Friday, January 04, 2008

The absolutely ultimate guide to the MacWorld keynote address

Or possibly just some rambling bullshit. We'll see how it goes.

Before we get to the keynote thing, I want everyone to think about Apple's music monopoly.

iTunes will let you burn tracks in AAC or mp3. Both open source formats.

The iPod will play AAC, Fairplay, and mp3 formats. All but FairPlay are open source.

iTunes will let you download all your tracks to any player that supports the format. It isn't as easy with a Zen as it is with a nano, but you can do it.

Every last note of music is available in any format you want it in. If you buy a CD you can save your music as .txt files if you want to.

So Apple is basically a monopoly because they sell the only cool mp3 player.

Stacie in San Diego – Don't worry. We're not laughing with you. We're laughing at you.

More music news

The record labels are releasing their tracks elsewhere on the web as DRM-free mp3s, but not on iTunes. At first blush, this looks like a loss for Apple, but really Apple can't lose. Look at the permutations for a moment.

The record labels release all their tracks on other online sources without DRM, while continuing to hold Apple's feet to the fire on DRM. This is currently happening.

In this scenario, as bad as it sounds, I'll bet a cup of lukewarm French Roast and the rest of this doughnut that the iTunes store is still the number one place on the web to download music.

The iTunes store is easy to use, search, and download from. The other sites are not. Amazon requires a bunch more work than I'm willing to do to save a dime a song. If people are going to do that much work anyway, they might as well use Bittorent and save a buck.

Seriously, I'm betting that for the most part people go out to download one or two songs. Some people may be looking for more than that, but not the bulk. Why would I open a web browser, drag down to a bookmark, find a link, search for a song, download the file, move the file to a folder, import it to my iTunes music folder, and THEN PAY FOR IT, TOO? Because it's DRM-free? Ten cents cheaper? Balls. Not to put too fine a point on it, but FUCK THAT. If I'm going to work as hard as a pirate, I'm keeping my money. The same effort gets me the same song off LimeWire for free.

If it's going to entice me away from iTunes it has to be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper if it isn't easier. I'm sitting here playing with iTunes anyway. Finding a song I want is as easy as clicking the store and typing a search term. If it isn't that easy it has to be a LOT cheaper. When the baseline is $0.99, there isn't much room for being a lot cheaper. If I have to open another application, it can't be any easier.

So, in order for the RIAA to beat Apple, they'll have to find some other inducement to make me want to leave iTunes for my music. The RIAA will be a defunct entity by the time they figure that out – destroyed by lawyer fees and apathetic former customers; deserted by artists.

The other thing that could happen is that the record labels might release all their tracks with DRM through other channels. This is not too likely. They haven't learned much, but they know DRM isn't getting them anywhere. In this scenario, Apple could say, "See? They're the assholes. Not us."

They could also start to make DRM copies of CDs. This would give CDs – which are currently not exactly in huge demand – about the same value per pound as a fish shit.

One other possibility; this one would be about five sigma – the record companies could release everything that has ever been recorded as DRM-free mp3 and AAC files to iTunes, Amazon, Google, eBay, FaceBook, Rhapsody, eMusic and Napster and collect a few cents a download for all that stuff. It would be fair. They would make a decent buck on their catalogs. They'd sell the same shit over and over and over again to honest folks completing their catalogs. They could use the money to hire some developers to build a competitor to the iTunes store.

The odds against that are really long. The record companies would need to actually give a shit about customers, grow something other than mold on top of their brain stems, and understand some technology more recent than the ballpoint pen.

I was going to mention MacWorld. Okay. It's gonna rock.

You throw anything smaller than a quarter you get your ass kicked. Dig?