Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Update

Apple and Cisco (in alphabetical order)

If you've recently come out of cryogenic suspension, you might not know that Apple and Cisco are nicey-wicey now about the name iPhone. This is huge news, I guess. Apple and Cisco didn't seem to grind to a halt during the discussions, but a lot of other people were holding their breath.

A lot of calories and column inches are being used to explain that nobody knows any details about the deal Apple and Cisco made. People really want to know what's going on between the two companies. It reminds me of a time I asked a question at work, to which a coworker replied, "Didn't I tell you?"

"No." I answered, expectantly.

"Then it must be none of your frigging business."

It's probably about the same deal with the Apple/Cisco iPhone negotiations. Both companies are probably happy enough with the outcome. We don't really need to know the details.

If either company was getting the shitty end of the stick, the lawyers would still be calling press conferences and screeching like hungry chimpanzees about what a bunch of sleazy, smarmy, baby-eating scum the other company's lawyers are. That's what lawyers do. Then they all shake hands and go to dinner together.

Doesn't Really Matter

I see a vast landscape of heads, all talking at once; each one trying to be louder than the next. The din is so loud that it is impossible to understand a word being said. If you could separate them and listen you would find out they are all dithering on about one inconsequential topic. They are talking about Digital Rights Management.

I would like it a lot if they'd all shut the fuck up. I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of that. It's a fair guess that the importance of a given topic is inversely proportional to the number of people babbling about it. There is a war in the Middle East. Terrorists are looking for new and imaginative ways to blow up babies, women, and old people in the name of God. There is genocide and mass murder in Africa. Global warming is causing wide patches of the planet to be under a bunch of snow (you can do that arithmetic). Hillary Clinton has announced her intention to be President again. This time she wants the title. In a world turning to shit, we're arguing about making a copy of Sylvia's Mother? People, please: Get a frigging clue. It doesn't matter. Really. Not even a little.

I buy stuff from the iTunes Music Store. I probably have a couple of hundred songs in my collection of several thousand that are "Purchased Music" from the iTunes store. The rest is ripped from my CDs. DRM does not cause me to hyperventilate. I wouldn't ask for it if it didn't exist, but it hardly seems worth rapidly converting a lot of extra oxygen to carbon dioxide.

As near as I can tell, DRM hasn't cost me any ability that I need, or any more money than I think the music is worth. That equals "Who gives a shit?"

I would probably be happier overall if there was no DRM. Just the peace of mind of knowing that I can do stuff I'm probably never going to do would please me. A world without DRM will look a lot like the current world. People can download and share any song they want to free for nothing. I don't. Too much work for me. Most of what I want, I already own on CD. Most of the rest of what I want, I can buy one song at a time on iTunes. I don't share my music except by playing it when other people are in the room. Not because I'm afraid of the record companies; just because that's how I do things.

My guess is, I'm a lot like most people who download. We'd rather do it legally if the option is there. Some people will download illegally what they can't download legally. Some people will spend a month and a hundred dollars to avoid paying ninety-nine cents just because they want to feel like they won somehow. DRM won't fix that. You can't fix stupid. DRM addresses issues that most folks don't – and shouldn't – even worry about.

The only person who has said anything useful about DRM so far has been Steve Jobs, who said in essence: "DRM is useless. DRM wasn't my idea. I'll drop it if the record companies will let me. Europe, kiss my ass."

In summary:

1. DRM isn't making the record companies any money.

2. DRM isn't making Apple any money.

3. DRM isn't costing listeners much, if any, money.

4. The people who DRM is designed to stop don't give a shit about it.

5. People who blather on about DRM being bad and evil are asshats.

6. People who think DRM is good and necessary are asshats.

DRM stands for "Doesn't Really Matter."