Update: Russell McOrmond kindly brought to my attention that Hilary Rosen is no longer the head of RIAA – she now works for MSNBC, which puts a completely different spin on her comments. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why someone who works for a Microsoft subsidiary might want to push the Windows Media wheelbarrow. No news here, move on 😉
Now, I’m normally not one to support near-monopolies, having been burnt time and again by Microsoft’s ham-handed exploitation and butchery of the software industry, but Hilary Rosen’s fervent desire to have Apple open up the iPod to other music stores seems counter-intuitive and downright strange (even to former Record Company execs) Apple’s iPod plays only standard, unencumbered music formats – MP3, AAC (the next-generation MP3, and an open format), WAV and Apple Lossless formats. On music from their own store, they place their own DRM wrapper around the AAC files in order to restrict the rights of the user to copy and share that music – a feature, I might add, that was demanded by Rosen’s own RIAA.
What Rosen is asking, in essence, is that Apple allow the iPod to play songs encoded in Microsoft’s patent-encumbered, royalty-sapping and proprietary music format, wrapped in their patent-encumbered, royalty-sapping DRM format, so that iPod users can give their money to competitors instead of Apple.
As much as I’m sure Steve Jobs would love to be sued by his shareholders while simultaneously reducing the quality of the iPod/iTunes experience and shovelling money onto the doorstep of his biggest competitor, I doubt that’s going to happen.
And Hilary Rosen knows it. Her “article” is a thinly-veiled attempt to boost the validity of alternative offerings in a marketplace that has been swamped by iPods. The RIAA would much rather deal with a bunch of small, relatively-weak online music retailers than the behemoth Apple is becoming. Apple, while they control the online music business (and, let’s face it, they do) has a much better chance of ensuring that the experience is pleasant for the consumer. The RIAA, of which Rosen is the president, would much rather maintain the traditional music business model than allow the natural evolution of technology to take music into new and unknown realms.