Is Apple tying all media to its proprietary iPhone platform?
September 12th, 2009
Daniel Eran Dilger
Tomorrow’s crisis today: Apple’s critics haven’t yet realized that the iPhone App Store has fueled millions in software development efforts to produce content exclusively tied to the company’s proprietary Cocoa Touch mobile platform. Is this a credible threat, and what is Apple’s real motive behind its iTunes rich media content strategy?
Imagine you operate a website that caters to mainstream public opinion in the field of technology. Say your audience is roughly 80% saturated in Windows, with a large population of avid Windows Enthusiasts who desperately need daily affirmation that there are no credible alternatives to Microsoft’s products. How do you portray the success Apple is enjoying with iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone, the App Store, the Mac platform, and so on, without offending these Truther-style mobs of angry people who long to live in the past under the Microsoft administration?
That’s right: cynically. Everything Apple does must be wrapped in false motives and exposed as a series of “You Lie!” and bumper sticker sloganism. The best way to do this is to suggest that Apple is Microsoft, and that all of the illegal conduct Microsoft got busted for over the past couple decades is being replicated by Apple, even though Apple doesn’t have a PC-wide monopoly in any of those areas that prevents competitors from offering alternative products.
To that effect, the head pundits of Windows Enthusiasm once attempted to portray iTunes as an evil plot to sew up the music business using Apple’s FairPlay DRM, just as Microsoft was trying to do with its own Windows Media DRM. When Microsoft did it, it was great, but when Apple was accused of doing the same thing, this was, in the words of Paul Thurrott, a case of “Apple should be stopped before the abuses get too great and harm too many consumers.” Oh the humanity!
DRM II: Who Knew?
With Apple now only selling DRM-free music, how can one mount a self-righteous crusade that vilifies Apple as being ‘nearly as bad’ as the criminally-convicted corporation they celebrate? Perhaps by accusing Apple of selling iPhone software that only works on the iPhone. I haven’t yet heard Windows Enthusiasts complaining that iPhone apps are proprietary, but give them some time and they might figure it out.
After all, if you were afraid that Apple’s use of DRM to sell the labels’ music as iTunes downloads was risking the world’s supply of non-DRM music (that is, CDs), you must be terrified that Apple is now selling, at a much faster rate, a tens of thousands of apps not just proprietary to the iPhone but also protected by DRM. It almost seems to be a great secret that Apple’s iPhone apps are protected by FairPlay, as if acknowledging this would be an admission that DRM can serve a purpose in the interests of consumers, such as keeping software prices low.
So far, the Windows Enthusiasts are busy voicing faith in the second coming of the Zune and the return of Windows Mobile with Pink, Microsoft’s still as yet unannounced own Windows Phone based on WiMo 7, and perhaps the first unfinished product Microsoft hasn’t attempted to leverage as vaporware to wipe out its competition, given that it’s now discovered that its vaporware bluffing powers are no match for Apple’s actual ability to deliver.
With iPhone apps, who needs iTunes LP?
To the most cynical critics of Apple, iPhone apps created by artists to promote their albums (and make some additional revenues on the side) have the potential to replace standard “play anywhere” music and movie downloads with a new form of interactive entertainment tied explicitly to Apple’s mobile platform. I’m surprised that the usual suspects haven’t generated more outrage about this.
After all, the labels and studios are already working closely with Apple and a variety of musicians have released iPhone apps that play their music and present other content that is exclusively available on the iPhone. Somewhat ironically however, Apple’s monstrous iTunes empire of proprietary, DRM iPhone apps is exactly what developers asked for, and has received the thronging support of a global public giddy to pay for the opportunity to participate. In contrast, when Apple unveiled its initial open, unrestricted web-standards APIs for the iPhone, developers castigated the company and few paid any attention to the web apps that became available.
Even more remarkable, Apple is building upon the wild success of its iPhone App Store, not by working to convert albums and movies into binaries that only work its own Cocoa platforms, but instead by introducing a new web standards-based format for delivering bonus content offered with standard AAC audio albums and H.264 movies. How does this make any sense in Apple’s overall strategy?
My answer is in the next article. What do you think?