Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 22nd Sep 2010 17:58 UTC
Apple As I was casually browsing around today, I came across this blog post. It's about the recently released VLC media player for the iPad, which you can use to play just about any video under the sun on your iPad. The blog post is a complaint about a bit of help text that's not properly rendered inside the application - annoying, but no dealbreaker. Until I actually read the text - this is how you're supposed to get content on your iPad?
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It's The Content Owners Stupid
by mjhi11 on Wed 22nd Sep 2010 19:46 UTC
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First, this is no slam of a person, author, or any other individual. It's a creative take on the sentiment "it's the economy stupid". In this case it's the "content owners" stupid.

Many of the complaints about Apple, Apple lock in, DRM, etc. is in my opinion wrongly blamed upon Apple where the real villains are the content creators who have demanded what most would consider unreasonable restrictions on their content.

Apple had to accept these restrictions, and spend millions developing a DRM strategy that would satisfy the content owners to get us to the point where we are today, digital content available for download.

It very well could have been Microsoft, Napster or hundreds of other companies who were selling (and in some cases continue to sell) DRM technologies to protect the content owners IP, but it was Apple, with the brilliance of their one-two punch...hardware and software that FINALLY convinced the content owners to take a chance on digital downloads.

Apple proved the concept, but it's the content owners who have played unfairly, allowing Apple competitors to offer "unprotected" content to Google and other Apple competitors while continuing to hamstring Apple with DRM and other content requirements that limit your choice. Remember Steve Job's open letter to the music industry about removing DRM from music?

Sure, Apple would prefer a "pure" Apple environment, Apple computers, Apple hardware, Apple iTunes, Apple TV, Apple networking technologies, etc. Name me a technology vendor that wouldn't. bet. Microsoft absolutely.

In fact I'd argue that both Microsoft and Sony have been even more guilty of proprietary "lock in" than Apple ever has.

- Microsoft at least a decade or more Microsoft has tried to win the DRM wars with others with their proprietary Windows Media and DRM technologies. They failed, not because their technology was any less "oppressive" but because the failed to recognize the benefits of being a hardware, software and multimedia company like Apple was, depending upon hardware vendors to create hardware, depending upon content creators for content and they'd hoped by building in DRM to their OS and media software with 90% of the computer desktops, any content vendor that didn't buy into their vision were fools.

- Sony is another company that foolishly bet on "proprietary" DRM, technologies and royalties on their own technology at the expense of consumers. Atrac, CD, DVD, BlueRay. All proprietary technologies that in theory were to pad Sony's bottom line but all limiting consumer choice, flexibility and media portability.

For those who think that MP3 is some "open" panacea, note that it was somewhat of a fluke. Created originally by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as a compression technology, it is a proprietary, patented technology intended for the motion picture industry to allow multi-channel audio for films and digital audio broadcasting. Any company that uses MP3 technology must pay royalties.

AAC is also based on proprietary technology and requires a license as well. But it's Apple's Fairplay (but it just as well could be Microsoft's DRM, Sony's DRM or any number of other company's DRM technologies) that takes the largest hit.

My point is, the content providers were not going to let their content out in the wide open, without some form of DRM, and those same people, after the success of digital content, are now cutting back room deals with Apple's competitors while Apple must still honor previous contracts and the DRM restrictions until they can re-negotiate with the content providers.

So too often I've seen people here make Apple the villain while ignoring the fact that if it weren't for Apple and proving the case for digital media, the freedom we have today, Google media downloads, other company downloads, developments such as Ogg Vorbis, millions of songs available for download, videos, TV programs, etc. would have never been an option.

Interestingly, I'm ready to turn on Apple myself for "giving up" their push for consumer "ownership" (even with DRM restrictions) with their latest Apple TV release which doesn't allow for local storage but depends upon streaming content. I see it as a huge step backwards and too huge a concession to the content providers as we don't OWN the content (even with restrictions) but only rent it for a short time at the whim of the content providers.

To tie back to Thom's article, I believe that because of the restrictions content providers have placed upon Apple, they have to make certain tasks more difficult (such as dragging and dropping "media" files on their hardware). iTunes (for better or worse, and I'd even agree worse) is that DRM gatekeeper that makes sure that non-protected content doesn't make it onto iPads, iPods, iPhones, etc.

Now of course like most folks here I know how to "get around" these restrictions but at least publicly Apple can maintain they are upholding their DRM requirements for the content providers, while smart folks who care can still work around them, and the general public, who doesn't seem to care (based on Apple's popularity) still gets the "it just works" benefits.

Edited 2010-09-22 19:56 UTC

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