Perspective on the Apple/Real Fight

Apple and the legacy of Napster

During the height of the Napster controversy, the sides remained too far apart to figure out how to make it work: You either believed that bits and bytes should be free or dismissed Napster as the epitome of corrosive cyberanarchism.

What a stale conversation–and one that missed the bigger point: Napster had the technology, Hollywood had the music, and something big was on the horizon. If only the opposing sides could ever see the forest for the trees. That was not to be. The music industry was too afraid of losing control, and Napster couldn’t run away from the fact that it was a clearinghouse for stolen intellectual property.

[…] Apple deserves the kudos it’s gotten–but will squander a lot of that good will if it goes ahead with an ill-considered jihad against RealNetworks.

The company had a classic hissy fit last week, after RealNetworks released its Harmony software.

[…] In the struggle over Napster, the music companies turned out to be their own worst enemies. So intent on kneecapping Napster, they ignored the best interests of their customers–which would have been to find a way to coexist with the new Internet technology. Is Apple going to go down a similar path?

Maybe big companies periodically can’t help conducting business as if Tony Soprano were running the show. But I can’t figure out who’s looking out for the best interests of the user in this cockamamy story. It’s a question that Apple can’t answer with a straight face.

See also Memo to music services: Wise up!.

The real outrage should be from you, over the fact that the legal music stores are still a balkanized mess of odd marriages between certain services, their file formats, and the players that recognize those formats. Do you think the legal music library you buy online today will be usable in any form 20 years from now?

[…] Bottom line: Don’t fall for any of these systems until they look and feel like CDs. Buy once, play anywhere, forever. How do they accomplish that and reduce piracy? Not your problem.

See also this letter to the editor: Behind Apple’s ‘hissy fit’