Related link: http://www.freedomofmusicchoice.org/
Real Networks recently launched their Freedom of Music Choice campaign in an attempt to lure iPod users away from the iTunes Music Store. The store offers consumers half as many songs as the iTMS, but is currently charging half the price, at a cost of 49 cents per song. However, customers should beware, Apple has publicly stated that future releases of the iPod’s firmware may break compatibility with songs that are protected with Real’s DRM.
I have two problems with Real’s approach to this. First, Real portrays the iPod in such a way that users are led to believe that Apple only allows iTMS-purchased tracks to play on the iPod. This is patently false. I was happily playing MP3s on my iPod long before Apple brought its music store to market. Out of the box, the iPod can play MP3, WAV, AIFF, and AAC formats. All of which are common enough that I don’t think anyone would have problems finding an encoder to rip their existing CD collection to an iPod-friendly format.
My second issue with Real’s approach is that they reverse-engineered their way onto the iPod. I’m by no means a proponent of the DMCA, but I think Apple should use it to smack Real down. The DMCA doesn’t apply in situations where the reverse engineering is done for the sake of consumer fair use, but as pointed out above, there are plenty of readily available formats out there that consumers can easily use with their iPod. iPod sales are at an all-time high, demand is huge… If consumers felt that they were restricted by owning an iPod, I doubt there would be waiting lists for the mini.
No, Real’s actions are more like if HP reverse-engineered Epson’s print cartridge design and then offered their own, cheaper alternative. Epson wouldn’t stand for that, and I’m glad to see Apple isn’t going to stand for Real’s transgressions. Real is making a desperate attempt to capitalize on Apple’s success with a campaign that spreads the usual FUD. Heck, if Real’s motives are for greater compatibility, why can’t I, as a Mac user, purchase songs from their store?
Sorry, Real. I’m not convinced. Try gaining market share the old fashioned way, by offering a superior and compelling product. In the meantime, I’ll be buying my music at the online store with more features and a larger selection of music. And I don’t mind paying a higher price for a superior product; but then, I’m a Mac user. ;)
Like it or hate it: What’s your take on the new Real campaign?