Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Saturday, May 01, 2004 3:03 pm
Apple music
So, today some new issues about Apple iTunes 4.5 have turned up. These, I think, can only be described as limitations. There is hardly any way to spin it. Which is therefore why Steve Jobs didn’t mention it in his iTunes anniversary chat.

I’ll leave the outcry to other sites. I live in Australia, far away from the iTunes Music Store, and get music from other sources.

Now, if a global iTunes Music Store suddenly appeared—I’d be very wary of buying music from that site. The advantages of buying music online are: convenience, instant gratification, pricing, not having to deal with physical CDs… And even then, the last one is scraping the bottom of the barrel a little.

There are lots of negatives of buying iTMS songs (compared to buying a CD) though:
1. no CD backup
2. price not always lower. Fixed in fact. Stores have sales ocassionally on old music
3. compressed songs.
4. DRM
5. no liner notes

No CD backup does bother me a little bit. I mean, harddisks crash. On the other hand, having 600 CDs in a small space is damn bloody annoying as well. I suppose intermittent backups of iTMS songs (or MP3s) to DVD-R is a pretty good solution. iTunes splits music over multiple DVD-R disks nicely too.

Can’t comment much on point 2 yet. I don’t buy enough music, and who knows what Australian pricing will be.

Point 3 does bother me a little as well. I listen to compressed music about 99.9% of the time nowadays. This includes MP3 radio. Otherwise, it's music via normal FM radio � which is “lossy” as well right?. Truth is that most of the music I listen to—I probably could not care less if it's pristine original quality. Even “CD quality” isn’t what it used to be, what with record companies pushing DVD-Audio and SACD.

No liner notes: well� it just means I no longer get something that I used to get for free…

DRM: This is the real reason that buying digital music is A Bad Thing™.

I realise that DRM is necessary. Simply put, allowing songs sold on iTunes to be freely uploadable is unacceptable to anyone: the artist, record label, Apple, and (maybe) the person who buys the song. Apple has been quite generous in allowing up to 3 computers, unlimited iPods to play songs, and unlimited (essentially) audio CD-creatiion. It’s pretty clever stuff, especially avoiding things like “can only burn 3 times”, or “can only download 3 times” which is IMHO unenforceable. If there has been any disquiet about Apple's implementation, it's been when people fail to deauthorise their computers—during servicing, or when selling.

When iTunes 4.5 was first released, I started to have a few misgivings. Isn’t DRM music just a way for us to buy more Apple computers? Apple could easily make iTunes 4.5 or iTune 5 to be “G4 only”, and iTunes 6 to be “G5 only” or “OS X 10.4 Tiger only”. Or whatever. Any computer released in the last 5 years is capable of playing digital music. But, Apple now potentially has a stranglehold on the application that plays that music—that benign free fluffy application called iTunes.

iTunes we now know is linked at the hip with QuickTime. That fact didn't seemed obvious until Apple released iTunes Windows, and now even more glaring with iTunes 4.5 not working without QT 6.5.1.

Anyway, what if Apple did such a thing—not at all an unusual possibility. What if Apple said that iTunes 5 will be free for 10.4 Tiger and Windows XP users, but for 10.3 users, pony up US$10. Not impossible. It has been done before:

1. Panther doesn't run on the Wallstreet or beige G3s. Despite the fact it is technologically possilbe (XFacto).
2. iChat AV doesn't come free except with Panther or new computers.
3. iPhoto 4 doesn't come free except with a new computer.

Is it a feasible thing? To have your $100, $500, $1000 music collection held hostage by the speed of your Macintosh? I suppose there is the option of switching to Windows is there.

Not to mention the fact that iTunes 4.5 needs iTunes 4.5 to stream audio to. So, if you like iTunes 4.5 on one computer—you had better be sure your other computers will run iTunes 4.5 properly.

I didn’t realise the possibility that Apple would change the rules until I read on Macintouch about Apple now requiring that QT movies with authorised music be played only on authorised computers. Now, that sucks big time. I knew there was a catch when Steve Jobs said up to 5 computers could be authorised now. This is a form of limiting music transfer, rather than encouraging it. It is wrong? Well—it’s hard to say that it is. Rather, Apple was probably being more generous before, than it is now.

The disturbing thing: I think this represents Apple moving the goalposts, changing the rules of chess, or whatever… And there's nothing to stop Apple from doing so, and applying new rules to previously bought digital music.

This goes against everything I am used to with music ownership. I have simple needs: just a CD player (any low quality POS is OK), and headphones or speakers. With that, I can enjoy music. No funky incompatibilites or rule-changing, even if I use a graphic equaliser, or a power amp, or 5.1 speakers. I can alway sbe confident I can listen to my music in 2–3 to 5–10 years time. Well, at least 10 year old CDs still play like they were new.

Compare this with the uncertainty of digital music… Hmm… I’d stick with unprotected music thanks.

Currently listening to - Radio Paradise - eclectic intelligent rock - music info & listener community at radioparadise.com

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