Excitable Apple zealots fight back

My article on Apple’s attempt to lock users into their music ecosystem has attracted the sort of comment you might expect from the Apple fans out there, most notably someone who glories in the name of Daniel Eran Dilger, apparently a ‘tech consultant and writer in San Francisco, California. I ride a motorcycle and I like to work on art projects’.  Sounds peachy.

He  blogs at ‘roughlydrafted’, and   his rant and the comments are here, but I’ve reproduced the whole thing here with my notes – he doesn’t need the hits, I’m sure.

 Will Apple Fall from the Tree?

The rules on competition should apply to everyone, argues Bill Thompson

The BBC has joined the London tabloid press in printing a series of articles skewering Apple over invented suppositions based entirely upon misinformed speculation and some outright lies. The worst part is that the BBC is being grossly hypocritical in its misinformation campaign against Apple, because the company is up to its eyeballs in the Microsoft-encrusted scandal surrounding its proprietary, Windows-only iPlayer imbroglio.

Bill says:  BBC News, for whom I write a weekly column as a freelance, has no direct involvement with the iPlayer, has covered the controversy over the Windows-only release of the iPlayer beta extensively, and has no interest in distracting attention from Microsoft’s problems. On Monday I did two radio interviews and a TV interview on the appeal outcome and every BBC news programme I saw or heard featured it extensively.

[UK Tabloids Pick Up Zoon Awards for Technical Incompetence]

Beyond Spin: Bill Thompson Wades Through BBC Hypocrisy to Spread False Information.

It’s bad enough that the BBC needs to bend facts to support fear, uncertainty and doubt about the iPhone. Now consider that the BBC–as a public corporation funded by British TV license taxes–is building its web video strategy on failed, proprietary technology propped up by an internationally convicted monopolist. At the same time, its publishing a uninformed rant based on speculation and conjecture that accuses Apple of doing things that approach the gravity of its own activities.

This hypocrisy slows from the words of Bill Thompson, who followed the crowd in reporting that Microsoft’s failed appeal in its EU monopoly case says less about Microsoft’s established, anticompetitive practices spanning the last thirty years than it does about Apple’s iPod popularity over the last five.

Bill says: I think you need to re-read the article: Microsoft’s lost appeal says everything about their appalling and indefensible business practices, but my point is that just because Microsoft is bad and being justly criticised for it doesn’t mean we should give other companies an easy ride,

Thompson weeps for Microsoft because “its every move is examined for evidence that it might be making life difficult for its rivals,” while noting that “some of its competitors seem to get a very easy ride.” One might expect the BBC to make excuses for the crimes of its iPlayer partner as it giggly walks lockstep with Microsoft in using the company’s proprietary and Windows-only DRM for video distribution of its publicly funded content.

Bill says:  where, in anything that I’ve written, have I made excuses for Microsoft? They don’t invite me to press events, their PR doesn’t talk to me and I’ve had phone calls from senior product managers telling me how disappointed they are in my coverage.  If there was the same sort of pro-mIcrosoft coverage as we see around Apple I’d be a main target there too. I will criticise anyone if I see evidence that they are doing something that merits it.

[BBC’s iPlayer’s Prospects Looking Bleak – Slashdot]

Thompson’s Specious Attack on Apple.

“The best example of this [easy ride] is Apple,” Thompson announced, because the company got so much coverage for the iPhone despite it being “closed, locked down and restricted.”

Actually that’s not a good example at all, because Apple doesn’t have a market monopoly in mobiles. Apple has also never been convicted of monopolistic behaviors in the UK, the EU, or the US because it doesn’t have a monopoly and doesn’t act to stop competition the way Microsoft has.

Thompson admits that the iPhone doesn’t leverage monopoly control among mobiles, but says “the situation is very different” in the area of music players and music downloads. What is this very different situation?

Bill says: thank you. Unlike some other commentators on the article you’ve noticed that I’m not suggesting any action around the iPod – though I will be saddened when Apple break the third-party apps as I think it will show, yet again, a lack of concern for users.

“Apple has spent much time trying to ensure that anyone who buys an iPod is completely locked in to an Apple-centred world,” Thompson wrote, “in which they use iTunes, buy from the iTunes Music Store, purchase only Apple-certified iPod accessories and, ideally, abandon their plans to migrate from Windows XP to Vista and instead purchase a shiny new iMac.”

Yes, Apple does want to sell Macs and serve its customers. However, it’s simply a lie to say that iPod users are “locked into” anything, let alone being harmed by not being able to migrate to Vista, which Apple actually supports on the iPod and iTunes.

Bill says:  this depends on how you see lock-in: if I can’t play music I buy from iTMS, something I’m encouraged to do at many points in my use of iTunes, on any other player, or use any other jukebox than ITunes with my iPod, then once I’ve made my initial choice to have an iPod I am in an Apple ecoystem that I can only extract myself from with some effort.  It’s not absolute – IBM mainframe users also had a choice back in the 70’s. It just wasn’t a realistic chouce.

•Users are not locked into iTunes Music Store purchases; recall that the wags like to point out that a tiny minority of the music on iPods is purchased from iTunes and the vast majority comes from ripped CDs. Purchased tracks from iTunes can also be effortlessly burned to CD for use other other players, following the most liberal and open fair use rights in the industry. Thompson simply lied.

Bill says: I don’t like being accused of being a liar, and that sort of comment undermines any other points you may be trying to make.

•Saying that iPod users are locked into Apple-certified iPod accessories is also not true at all. Apple tries to earn licensing revenue from putting a “made for iPod” logo on devices in the same way Nintendo puts its “seal of approval” on its games, but anyone can deliver iPod accessories, and there’s no way for Apple to stop headphones and boomboxes from working with the iPod. Thompson lied again.

Bill says: A standard 3mm jack is all very well, but the dock is different, as you know.  And Apple has made the headphone socket on the iPhone incompatible with standard headphones.    Accessories are more than just audio out, anyway – control, video and input all require more specialist access.

•His first idea was that iPod users are locked into iTunes. Yes, Apple sets up a system that’s easy to use out of the box, but users aren’t forced to use it. The iPod can be used with a variety of other applications, or even wiped clean and used with completely alternative firmware like RockBox. Again, Thompson just lied.

[Time for Apple to face the music? – BBC NEWS]

Thompson Lies Some More: Ringtones.

In order to jump from lying about the iPod with generalities and get into specifics, Thompson announced, “the recent launch of the new range of iPods, including the video Nano and the iPod Touch, has shown just how far Apple is willing to go to make life difficult for its users in order to shore up its dominant position in the market for music players and downloads.”

He backed up his claim by browsing for some sensationalist headlines, doing zero fact checking, and then printing his findings with an enraptured spin that is simply shameful hypocrisy coming from anyone working for the BBC.

First, Thompson complains, Apple now sells ringtones and doesn’t support homebrew attempts to copy ringtones to the iPhone. Yes, this is unfortunate. Users shouldn’t face limitations from using their own song clips, and they shouldn’t have to pay extra to carve out a ringtone from songs they purchased or already own.

Bill says: I’m sorry – you admit the accuracy of what I have discovered, admit it’s unfortunate and then  defend it.  So where’s my ‘hypocrisy’ when I’m telling people the truth?  And how am I lying about ringtoes?

However, this isn’t entirely Apple’s decision because it has to answer to the labels. It’s not illegal, and it has nothing to do with anticompetitive monopoly dominance of the music industry.

Bill says: not so. Making your own ringtones is legal under US law. Apple decided to do this.

It’s really the opposite: an opportunity for rivals to compete against the iPhone by offering a nicer way to play “My Humps” when their phones ring. So far, the US ringtone industry revolves around $2.50 – $3.00 clips that expire after several months. Thompson lied with a half story and a false premise that do nothing to support the idea that Apple has a monopoly.

Bill says:  breathtaking, Apple clamps down so that’s an opportunity. Why didn’t you call Microsoft’s lawyers and suggest this defence over Windows Media Player bundling?  Making WMP the default is a way of encouraging our competitors to do an even better job… it might have convinced the judges.

[Apple’s iTunes Ringtones and the Complex World of Copyright Law]

Thompsons Lies Some More: Video Output.

His second proof that Apple is “shoring up its dominant position” is that “it seems that the new generation of iPods will not output video through cables or docks that aren’t Apple authorized and have a specific ‘authentication’ chip.”

It seems? Why doesn’t Thompson point out that he read some high pitched conspiracy theory about why older cables and docks don’t work with the new models, and is presenting it as a proof of anticompetitive, monopolist behavior without even checking the claim out?

Bill says:  I’m not presenting it a ‘proof’ – I’m outlining a pattern of behaviour leading to my main point about the iTunes DB. You need to concentrate more.

The reality is that all the new iPods continue to support the same docks as they did, but their video output has changed due to using different hardware. The Nano and Classic continue to work with old docks and cables, while the Touch and the iPhone will require a new dock connector cable because they now output both composite and component video. They work differently; no conspiracy, no spy authentication chips.

The iPhone and the latest generation of iPods will work via a dock connector cable without a dock unit, so there’s no chip involved. Even if there were, it would not be illegal for Apple to sell proprietary cables such as those that come with the Xbox, the Zune, the Palm Pilot, and most every music player and mobile phone on the market. The only difference is that Apple has kept its dock connector the same over the last several years so that iPod customers can reuse their old cables.

Bill says: I’m not talking about illegal activity – I’m talking about the potential for abuse of a monopoly position by Apple, and evidence indicating that they are not averse to this.  Changes to products and innovation are to be welcomed but just as I can go into Game and buy a cheaper third party Xbox cable or controller  that has not been authorised by Microsoft so I expect to be able to buy less expensive iPod accessories and if I can’t then I see an indication of an attitude towards the market that worries me.

Even if Thompson doesn’t understand the issues and didn’t bother to look into it, presenting false information as facts to support an idea that they do not support is still a lie.

Bill says: I’m getting tired of this ‘lie’ trope.

[An in-depth iPod Touch review: Video output differences – AppleInsider]

Thompsons Lies Some More: Linux Music Management.

“The nastiest little change is to the iTunes library itself,” Thompson wrote. Apple made minor changes to the metadata database used on the iPod. When this change broke unauthorized music management software, some Linux advocates announced press releases saying Apple was persecuting them and trampling their rights to use the iPod. It turned out that the outcry was simply overwrought, and that a fix was easy to deliver.

Bill says: unauthorised… hmmm…

What Apple had really done was improve how the iPod stores its data so that it would be less susceptible to file corruption. Apple doesn’t officially support the small minority of people who use the iPod with Linux or alternatives to iTunes on other platforms, so it bears no accountability for fixing their homebrew software when it makes changes to its products.

It might be valid to complain that Apple should offer such support, but ignoring Linux has no relationship to establishing a monopoly or market dominance. If Apple was offering a locked in, anti-consumer product, it wouldn’t have open source users buying its product in the first place. Unlike the Xbox and Zune, Apple doesn’t stop users from installing Linux or RockBox on their iPods, a difference Thompson can’t seem to grasp.

Thompson admitted that Apple “will not limit copying or restrict attempts to strip digital rights management code from tracks” and “will not stop people adding non-DRM files they have downloaded from the internet to their library,” but then jumped at the opportunity to speculate that Apple is shutting out Linux users, as if Apple would prefer Linux users to either install Windows or buy a music player elsewhere. Which scenario helps Apple “maintain music dominance?” It’s an inane argument.

Bill says:  well, no – it’s a good argument because these small minorities could become a majority if some inventive programmer finds a cool way of coding a music jukebox that is as superior to iTunes as Firefox is to IE – I suspect you like Firefox, though you may be a hardcore Safari user in case Steve finds out – but Apple’s strategy makes this less likely.

Irresponsible Open Source Mouths.

Remember when the EFF irresponsibly announced its speculation that Apple was stuffing megabytes of personal information into iTunes tracks? It later recanted, but didn’t apologize for the false accusation.

The fact that open source advocates are quick to fire out accusations but commonly shrug off any accountability for what they say makes their comments very hard to take seriously. Thompson’s uncritical, uninformed parroting of such accusations is not only stomach churning, but egregious given the BBC’s wholehearted support for a video distribution system that unilaterally forces people to use Windows to access content that is not available elsewhere, as iTunes music is.

Bill says:  I’m accountable, open to debate and willing to engage. I rarely call those who disagree with me liars, too.  And again, there is no connection between iPlayer debate and criiticism of Apple, and to bring them together is specious and misleading. It does not help your argument against my case, just makes you look like a ranting pro-apple zealot looking for any reason to defend the indefensible.

Thompson keeps going, castigating Apple for stopping Real from selling its own flavor of DRM that promised support for the iPod, and impugning Apple for supposedly having “business practices do not stand up to scrutiny.” Thompson added, “when it comes to music downloads it [Apple] is just as bad as Microsoft on servers.”

Bill says: he behaviour towards Real was appalling and remains indefensible. They broke Harmony because they could and because they wanted to lock competitors out – what other spin can you put on it?

Oh really? Do you have to pay Apple client access licenses for the right to connect your iPod to iTunes or to access the Music Store? Does your music die after three plays or three days? Do you have no choice in the market for MP3 players apart from devices that run the iPod firmware or use Apple’s iTunes software? Equating Apple with Microsoft would be foolish for anyone to do, let alone some misinformed, generalizing, sensationalist wag writing for a public corporation that ties its video downloads to Microsoft’s Windows-only DRM.

Thompson’s Faulty Conclusion to a Shoddy Article.

The great model of interoperability, Thompson points out, is Microsoft’s PowerPoint. That’s because Apple was able to deliver Keynote with PowerPoint compatibility. “Apple can sell Keynote because it took PowerPoint apart and figured out how the files work,” Thompson explained.

Perhaps Thompson doesn’t get it: Apple’s ability to maintain compatibility with PowerPoint is just as tenuous as Linux users’ ability to make iTunes-compatible song management software for the iPod. Microsoft doesn’t support standards in PowerPoint. It uses a crufty, weird, undocumented, proprietary format that changes with every release.

That’s why the industry is aligning behind Open Document as an international standard, and why Microsoft stuffed ballots in Cuba, Azerbaijan, and Sweden to fast track the establishment of its own proprietary formats as a false “standard” without having to answer the concerns of worldwide standards organizations who overwhelmingly determined that Microsoft’s OOXML format was problematic and technically inferior.

Oblivious to all this, Thompson announced, “had Apple been unable to do so [reverse engineer the proprietary PowerPoint format], or found that every time it figured out what was happening Microsoft changed the format, it would have complained loudly.” Apparently Thompson has been paying no attention to technology over the last two decades as the world community has complained about Microsoft’s doing just that.

Bill says:  a good point – I should have made it clearer that there’s an ongoing battle over document formats.

[Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly]

[Office Wars 4 – Microsoft’s Assault on Lotus, IBM]

[Myth 4: The iTunes Monopoly Myth]

The reason Microsoft was on trial in the EU dates back to complaints filed in 1998. The independent US monopoly trial followed up on earlier complaints from the FTC and Department of Justice. Similar complaints haven’t ever been filed about Apple’s iPod business, but rather only about the arcane, territorial pricing of music established by the big labels, most of whom are owned and managed by European companies.

Bill says: But they will.  Neelie Kroes has the courts to back her now.

The EU certainly should fix the problems of the music business in its countries, and demand fair use provisions from music and media providers. However, trying to spin the complex situation off as proof that Apple is anything like Microsoft is not only disingenuous, it’s an outright lie. Using a bunch of half-baked, ignorant web rumors to support a position that Apple should just allow anything and everything is also dishonest.

Bill says: that’s not what I said, and you know it.  I want Apple to play fair (get the joke?), to be open about interfaces and file structures and to compete in an open market for music players and jukeboxes, because I actually think we will all benefit and even Apple will end up making better, sharper products and making more money.

Doing all of this speciously false complaining while standing on the Microsoft-enamored soapbox of the BBC just makes Thompson look even more incompetent and clueless about the reality around him.

Bill says:  ouch. that hurts. Actually, it doesn’t hurt at all – it’s part of the fun of being a writer and commentator, of trying to open up discussions and infuence people’s thinking.  I try to get it right, I sometimes fall down – on this one, I think I’m sound.

35 Replies to “Excitable Apple zealots fight back”

  1. I would not have kept calling you a liar. It is a pointless distraction and gratuitously rude. It also looks like he doesn’t understand the relationship between the BBC and some of the journalists published on its web site.

    But, on the technical points being discussed, I think he is right and you are wrong.

  2. Hi,

    Not trying to sounds like an Apple zealot, but with a .Mac email address it’s going to be tricky, I don’t think that Microsoft’s anti-trust case and Apple / iTMS / iPod are in the same league.

    You have to consider that MS have 95% share of a market that is global, obviously operating systems, but that market is either 95% MS or 5% other (Linux or Apple). Apple have 75% of a download market, which doesn’t preclude people from buying songs from a multitude of other sources. People can buy the CD and rip it. Buy it from another site. Don’t buy and iPod and you’re not missing out on the chance to buy the songs you want. On the train in the morning, it’s about 50/50 people owning iPods to those who don’t.

    It’s not healthy for anyone to have >75% of the market, but apple only have that in hardware sales, and all that hardware does is play music. Do they have 75% of all music sales globaly? No.


  3. Since I’m based in Singapore I can’t buy content off the iTunes store, so am far less impacted than folks in the UK or the US.

    With the recent defection of NBC and Universal from the iTunes stores because (in their words) Apple was a) not doing enough to prevent copying of the content and b) not letting them charge enough; I think Apple’s between a rock and a hard place on this one.

    My cardboard boxes of unusable vinyl records, casettes and VHS tapes (to which I will shortly have to add my DVD collection) are proof that the copyright holders will ensure that every generation of new media will become an excuse to force us to buy licenses again. Steve Jobs and Apple standing in their way will just get them run over.

    I am a fairly competent computer nerd with over 20 years experience, and feel the itch to get under the hood of technologies when the don’t work. I therefore know far more about the internals of Windows and Linux than I really want to. With Apple stuff, (OS X & iPods) I’ve never felt the need to figure out what’s going on under the hood – because they do really “just work”; so I suppose I am a willing victim to lock in.

  4. I just don’t get it. There are people who buy an IPod and don’t want to use ITunes? That’s like saying there are people who buy a Playstation but want to play XBox games on it, and then complain about it. Or buy an IMac and only install Windows. Face it, an IPod is a computer. If you want that brand of computer you need software that runs on that system.
    IPodders aren’t locked into ITunes music. My IPod contains music I have purchased on ITunes, from my CDs, and what I have downloaded from other sources. Yes it puts them into its own “system”.
    The complaint is that the music is then not playable on other MP3 players. Duh, my video games from my PC aren’t playable on Playstation, which aren’t playable on XBox, which aren’t playable on Wii. Even if they are the same title.
    GOSH !!

  5. Why is anyone who says something which might appear to defend Apple an ‘excitable Apple zealot”? Anything they write is a ‘rant’.

    This is simply sloppy journalism and does nothing to support your case. Stuart – comment 4 – got it right. The two things are not comparable.

    You got it wrong and the guy called you on it. Get over it.

  6. I must be missing something here, as I thought that one of the conditions of launching the iPlayer is that it must work with other operating systems? It’s right that the BBC, as a publicly funded body and public service, should be open to scrutiny over something like this.

    Anyway, you should know better than to attack the sacred cow that is Apple. Mr Dilger strikes me as little more than ‘an Apple fanboy’, but I wouldn’t want to stoop that low…

  7. @Justin

    *mutters something about Nazis*

    To be honest, the complaint Bill’s article is just silly because of the determination to link the iPlayer and Windows Media to it, which is especially odd given that Apple’s system of DRM is not open to the BBC to use (so I guess Bill’s point is unwittingly reinforced).

  8. Considering lock-in, I’m just not sure how 110 million iPods sold can be locked-in to buying 3 billion songs sold off iTunes Store. That only averages to 27 songs per iPod. I doubt 110 million users only have libraries of 30 songs each. I personally own 300 iTunes Store tracks with a total library of 10,500 songs, less than 3%. How am I locked in? Also, at least 200 of the tracks came from emusic.com.
    The Itunes store wasn’t released for 2 years after the launch of the iPod, and then only first sold 200,000 songs. Were users not putting songs on their iPods for two full years? Obviously there is a market for iPods that doesn’t involve iTunes Store. Which is strange since iTunes Store is the best market for online music: cheap, easy, and expansive. Actually, it might be the best market for getting any music nowadays.

  9. I think Dilger’s article is quite nasty, with the way he keeps calling you a liar.

    Despite being a Microsoft-hater myself, I really didn’t have the impression from your article that you were supporting MS, nor that you thought Apple were as bad as them. You were just expressing a view that some of Apple’s practices are questionable, which I think they are.

    As people have pointed out, Microsoft and Apple can’t be compared as Apple have neither a monopoly nor such a high market share. Nor is their influence so far-reaching, being limited just the field of music players.

    I do think Apple fanatics are being a little hypocritical, particularly with the way they have attacked Linux users on some sites, and refer to Linux software as “unauthorised”. This is coming from users of an operating system that boasts you can “throw away” the driver CD for many items of hardware. I can imagine they would soon change their tune if hardware manufacturers started using technology that prevented hardware being used with anything other than the official (Windows-only) drivers.

    Personally, I won’t buy products from either Microsoft or Apple. I’m not really into portable music players, but if I wanted one, it’d be something non-DRM-encumbered, and definitely not an iPod.

  10. Yep, ‘liar’ makes it personal and offensive, so does ‘Apple zealots’ nonsense. Both of you should learn how to debate without insults. On the merits Daniel Eran Dilger is mostly right.

  11. Bill, you seem to show your true colours at the outset by being demeaning and derogatory to Apple fans and especially rude to an American who picks you up on the technical merits of your arguments, not on your Englishness, your name, or your hobbies.

    I am starting to despair of this country of ours. It lives by spin, insult lies and factual inaccuracies that are not allowed to be corrected.

    I call that the acts of Fascists.

    But the last laugh is on you, because decent consumers will continue to vote with their wallets, buying what is best to use, best value and at this time that is iPod and iTunes.

  12. Bill,

    Daniel should not call anyone a liar. It just undercuts his arguments. And he is way too histrionic and paranoid.


    On the facts, Daniel has you beat.

    Although, you’d like Apple to play ‘fair’, you make the mistake of arguing that it’s some sort of a monopolist, implying that it’s ethical and businesses choices are of the same vein as Microsoft.

    Daniel’s argument comparing it to BMW and it’s freedom to do what it will with it’s cars wins the day.

    When you’re not a monopolist bent on killing off the competition (see Microsoft’s Kill Hall of Fame), there are competitive and economic choices you get to make ’cause it’s just plain fair to reap the profits of your own innovation.


  13. Suck it up, Bill. Dilger does his homework. If he said you lied, he also indicated where, when, and why. Spewing personal insults at Dilger says a lot more about your journalistic instincts than his. And supports his criticism.

    Take a breath and a break: A week of reading Dilger’s work would do your own tech commentary a world of good.

  14. Bill, Bill, Bill.
    So, besides being a Geordie, pigeon tormenter, commie, Grauniad hack, BBC proletariat sycophant and a Fens Polytechnic pandit to boot – What do you really stand for?
    Your asseveration, that you avail yourself to a bounty of Apple Mac computers, is incongruous, despite your prolix and self-aggrandising “My story” the only connection I see between you and Apple, is the odious ménage à trois between you, the Grauniad and the BBC, an antipathetic and vapid morass of … How would they say it in Manchester … SHITE!
    Still, that’s freedom for you – the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
    Is one to believe, that for all your Apple’ness that you have never wandered by the RDM Tech site before, and if you have, what were your thoughts, prior to being to being called out – besides your fatuous remarks like “…someone who glories in the name of Daniel Eran Dilger, apparently a ‘tech consultant and writer in San Francisco, California. I ride a motorcycle and I like to work on art projects’. Sounds peachy.” So, all your philosophical cogitation, blows out to writing like a spotty twelve year old.

  15. I am immensely grateful for RoughlyDrafted as the only source for its 99% accurate information presented, if you like, as pro-Apple rants. But they only seem so because of the prevailing illogical and inaccurate rabidly anti-Apple commentary which old media churns out.

    I am also immensely grateful to Apple for pursuing pro-consumer policies, presenting a rigid stance of “this is what we do and this is how we do it”. No content owner is forced to go along with Apple’s distribution and pricing if they don’t want to. No consumer has to buy content from Apple even if they have an iPod; it’s almost all available elsewhere. And Apple itself could have knifed their baby as requested by Microsoft, and made a comfortable living playing their part in a world of DRM regulated WMA content spoon fed to consumers via monthly payment plans.

    Microsoft wants DRM to keep their monopoly in perpetuity. Old media wants DRM to keep their distribution monopoly and advertising revenues. Consumers want to chose what they view and listen to item by item, without intrusive advertising, and pay a fair price. That’s what Apple gives them. Every year the others fail to even try strengthens Apple’s dominance.

  16. When you compare the monopolistic practices and tendencies of Apple and Microsoft, I think it’s useful to understand that Microsoft was butt-kicked by the DOJ for being a predatory monopoly (makes all the difference, imho). Considering what Apple has invested in its iTunes application and store infrastructure to make it the best legal download option for many users, I’d assert that Apple has no obligation to allow Real and others to get a free ride under the guise of open access. In my daily use of Windows and Mac computers, I conclude that Microsoft’s DRM solutions are far more egregious than Apple’s….YMMV.

  17. Bill,
    Whilst calling you a liar is perhaps over the top, your original article presents certain well worn & inaccurate assertions as fact.

    1. Apple does not have a monopoly of either the music download or music player industries. It has a substantial lead to be sure but there are many other players & download services out there, if you choose to use them.

    2. There is no lock in to iTunes. Apple’s Fairplay DRM is the least restrictive of the DRM systems out there. It allows you to bypass the copy protection by burning a CD and then reimporting. So there is a small hurdle but not a lock in. In addition as others have pointed out, you can choose to buy your music on CD & then rip it in to iTunes (or whatever music software you wish to use)

    3. Apple certainly wants you to use iTunes but there are alternatives available. However Apple does not support the use of these alternatives. Because it does not publish an SDK for the iPod then alternative “hacks” may be broken if Apple makes changes to its software. Apple may have perfectly legitimate reasons to make those changes and there’s no evidence that in the case of the new iPod’s that the reason for the changes to the database structure are malicious. It is the responsiblity of those who write the “hacks” to update them to take account of changes.

    4. Note that teh changes to re-enable the Linux “hacks” were available within a couple of days.

    5. Every music player & legal download service uses some form of DRM. Most use Microsoft’s Janus system which locks out mac users & iPods.

    6. You can purchase 3rd party, unbranded ipod cables & accessories – check out Maplin’s for a start. As Mr Dilger points out the reason that 2 of the new iPod’s require a new cable is because of an upgrade to their video out. Are you suggesting that Apple should never make any improvement to their products just because a new cable might be required?

    7. There is an issuing over variable pricing of tracks across the EU that the Commission is investigating. Apple claims that this is down to the music labels and this seems at least to be plausible. The Commission is currently hearing evidence & time will tell.

    8. None of the above makes Apple a monopolist abusing its position.

    Despite your comments about Mr Dilger you have failed to answer many of his points, preferring instead to try to rubbish him as a “fanboy”. If you take the time to read his website you’ll find most of his pieces well researched & argued.

  18. “Considering what Apple has invested in its iTunes application and store infrastructure to make it the best legal download option for many users, I’d assert that Apple has no obligation to allow Real and others to get a free ride under the guise of open access.”

    Let me write that another way: “Considering what Microsoft has invested in its Office application to make it the best Office suite for many users, I’d assert that Microsoft has no obligation to allow Sun and others to get a free ride under the guise of open access.”

    The hypocrisy of many Apple zealots is just staggering.

  19. The difference between Apple and Microsoft is:

    Apple craft their products. They give serious thought to the user experience, and make sure that every single aspect of their business is beautifully designed, easy to use and gives great pleasure. People LOVE their iPods, iMacs and iPhones.

    Microsoft have become a company that sees someone else being successful and poorly imitates what the do because they desire financial success. Evidence: The Zune.

    When the new Apple operating system is launched in a months time, Microsoft will be looking to see what they can copy.

    When was the last time Microsoft brought out an innovative product? The new Windows operating system owes much to Apple’s OSX.

  20. Tim Almond…you pulled that “Apple Zealots” broad brush out of your ass and applied it to someone who spends 10 hrs per day in Windows 🙁 (How much time do you spend running BOTH Macs and Windows to inform your opinion?)

    That said, Microsoft has a separate Mac Business Unit that creates a Mac-specific version of Office. So, your analogy is off the mark, imho. Your comprehension of the differences between the iTunes underpinnings infrastructure and the underpinnings of MS Office is less than ‘staggering.’

  21. “That said, Microsoft has a separate Mac Business Unit that creates a Mac-specific version of Office. So, your analogy is off the mark, imho”

    Apple also produces a Windows version of iTunes. What’s your point?

  22. The distinction is simple: Microsoft is a convicted Predatory monopolist. Apple (while often a lame and shitty partner to its vendors) has developed a huge server farm infrastructure to enable Mac and PC users to benefit from the SAME iTunes experience. The latter is an ecosystem that works quite well, if you choose to use it. If you don’t, then you can dip into Microsoft’s ecosystem and enjoy something less.

  23. The best thing to do to make it clear to Billy that his recent fatuous article on the bbc.co.uk website is unacceptable is to do what I did.

    Send an official complaint to the BBC – almost as good as “sending a letter to the Times”!

  24. Microsoft has never had a judgement brought against it over the MS Office formats, so with regards to Microsoft being a predatory monopolist, it’s irrelevant. Their cases were brought over OEM pressure, internet browsers and windows media.

    Regardless of what Apple invested in their infrastructure, they don’t have to close off their filesystem or create a non-standard jack.

    It’s sad to see people defending this behaviour because it’s Apple and suggesting that Bill Thompson is somehow a Microsoft shill (which is pretty much laughable).

  25. Bill makes a fair point – my children who have a mix of players get really raked off that they cannot use any player on any operating system and cannot have a single, easily shareable library.

    Those responding seem to be ignoring the ordinary non-technical user who just wants to carry their music around with them – the sooner digital players get back to where cassette based walkman type devices were at the better. In those days you had a variety of players but one type of cassette and the big selling point was style, value and ease of use.
    Apple’s iPod was a revolution in mobile music, in the same way the car was to transport but Ford is not the only car and nor should it be.

  26. I haven’t painted Bill as a MS ‘shill.’ The non-standard jack on my iPhone is, indeed, an inconvenience; although it’s a non-issue with my little Belkin adapter that works great with the Sennheiser cans. Comparing MS Office with iTunes is certainly not analogous. Apple uses open standards like AAC, and its app will play mp3, wma and lossless AAC files; so it covers most standard audio formats. The crap MS Windows Media DRM lock-in is a joke that millions of ‘victims’ from Terre Haute to Tierre del Fuego are bitching about. If the majot labels would play ball, Apple would sell all of its music through iTunes without any DRM….where is MS on the issue?? Microsoft screwed its own users royally when it made a lame attempt to create a Zune-focused download strategy.

  27. There’s no such thing as a “standard 3mm jack”. It’s 1/4, 1/8 or 1/10 inch. You must mean 3.5mm for standard personal music players.

    Your techno cred diminishes with every post!

    Tip – when in hole, stop digging.

  28. Why does it seem so difficult for most people to detach from their emotions and just keep it to simple and plain facts?

    I will admit I don’t have all technical facts present, but I think the following can be said:

    – The main object of the column was to note that there is some evidence that Apple is behaving like a monopolist, whether this is for user benefit or just plain company profit

    – The programmers of RockBox have reversed engineered stuff to make it work with iPods. As far as I know, there is no existing public documentation on the iTunes file formats or the communication with the iPod, unlike the Microsoft Office file formats, for which the documentation has been made public for a while until Microsoft pulled the documentation back in. As far as I know, Apple did not reverse engineer the Powerpoint file format.

    – The Open Source Movement is not against the existence of close sourced or proprietary software. Nevertheless, the existence of this movement has had a profounding impact on public services and governements, because they finally see that it is unwise to have the administration of an entire nation depending on one specific software vendor who doesn’t want to publish documentation about their file formats. This conclusion has made governing bodies also aware of the fact that for a healthy competition between companies, file formats should be more open.

    As a conclusion: Mr Thompson, I always enjoy reading your columns. Thank you!

  29. Stop the name calling already.
    An opinion piece either states facts and bias or instead states that “regardless of fact the author feels this way”. Bill seems to have written something from his underbelly without bothering with the facts.
    Daniel has en enormous bias, he is Apple all the way. But he knows his facts and sells some rather good analogies.
    That both resort to name calling is a bit embarassing to watch but as a journalist your best defense is facts.
    The best thing Bill can do is to show the facts that support his feelings OR state that facts be damned, it’s just his opinion.
    The applying of the terms Apple Zealots, Linux Zealots and Microsoft shills is just emotional defense. Again however, his defense lacks fact.
    So as an avid BBC reader, I am still waiting for Bill’s real defense, either a nicely written “Bill of Bill’s Emotion” or some factual basis for his strange Apple-MS analogies.
    Long disclaimer:
    If you really want to know, I spend about 50% of my time in XP, the rest in OS X. Like most – but not all – scizo’s, I prefer OS X. I offer no facts to support that opinion. I am not overly fond of iPods and frankly hate DRM. It turned me off mainstream music consumption a long time ago, which is saying quite a lot for an ex-musician. My opinion (go look at facts elsewhere) is that Apple is not part of the DRM problem, and MS certainly is not part of the solution.

  30. Daniel Eran IMO often displays that slightly hysterical paranoia that can afflict a certain type of Apple fan, but I read his site because his technical commentary is often excellent, and Microsoft’s long history of exceptional deviousness and sharp business practice means that is not always possible to completely dismiss his rather wild conspiracy theories.

    Like many others I too think that once you strip out the hysteria, his technical argument is correct. There is no comparison between MS and Apple, and attempting to paint iPod/iTunes as a lock in is simply untrue. Apple supports the open file formats AAC and MP3, which means your ripped music can be transferred to many other players, whether approved by Apple or no. DRM is another story, but even there Apple’s is less restrictive than that of the competition. Windows media on a Zune, which incidentally does not even play those DRM tracks from previous MS licensed players can only be played on players licensed and approved by MS.

    On the other hand, as I receive many Word documents and it is often important that they display 100% correctly, I am locked into MS Word, because no other WP understands all Word formatting correctly. Office uses proprietary file formats for everything, even its email database. That is what a proper lock in is, and Apple is not in remotely the same league.

  31. If Dan Eran sounds a little upset, maybe its because he has been tireless in writing heavily-researched articles and papers showing where Microsoft has been involved in many criminal acts that make our computing experience less pleasant, less open, and less useful.
    Gates is the richest man in the world for 14 years running, and we have a criminal company to deal with.

    ‘Behind every great fortune is a great crime’ – Tolstoy

    Daniel Eran Dilger’s research and knowledge blow you out of the water, Mr. Thompson – read his website and learn something – soon.

    I have also written a letter of complaint to the BBC – I suggested that they hire someone younger and less of a hack, more of a web journalist.
    Change or die, they say……

  32. Well, time has passed and it is fun to reflect on the comments above.

    Bill, if you don’t feel a bit chastised, you should, with justification too.

    I have had a reply from Darren Waters at BBC online tech, and as you might expect, he blindly follows Bill’s line throughout, defending it with little intelligent input whatsoever.

    Just the BBC/Guardian little shits at work I’m afraid…

    Don’t know why we bother to get involved really.

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