An Apple a Day Keeps the Standards Away?

Apple’s iPod is the number one music player in the world. iTunes is the number one digital music store in the world. But customers don’t even seem to care that no one but Apple is allowed to make players for iTunes Music Store songs, and no one but Apple can sell you proprietary file-format music that will play on the iPod.

Competition-proofing music makes switching away from Apple’s product expensive for its customers. But the world of consumer electronics changes quickly.

Say that in 2008 someone finally manages to nail an iPod killer, just as you’re ready to retire your 2006 iPod Nano. At $180 for the new device, it’s a no-brainer to pick one up on your next Amazon run or duty-free trip.

What if you’re the kind of iPod user who also buys the occasional iTunes Music Store song? Just one or two a month, maybe 20 a year since Apple launched the Music Store, and you’ll have 100 tracks by 2008. That’s a $99 investment in music that only plays on the iPod/iTunes combo. And if you buy more than 20 tracks a year — or splurge for audiobooks, full albums and other high-ticket Music Store items — you’ll find yourself out hundreds of dollars that you’ll flush away if you change vendors.

Sure, you could conceivably burn and rip all that music if you want to spend a couple days with your burner, and if don’t mind retyping all the needed metadata. The more music you have — the more onerous this task becomes.

So what’s all the Buzz about? – This is one case of standards gone wild. Standardization of the digital music player was good. Standardization of the digital music store was also good. But adding to that a proprietary digital music format? That’s bad! And I don’t mean bad as in good!

4 comments to An Apple a Day Keeps the Standards Away?

  • AlanM

    “Sometimes, Bad is Bad”…I’ll have to listen to that track (100 points to the 80s fan who can name the band) on my non-iPod MP3 player.

    As an MP3-head from the early days (when you swapped MP3s over FTP ratio servers) I’ve never understood the craze around the iPod. That said, it has much less to do with standards, and much, much more to do with marketing. It shouldn’t be a surprise however, that Apple has been able to use marketing to create a standard (or a massive consumer following). They’ve done it several times.

    But to your point, what happens when the legions of iPod users become disenfranchised by the very standard they helped to create and legitimize? If history is an indicator, then there’s a convincing argument to be made that Apple will do little to help its users make a shift to an open standard (or business model). It’s just not part of the Apple DNA.

    An apple a day does keeps options at bay. As for me, I’ll get my vitamins and minerals elsewhere…

  • AlanM

    “Sometimes, Bad is Bad”…I’ll have to listen to that track (100 points to the 80s fan who can name the band) on my non-iPod MP3 player.

    As an MP3-head from the early days (when you swapped MP3s over FTP ratio servers) I’ve never understood the craze around the iPod. That said, it has much less to do with standards, and much, much more to do with marketing. It shouldn’t be a surprise however, that Apple has been able to use marketing to create a standard (or a massive consumer following). They’ve done it several times.

    But to your point, what happens when the legions of iPod users become disenfranchised by the very standard they helped to create and legitimize? If history is an indicator, then there’s a convincing argument to be made that Apple will do little to help its users make a shift to an open standard (or business model). It’s just not part of the Apple DNA.

    An apple a day does keeps options at bay. As for me, I’ll get my vitamins and minerals elsewhere…

  • wolske

    I’m with you on this one — I’ve never understood why nobody has raised the issue of Apple’s proprietary iPod formats… but then I’m the guy who bought a Rio Karma back in the day specifically because it would sync with my Linux desktop and play OGG-encoded files. So I’m pretty fringe, I guess.

    But as a result, all the music I currently have I can move to whatever device I please, including my new Treo 700p — with a sufficient SD card I no longer really need the dedicated MP3 player. [http://chriswolske.com/tech/]

  • Lots of of bloggers not very pleased with the new iPad.There was 2 much hype over it and lots of people got turned off.Thing is, I for one see some of the awesome potential uses of the gizmo. Third-party soft for working with tunes, games, papers and magazine and books, tons of good stuff, but they just didn’t really sell it right (excluding the books). It feels rather undercooked

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