Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Sour Apple: So, Apple is flying high with its iPod and the just-relased iPod Mini (my advice, wait for prices to drop - you can get a 15 Gig iPod for only $50 more than the 4 Gig Mini), which not only look cool, and have great design (as almost all Apple products do), but the fu*kers are actually making Apple tons o' money. Then you throw in iTunes, Apple's proprietary music downloading service, which managed to get good titles at reasonable prices - something no one else could do until Apple did it (another typical Apple move), and you have a nice little product to sell forever and ever. Of course, Apple has made its music files proprietary by using its own coding to keep you beholden to it in the long-run, which isn't very cricket, but helps ensure the $$ keeps coming in, as you provide a closed-loop system. At least that was the thought.

Comes now Real Networks (maker of RealPlayer), the ubiquitous streaming media company and its music downloading software, Harmony. No biggie for Apple, right? It's the 800-pound gorilla in portable digital music, and since you need to convert to its AAC format, piss off Real, right? Well, except for that issue about how Real reverse-engineered the AAC code, and then made it so the Harmony songs could fit onto the iPods; something which Apple has fought tooth-and-nail since hackers started trying.

But as this author points out, maybe Apple wants to hold back the dogs and see if this unintentional partnership might not yield dividends. Because the iPod is the shiznizzle, this move by Real just gives more outlets for people to obtain music to put on their iPods. While competing companies keep running at iPod with promises of more battery time, and superior sound quality, to date, they have fallen short. Even the venerable Sony Walkman brand, which promises all these things and more, is apparently suffering from a lousy interface, and crappy logic, plus the absence of a playlist function (!), from the two reviews I've read so far.

So, if everyone who's anyone is going to be using the iPod, why not expand the market for those users. What you lose in $.99 downloads, you gain in $249 to $400 hardware purchases. Anyway, it's an idea worth pursuing before the lawyers eat up too much in billable hours.

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