Googleable phrases (Google “oh my”, or even “,oh my”, and you’ll be sifting through lots of stuff).

    So please. Groby. Old buddy. (Who I have never met, and whose name may well be Robert.) What is up with the “X and X and X, oh my” thing?


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